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The target for 2014 was to finally complete my round of Munros, which had been dragging on since brother Tony and I climbed Cairn Gorm in 1966. Early-season training started with my usual February trip to Ambleside. A clutch of Birketts and Outlying Fells were enlivened by Tony Rogers being washed away in a flooded Hope Beck below Hopegill Head. We managed to extricate him, albeit sans hat, sans stick and sans wallet, and he was fit enough to drive us back to Grasmere.
March brought a big Tump event with Chris Bienkowski and myself reaching 2000 and Alan Dawson 3000 on Roberton Law in my usual miserable weather. We then adjourned to Startup Hill for Alan's 2000th Hump. Around 30 baggers in all attended the two events.
Iain Brown had kindly agreed to accompany me to A'Chuil bothy in early April to mop up Knoydart so, after a first trip up Snowdon for 25 years, I met up with him in Fort William. The weather portents were, as ever, mixed but thanks to Iain's efforts we managed Sgurr Mor, Sgurr na Ciche and Garbh Chioch Mhor in two long days. The weather on the second day was abysmal even by my standards.
A planned boat trip up Loch Mullardoch that weekend was abandoned yet again due to high winds so, after a couple of days rest in Crieff, Alan drove us to Dalwhinnie for an attempt on Beinn Bheoil. At last the weather relented and the good paths to Culra meant we managed the 40km round-trip in 11 hours, the same time it took Iain and me to do 16km on Sgurr na Ciche the previous week.
I had booked a cottage on the Attadale estate near Lochcarron in May in the knowledge that a drive up to Bendronaig Lodge could be arranged with the head keeper, my namesake Tom Watson. Six of our group took advantage of this and we had a great day doing the two Munros, but the 11km walk back down to Attadale on a warm evening was less fun. The other five missing Munros in the area were completed without event, but a slight cloud appeared on my horizon when Alan decided to survey Maoile Lunndaidh. This resulted in a change to the summit location which, although it may not be sanctioned by the SMC, left me with a moral dilemma regarding my planned completion.
I was now left with seven (or eight) outstanding Munros and I headed for Crieff to meet up with Alan on the day of the World Cup final in July, accompanied by Charles Everett. The following day saw us climbing over Cairn Gorm and down Coire Raibert to tackle Beinn Mheadhoin in dismal conditions. Alan had great trouble setting up his survey equipment on the summit tor in the wind but at least it was not iced up as Ben Avon had been when I climbed it.
Next morning saw us in Glen Affric for another of the big days that I had somehow managed to leave until the end of my round. Mam Sodhail was fairly straightforward and a traverse straight to Beinn Fhionnlaidh mean that Carn Eige had to be climbed to get home. I got to the car park just before 11pm and waited for Alan to arrive from various diversions just after midnight. We had a rest day - just two Marilyns - before heading up Glen Strathfarrar to resolve my dilemma. The Monar Lodge approach to Maoile Lunndaidh proved excellent on a lovely day and we comfortably beat the gate before heading for Braemar for the last big test.
Alan started from Linn of Dee with a bad foot but this seemed to improve and he was soon heading up some local Sims to survey them. I kept my focus and managed to complete An Sgarsoch and Carn an Fhidhleir by 10.30pm, having seen nothing of Alan for many hours.
I drove to Braemar to collect Charles who had failed in a hara-kiri attempt on Carn Liath but had stitches to his eye and a smashed phone. Alan arrived after midnight once again and we headed back to Crieff in fairly high spirits.
Ben Lomond was chosen as the last Munro many years ago due to it being the first hill in the Tables and also in Buchanan country, the parent clan of the Watsons. The chosen day was 19 October and, as expected, it dawned with forecasts of 80kmph winds, gusting to 120kmph. Over thirty of us set off from Rowardennan with Ben Lomond clearly visible and, despite it deteriorating towards the top, virtually everybody reached the summit. Cakes and whisky had to be delayed till we got back to the cars but were still enjoyed. We then reassembled at The Winnock in Drymen where 41 of us enjoyed a delicious meal and Alan Dawson did his usual excellent job as MC. It had taken 48 years - so there will not be a second round.
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