Marhofn 316.18 - May 2016

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Hole in the wall gang:

Martin Richardson (+75=1535)

As Dickens might have said - it was the driest of times, it was the wettest of times, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. In the superlative degree of comparison, for me 2015 had some extreme experiences. I was abroad for a considerable part of the year - over five months in all. At this stage of Marilyn bagging it is a mopping-up exercise and, despite previous planning not to get in this situation, it does involve many single far-from-anywhere and over 600m high hills. Gone are the multiple-Marilyns-in-a-day days, although it is good to be able to add Simms to the simmering pot. So, is it any wonder that I only managed to add 75?

January was not too bad. Plenty of snow underfoot with a few quite nice days. I avoided the apparently wet late winter and early spring by spending almost three months wandering around Australia, New Zealand and Java, bagging Ultras and P1000s. Some of them were volcanoes, most of them recently dormant although Merapi, in Java, was still steaming from a major eruption in 2010.

I came back to Britain in time to spend May and early June bagging north-western Scottish Marilyns, with some Humping and Sibbing boat trips from Mull. Although it has an interesting little scramble to find the summit, the main attraction of Dutchman's Cap remains its view from elsewhere. And then there was the astonishing synchronised table serving at the Ardfern Marhof dinner.

Then it was time to escape the British weather to experience an unusually long period of almost continuous sunshine (over two months) in Liechtenstein, Austria, Italy and France, bagging yet more Ultras and P1000s.

I did not really want to come home. I was not looking forward to experiencing yet another aborted trip to St Kilda. Three years running of curtailing my European travels was enough. I decided that this was going to be the final bid and, if it failed, I would just book myself on one of the tourist boat trips from Skye and be satisfied with Conachair. I did not even bother to book a CalMac ferry and I just hovered on Skye, bagging Humps as featured in the new film version of Shakespeare's Macbeth.

Then came the call - the swell was promising to be not too bad at the tail-end of the week. Still thinking I was wasting the fare I went over to Harris and, to my surprise, we had a window of calm weather long enough to bag all four of the islands - mainly with the A-team of Rick Salter, Jenny Hatfield, Richard Tibbetts and myself. I had done it and would never have to go through the process again. I had finished with St Kilda. I was satisfied - after all, just Conachair would have been enough. I had seen the stacks and they looked impossible.

It was back to the mainland and working through those remote north-western Scotland Marilyns that remained. In the midst of daily forays in Strathfarrar, a call came from Rick Salter saying that later in the week there was a forecast for a couple of days of fine weather with little sea swell, and was I interested in bagging the stacks? I should have said no. I could not afford the cost or the disappointment of not being able to summit and we were supposed to be going to Balmoral anyway. However, the disease of summit fever clouded my judgement.

Stac Lee and Stac an Armin (photo: Michael Earnshaw)

Impossible looking pair (photo: Michael Earnshaw)

The stacks proved to be a great place to practice abseiling with the aforementioned A-team. And I joined that select group of people who go from having never been to St Kilda to summiting all six Marilyns within a period of four weeks.

Hey, is that a satellite? Maybe we climbed up a bit too high this time.

Strathfarrar (photo: Martin Richardson)

Strathfarrar (photo: Martin Richardson)

I had to work hard on myself to avoid bathos setting in. The remains of the planned week in Balmoral was spent largely Hump and Simm bagging and repeating Marilyns wanted by others. Once back on my own I managed a few more Marilyns in early November, around Drumochter.

The Baggerrambles weekend at Porthmadog meant joining in other people's various landmark bids, for example Anne Bunn on her final mainland Marilyn and Lorna Smith on her Hall of Fame entry. I headed back to Scotland with the intention of bagging a few more Marilyns. However, the decision by the Met Office to give human names to storms seems to have boosted their egos and encouraged them to come out to parade.

My plans for 2016 include finishing the Marilyns, working on those hills that happen to be both Simms and Humps, spending a long summer bagging Alpine Ultras and P1000s and launching RHSoc.

Glen Coe peaks from Leum Uilleim (photo: Alan Dawson)

Glen Coe peaks from Leum Uilleim (photo: Alan Dawson)

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