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The year 2015 started quietly up in Lochcarron, with Rick holed up with flu, however recovery in hand we cracked on with a number of the big Grahams there, a theme we intended to develop further through 2015, although plans were to change with the completion of trips to St Kilda.
Graham-bagging trips continued in the deep snow near Roy Bridge, and then for Rick a chance to catch up Marilyn totals when Jen was sidelined in February following a foot operation with a long weekend around Fort William. Recovery in March for Jen was a trip to the Pentlands and some hills in the Lakes. Then for Rick a long-awaited opportunity with a retirement package in April, following a 23-year work stint, so it was time to do hills. We started with a long weekend in Pembrokeshire collecting 14 Marilyns. We celebrated our 1000th Marilyn on Earl's Seat with good friends on a sparkling hot April day. This was on our way to Mull to have a great week with Anne Bunn and Eric Young and a chance to complete our Mull Grahams. The amazing weather went from bright sunshine to arctic blizzards and back to warm sunshine again.
May was spent holidaying and catching family out in Japan, with plentiful culture, good walking and mountains, superb experiences. Such a great country. We returned at the beginning of June for the week in Ardfern for the annual Marhof dinner, with trips to Jura and around region 19 collecting further Marilyns. Afterwards to Skye for a Grahams completion there and a chance to bag Scalpay, courtesy of Tony Smith's good organisation.
Late June we were back Marilyning in Wales, staying in a remote farmhouse near Dolgellau and then camping in sunshine down the end of the Lleyn peninsula with the newish Marilyn and sailing to Bardsey island. There was further camping in Llangollen in July, plus an Islay family trip in August with whisky and our final Graham on Jura. This trip ended up with a fine long weekend out on the sublime Colonsay. We completed the Marilyns in region 28 in a final trip to the Pentlands at the end of August.
In September we returned to the Outer Hebrides for another crack at the St Kilda archipelago. The week of the boat trip came and poor weather again looked to have put a dampener on things, when suddenly a break lead to us all getting away from Leverburgh with Seumas and success on the St Kilda four. Boreray was most interesting owing to high swell and sea mist down to 100m, however Jen, Rick, Martin Richardson and Richard Tibbetts all enjoyed success, as we did later on Soay. Dun was great too with nine folk getting ashore and the majority summiting. A fine singsong on the last night in the museum celebrated our collective achievements. Thanks to Alan Holmes for setting it all up.
On the return to Harris, we then spent a further few days on Lewis collecting Marilyns. In October we were up by Loch Ness near Drumnadrochit when the call went up that a window was on for a St Kilda stacks trip. As expedition lead, without gear and far from home, some frantic organising from afar took place, with Michael Earnshaw collecting climbing gear from our home. We were suddenly back at the pier on Leverburgh with ten other keen baggers ready to sail again with Seumas to St Kilda. And this time we were blessed, with superb weather and huge success for all twelve on the two stacks and Eddie Dealtry's rope recovered for good measure. More celebration in the museum ensued.
And so the focus switched from Grahams to all Marilyns, the thought being that we might as well finish them now before thoughts of work, holidays or other distractions could compete for our time. We were at Inver Lodge in October and started in earnest on region 21 Marilyns.
In between times from home, we found region 27 Marilyns nearly complete and in November were at Plas Tan y Bwlch - a great location, organised by Iain Brown. Getting on with the Marilyns in region 30, we all discovered the end-of-year rain and it just kept coming as we headed to a region 32 Marilyn completion in south Wales.
Late November brought even more rain, although we were very happy to see many baggers at our final Lakeland Birketts completion on The Dodd (Lorton). At the end of November we were in Fife for region 26 Marilyns, then on to the Trossachs and Callander, again in the rain. Finally, between Christmas and new year, we were in Wales at Betws y Coed mopping up Jen's north Wales Marilyns plus other hills in region 30. Our waterproofs had not seen as much action in the previous ten years as they did in the final months of 2015.
So, over 200 Marilyns each for us in 2015 and we are determined that 2016 will have a complete focus on Marilyns, with the aim to complete by the year end. Should be an interesting year.
Rick says that Marhofn has influenced me (Jen) a lot. Back in 2007 when I first saw the RHB book I recall being interested but not hooked on Marilyns, being focused on Corbetts at the time. It was seeing the subsequent Marhofn, the details of those climbing the Marilyns and their personal stories, that got me hooked. All my copies of Marhofn are neatly filed on the bookcase that has the maps and other annual publications, a good back catalogue read.
Our commitment to completing the Marilyns is largely down to the community that I found in the baggers. There is competition, then friendship and then camaraderie in even greater measure.
I never thought I would get even close to 1000 let alone finish them. In all the new folk coming to the Marilyns I see the same thing, perhaps just a glimmer that things can be achieved.
The key bagging events over the years have been the Hall entries and completions, then the week-long trips, e.g. to Shetland and Barra, and the November weekends. All good times spent in fine company.
I was quite sad and shocked when it was first mentioned that the magazine was coming to an end. There must be something as good to replace it (it is very good, by the way). The current web sites are not the answer, though we have seen many new people coming to the Marilyns in recent times through the Relative Hills Facebook page and the like.
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