Marhofn 49.02 - April 2000

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True Confessions: How I Got Hooked

Phil Cooper

Dave Hewitt contacted me late 1998, and by new year I was in possession of the RHB book. Dave advised me that I probably had already done over 600 relative hills, including applicable Munros, Corbetts, Donalds, English and Welsh 2000s and County Tops, but I hadn't heard of Marilyns until then! After much prolonged study of maps and old diaries, I concluded that my total to 1998 was 694. My '600th' date of 16/10/79 (Askival) appears to make me the person with the earliest known 600. Having started to study RHB, imagine my embarrassment in quickly spotting that I hadn't visited the summit of the Marilyn closest to my home in Barrow-in-Furness: Lowick High Common, only nine miles away, thus providing an afternoon stroll early in the new year. Some other northern England hills, somehow previously missed, were completed before summer: Winter Hill, Raw Head, Boulsworth, Freeholds Top and Hail Storm Hill. People seem to knock Hail Storm as it is flat and a bit boggy, but at seven o'clock on a bright June morning with the cotton grass swaying in the breeze and the plover and curlew heeling, I thought it was fab, one of the year's highlights, plus the excitement of identifying the cairnless summit.

A first visit to Scotland for several years, to the Biggar area in July in a heatwave, let me pack in a few more wee-uns: seven in one day, but not the same sense of achievement as six Fisherfield Munros in a day (June 1978) at all! We visited Cornwall for the eclipse washout in August and found time to do my remaining Cornwall and Devon Marilyns; Dartmoor and Exmoor had been previously visited. The August Ball of Flame meet was another highlight of the year, our first Highland visit for six years, and my first Highland walks for twelve years! Included eight total over a four-day weekend, finishing on Uamh Beag and its two tops; can now add 'New Donaldist' to my CV! A Borders weekend in September yielded seven hills around the Mosspaul-Hermitage area plus Peel Fell and Sighty Crag near Kielder: the inaccessibility, roughness and feeling of remoteness of Sighty providing another 1999 memory which hopefully I'll still hold in 2020. I think that's a good test of the day's quality: can you remember it 20 years later?

Had a fairly concentrated week in mid-Wales and the Welsh Borders in October, ticking 29 in areas I'd never visited before. Did a leisurely four most days. Nothing outstanding though; maybe Carnedd Wen as my first tree-clad Marilyn will stick in the mind. Visiting 'new' Marilyns at the average rate achieved in 1985 - 1998 (14 years for 20 hills), I would have needed another 600 years to finish the project, but at my improved rate set in 1999, aided and abetted by RHB, it would now only take me another nine years to finish them all! Disregarding all logistical problems, of course.

I investigated the possibility of making my half-way Marilyn (776) one as near half-way as possible between the extreme north-east Marilyn, Saxa Vord, and the extreme south-west, Watch Croft. Taking the average of the grid references gives NT 025262, which is a point in the Culter Fell area. As I had already visited the Culters, I picked Housedon Hill, my home country's most northerly, as half-way, on 19 December.

I've only exceeded the year's tally of 87 in three previous years (1975, 1978, 1979); 1978 being my all time high with 185 Marilyns, of which 87% were Munros or Corbetts; whereas now most of the Grahams and the wee-uns remain. Year 2000 is of course also known as MM, hence it is the year of our heroine! Be there! Do something to remember when you're 80! Visit Fair Isle or Foula, Unst or Fetlar!

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