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Following the Marhof annual dinner, I set out from Helmsdale harbour the next morning to do a 9.5-hour wet, boggy and tussocky walk over five Marilyns in section 16C: Creag Thoraraidh and near-twin, Cnoc Coir a'Phuill, Braigh na h-Eaglaise, Cnoc na Maoile, Creag Scalabsdale and Beinn Dubhain. This pattern of wet rough rounded lumps would dominate the rest of the week. Many of these lower far northern hills are not really worth doing on their merit alone, but they are on the list so must be done.
Tony Rogers was as keen as I was to do the remote Grahams, Creag Mhor and Ben Armine, and had arranged car access to eliminate the walk-in; or a sandy bike-in in my case. We enjoyed great views from these two hills across the wet wastes of central Sutherland and were both very pleased with this outing. I had already done the Morven-Scaraben group some 35 years earlier but doubts remained whether I had included Smean, a super little hill with several agglomerate tors, all easily climbed. I biked in from Berriedale up the very beautiful Langwell valley, some thirteen kilometres to Wag (ruin) and walked from there. The day warmed up very well, drawing a viper out of the heather right in front of the bike wheel as I zoomed back down the glen so sadly I had no option but to run him over. I was too scared to look back. On Ben Horn I had the pleasure of meeting Miles Hutchinson, 88 the following month. How brilliant to be still solo bagging such rough, pathless hills.
The year created a new record for me in attending various landmark events. In April I joined Rob W's group walk for his 8000th Tump, Cow Castle near Coulter. In May I completed my 20th annual Keswick to Barrow 60-kilometre charity walk, raising my membership class of 'Ye Ancient Order of Barking Dogs' from 'Fellow' to 'Knight' with a commemorative china plate - what strange ideas other walking groups have.
In July, Kathy and I joined Gordon Ingall for his 10000th Wainwright ascent, coincidentally his 200th Old Man of Coniston, where the contents of a special bottle of Old Man Shiraz were enjoyed on the summit. Then it was my turn to organise an outing in August to mark my 50th anniversary of fellwalking, as in August 1964 I had done my first Marilyn, Great Orme, with my mum. Seventeen of us completed the walk, which also marked my completion of the Lake District's Birketts and Synges with Brownthwaite Crag and finally Gowk Hill. (Pillar Rock excluded; a group of us led by Rick Salter went to investigate the previous day but it was too wet and slimy.) Appropriate pop, malt and cake were consumed. I do not get out as much these days as many of you do, so it was more practical to hold an anniversary walk than to mark some n-thousand number of tops reached. October saw me join Chris Watson's party on a wet and windy visit to Ben Lomond, his final Munro.
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