Marhofn 106.06 - May 2004

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Endgame: Subs and Yeamans

Rob Woodall

Progress through a hill list tends to fall into three stages:

  1. Armchair bagging: you discover a new list and try to figure out how many you've already done.
  2. Ticking over: bagging new hills on the list. Unless you're a serialist this will probably overlap with other lists.
  3. Endgame: finishing the last few hills, and organising the party (if you've managed to save a convenient hill till last).

By the end of 2002, Alan Dawson's list of 206 SubMarilyns and Clem Clements' unpublished list of 1284 Yeamans of England, Wales and the Isle of Man had both reached the third stage, with smallish numbers of each remaining. However, a fair few were in out-of-the-way places, and the remaining 70ish Subs looked fairly improbable.

The remaining Yeamans were mainly in south-east England and south and west Wales. A slightly surreal weekend in March accounted for most of the English ones. Abiding memories are of a late-night drive through London when congestion charging was new, visiting various random housing estates and churchyards, and sitting in a traffic jam at 11pm with a knackered clutch. And the next day, finding myself in someone's garden, with a farmer buzzing around on a quad bike on the other side of the hedge.

A late-March circuit of the Grampians made inroads into the Subs, with Meall Odhar a'Chire and Carn an Fhidleir Lorgaidh (6A) providing good long days. These days I make it a rule to take in any baggable Corbett Top, Graham Top and 500m top en route (I'm getting to that stage in life where I can't afford to waste a long walk-in - I may not live long enough to repeat it).

A few problematic Subs were resolved in late April with a week at Doune on the western tip of Knoydart, with Paddy Buckley and some other fell-running friends. This had two distinct advantages: great food, and the exclusive use of a fast boat: Andy Tibbetts' Mary Doune. A 30-mile walk from Bracorina was a satisfying way of visiting Meall Bhasiter (10B), and during a poor-weather window I persuaded the group that they needed a day off from Munro bagging, and that pointing the Mary Doune towards Soay for Beinn Bhreac would be the ideal way to unwind.

Back on the Yeamans trail, a place was booked on the boat to the RSPB reserve of Ramsey Island off the Pembrokeshire coast. A fine island and reserve, with close-up views of peregrine and chough. Outwith Preseli, many of the west Wales Yeamans are disappointingly agricultural, though Carn Llidi and Penberry are just as good as they look on LR157.

Whitsun, as usual, involved a week in Scotland. Colonsay (Carnan Eoin) was an easy Wednesday afternoon trip from Oban. That morning I had already done penance in the form of the sitka hell which is Sgorr an Tarmachain (18B) from the south. Tiree posed more of a logistical problem. Until, that is, study of the CalMac timetable revealed that on summer Thursdays the Lord of the Isles goes Oban-Tiree-Barra-Tiree-Oban, giving seven hours on the island. The planned bike hire fell through, but lifts were easy to come by, resulting in a circuit of Carnan Mor and the island's other Yeamans and trig pillars. The other complication was the three Subs buried deep in Rannoch Moor. This was best solved by a train ride and a night in Corrour Station bunkhouse. The Subs Meall Mor, Meall a'Bhainne (4A) and Beinn Chumhainn (4B) made for two good longish routes, and my dull rations were nicely supplemented by food and wine left behind by a group of Aussies. Good folk, Aussies; I won't hear a word against them.

The Yeamans also involved island trips. I elected to tackle Man and Wight as day trips. Getting to the Isle of Man always seems disproportionately expensive, even on foot (I've never taken a car there). It had to be a summer trip to catch the Calf of Man boat, ruling out winter tariffs. The chosen option was a £25 Saturday trip from Heysham. The downside of this was the 1:30 a.m. departure. On the first attempt I managed to oversleep and missed the ferry. Luckily the ticket was transferable, and a combination of walking and clean punctual buses accounted for the remaining three Manx mainland Yeamans, plus a few trigs for good measure.

Now hooked on public transport, I repeated this approach for the Isle of Wight. Walking 20 miles during the hottest day ever recorded in England (100F at Heathrow), was less than ideal, but it was also the start of Cowes week, and the departing ferry negotiating the narrow passage left by hundreds of small boats made for a memorable end to the day.

Just one little hill now threatened the planned September completion. The 102m Tower Hill is the high point of Porton Down, the infamous government research establishment. Given the reputation of the place, I wasn't greatly surprised that my email elicited no response. However, another attempt by another route was answered in the affirmative - by a Mr Corbett! Once I'd explained what a Yeaman was, I was given permission to take a small party, so was accompanied by Richard Webb, Tony Payne and a few fellow 'triggers', on a fine summer evening. The summit trig is situated in good-quality chalk grassland packed with wild flowers. The evening finished in farcical style when, trig-bagging my way home, I had to get the Corsa towed out of a rutted track by a somewhat amused farmer. He refused the proffered beer money, happy I suspect to do it for the entertainment value. Good folk, farmers: I won't hear a word against them.

The way was now clear for completion of my round of Clem's Yeamans, with Bailey Hill on 6 September during the Marhof Ludlow weekend. This is a classic low-level Yeaman: easy to ascend with an attractive view of patchwork fields and surrounding higher hills.

This just left a week's Subs in northern Scotland. Key features: a day on Skye's Trotternish ridge, a walk in past the wonderful (albeit busy) Sandwood Bay to Cnoc a'Ghiubhais, just south of Cape Wrath; a total nightmare on Cnoc Bad an Leathaid (16D), finding a way from the north through mature conifers missing from my 1976 LR16. The stalking season was evident only at Kinloch Lodge, en route to Meallan Liath (16B), and at Benmore Lodge on the southern approach to Ben More Assynt for the wanted 715m trig pillar on Eagle Rock (I phoned and was told it would probably be okay if I kept to the paths and ridges). This left Stony Hill (27C) as the final hill. The prospect of getting anyone else to tackle the eight miles round trip to its dullish summit seemed fairly unlikely, so I bagged it on the way home, in a drizzly cold wind. A suitably anti-climactic end to another great hill list.

In brief....

SubMarilyns: despite the rather narrow definition, they form a fairly typical hill list: a total of over 200 hills, many of them very fine, including a few big-name old friends such as Sgurr Fiona (An Teallach), gems such as Sgorr Tuath and Stack of Glencoul, a few pointless summits, a few sitka nightmares, and one or two where the actual summit is to all intents and purposes unreachable (Old Man of Mow). From my perspective, after too much time on little hills it was good to spend some time at Corbett and Munro height - a great excuse to bag some Corbett Tops.

Clem's Yeamans: as above but more so. A long list of hills, many already included in earlier lists; the remainder often quick to ascend (expect 30 in a weekend), but with many access issues. There are however plenty of very pleasant hills with exquisite views and no access difficulties, especially in places like Wiltshire where the 100m drop and 5km distance rule bring in many attractive summits excluded by the 150m Marilyn drop criterion. A list to savour, not necessarily to finish.

In conclusion, is it better to bag meaningfully than to complete? Maybe, maybe not.

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