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A strange year, with a wonderful week in April and some great days in September and October, but a mostly damp and dreary May, June and July. The highlights therefore stand out fairly clearly:
It was also good to be back on An Teallach, even in poor weather, but the 7.30am start was a bit much for me and the 9.30pm finish was a bit much for Iain. I tried to cut back on my head-torch habit during the year, but it was somehow after midnight when I got back to the car on a few occasions, though not when anyone was waiting for me. Latest finish was a new personal best (or worst) of 1.40am, after an unexpectedly long and slow day on some outlying summits of Stob Ghabhar. As it was already getting light by the time I got back to the car I did think about setting off up another hill but I didn't quite have the motivation for it.
That walk took only half as long as the longest, which incorporated 32 summits in the Sidlaw Hills, starting on 275m Bandirran Hill and finishing on 266m Hatton Hill 27 hours later, after 92km and 3000m of ascent. I blamed Lindsay for this, as it was entirely his idea to climb 30 new P30s in under 30 hours. Somehow I got sucked into participating and then suggested adding one or two more in case we failed on any of them. In hindsight, I should thank Lindsay for his idea rather than blame him. It was a thoroughly enjoyable walk on the whole, rather than the endurance test I was expecting. Plenty of fence crossing practice too. Conditions were good overhead and underfoot, feet and knees proved resilient, and the walk gave a new perspective on quiet and attractive areas of rolling hillsides and pleasant villages. It certainly made Craigowl Hill much more interesting than when I had driven up to it after a day working in Dundee fifteen years earlier. Thanks also to Rod Munro for providing extra supplies at the halfway stage and enabling me to change from wellies to boots after the first 50km.
The downsides of the year were partly predictable and partly unexpected. The gathering at Ardfern was enjoyable and successful, and I even joined in with a bit of island bagging just to be sociable. The hostel was good until the warden kicked me out for refusing to pay again for a fourth night that I had already paid for. He was intransigent and I was not inclined to back down, so I left and slept in my car in Crarae Gardens instead. It didn't feel right but at least it meant I got an early start the next day.
The depressing construction and destruction in widespread areas of the Highlands continued, so it became a rarity to drive up a glen and not see a construction site, a fleet of bulldozers and ugly new scars heading up into the hillsides. Some of these scars will diminish and heal in a few years time but many will not, and concrete doesn't rust much. At least Glen Tilt and Glen Feshie appeared to remain largely unspoiled.
Worse than all that was losing two more friends to cancer during the year, Tony Rogers and Lynda Woods. Somehow, this seemed to highlight the importance of spending a little more time with friends and a little less time on my own. An October week in luxurious surroundings managed to achieve that, with good weather, good beer, good log fires, good company and some good Deeside hills too. A November weekend managed the luxury and company but not the weather. May there be many more such times to share and enjoy while we can.
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