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As I remarked in the previous year, progress towards the Upper Hall was always likely to be painfully slow for me, but I did not realise that in 2015 the emphasis was going to be on the painful. Throughout the summer and autumn, I was laid low by increasingly sore and stiff limbs that, with some remission, stopped me from long drives and walking for more than two to three hours. As my nearest unclimbed Marilyns are now a drive of nearly four hours to reach them, plans had to be abandoned and shorter local walks substituted. The cause of this stumped my GP, but eventually I self-diagnosed the cause as some tablets he had put me on for another condition. As I weaned myself off them the symptoms receded, but the year was by then too far advanced to enable me to catch up with my thwarted plans. So I had to content myself with 15 new Marilyns, though I did manage 32 new Humps and 134 new Tumps.
I had to wait until late February for my first Marilyn of the year, Creagan na Beinne. This was scaled on a short weekend trip to the southern Highlands with Corbett- bagging friends. It was full winter conditions, but the sun shone a little. March did not do much to add to my totals, with only one new ascent, Larriston Fells, the nearest unclimbed Marilyn to my house in Mold, north Wales. I did this on a motorway slog with Andy and James Tomkins, finally getting home near midnight. I did also climb Tarrenhendre for a second time.
April proved to be the finest month of 2015 weather-wise and I clocked up two new Marilyns, Steele's Knowe and Lendrick Hill, on forays from the excellent Tormaukin Inn in Glendevon, where my wife and I were up for a relaxing foodie weekend. In a bid to keep my New Donald totals ticking forward, a day trip to the Moffat hills involved a repeat ascent of Hart Fell. The Black Hope horseshoe is, in my view, one of the finest walks in the Southern Uplands.
In May, both the weather and my health declined, and I only managed two new Marilyns. I was in Glen Shiel and walked half the south ridge, in full snow conditions, yielding me Aonach air Chrith. Later in the month, Andy and James Tomkins and I did one of our signature motorway dashes to bag my final Marilyn in Section 27C, Colt Hill.
I had only partially recovered from flu by June for the Marhof dinner at Ardfern. Andy and I stayed in Oban for a few nights prior to the dinner, all set for Andy's 600th. As expected, full throttle was applied to the so-called Tomkins effect, a meteorological phenomenon currently being investigated by the Met Office whereby any bad weather in the vicinity makes a beeline for Mr Tomkins. After a quick ascent of Beinn na Sroine on the way to Oban in reasonable conditions, next day we abandoned our attempt on Beinn Sgulaird as evil weather closed in and mainly stayed in place till the day of our departure south after the dinner. A quick squelch and forest thrash up Airds Hill brought Andy to the brink of the Hall for the following morning. Crowds (well, actually Chris Bienkowski) turned out for the event, an ascent of Beinn Lora. The weather was true to form, foul. But then, on the summit, miraculously it all changed to bright sunshine, which continued all afternoon. By a further miracle, a thunderstorm narrowly missed the three of us for our ascent of Na Maoilean. This made me think that the Tomkins effect might now recede, since Andy had reached the Hall. I was wrong. Next day was, if anything, even worse, but we did still manage an ascent of Carn Breugach, Kerrera, via a ferry with much of its car-deck underwater, and a miserable ascent of Cruach nam Fearna. Typically, as we departed, the weather changed and stayed good for many a day, as Andy was safely back and tucked up in England again.
After this, my limb ailment kicked in badly and no new Marilyns were climbed until the end of September. Luckily I was mainly in remission for a short holiday in the French Alps in July, where I did manage some ascents - in particular, le Brévent 2525m/P157m (Aiguilles Rouges) from Chamonix and Pointe de Marcelly 1999m/P440m in the Chablais Alps.
The next Marilyn mini-burst came in late October. During a week's stay in Gairloch, I met up with my Corbett-bagging company for an ascent of the recently promoted Marilyn, Sithean Mor, a tough little terrier of a hill. Later in the week, there was a burst of the summer we had never had, which afforded the opportunity for a solo ascent of a much higher hill - Maol Chean-dearg. The weather was superb, as was the view north from the summit over Loch Torridon. The year ended with another section completed (27A) and another motorway dash north through rain and snow-storm with Andy and James for Common Hill. Avoiding flying ice from the wind turbines was the main preoccupation on the walk.
On the European hill-listing project, there were no new publications in 2015 on sites.google.com/site/europeaklist. I have, however, been active in developing European hill and mountain lists on peakery.com/peaks/lists and will be continuing this work in 2016.
I can understand why this esteemed publication has had its day, what with the number of Marilyn baggers now and the advent of the hill-bagging website and social media. I, for one, will miss it. I have kept all the editions since 1999, the year I consciously climbed my first Marilyn, Penycloddiau. It is true I have only looked at my collection occasionally, as the hill-bagging website is where I go now for tips for the top. However, they have sort of become part of the folklore of Marilyn bagging. I hope that something new will come along to take their place.
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