Marilyns the Hard Way
(or 10 Relatively Gruesome Grinds)
There are some intrepid people out there. Forget all those Munroists, Corbetteers, Donaldas - they're history. Where the real hillbagger is at these days is Marilyns. Of the 1551 hills, the unsung Rowland Bowker of Cockermouth has climbed 900+, Alan Blanco and your editor are both nearing 500, and there is even rumour of some brave soul setting out to climb them all! And then there's Roderick Manson, coming up fast on the rails...
1 Cruachan-Glen Vic Askill (295m, Section 17A)
"No hill is dull between the sunset and the sea." It's a fairly safe bet that the venerable H Brown didn't have this hill in mind when he penned those words. C-GVA, climbed primarily as a result of reading about it in a past TAC Christmas Quiz, exists solely to epitomise the ultimate in mind-numbing, moor-straddling tedium - a narcoleptic benchmark below which no hill can fall. If you ever doubt the intrinsic interest of any other hill, climb this - but blame TAC and Blanco, don't blame me!
2 Y Golfa (341m, Section 30E)
OS maps don't tell you everything. They don't, for example, tell you that the apparent shortest route to YG is, in reality, a 300ft battle through thick gorse, brambles and shoulder-deep ferns which, having throttled the path into oblivion, contribute lacerations and ripped trousers aplenty to the hapless climber's collection of memorabilia. The easiest route is to take a set of clubs and play the blasted golf course. Be prepared to be philosophical about lost balls however. Curiously, although Y Golfa has a golf course all over it, nearby Moel Y Golfa doesn't. Maybe the Moel (see TAC20, p6) is still active.
3 Pegwn Mawr (586m, Section 31B)
Despoiled by a gruesome windfarm which necessitates a long trudge over boggy moorland followed by a swift dash to the summit when the operators a mile or so away aren't looking. The warning signs read "Hard hats must be worn". If you want all this wind and aggravation, climb Big Ben instead. When they try to build them in Scotland, object!
4 Mynydd Enlli (167m, Section 30A)
A straightforward and pleasant climb on tranquil Bardsey Island, a place of pilgrimage for centuries. The catch is the £14 boat trip from the bottom of the Lleyn peninsula. A credible description of the climb can be obtained from yours truly at a reasonable price. Alternatively, you could always swim.
5 Snowdon - Yr Wyddfa (1085m, Section 30B)
Struggle along the Crib Goch ridge (it's not difficult: just clogged with tourists complete with granny, who's as blind as a limpet but who knows damn fine what falling off generally leads to and is therefore clinging on like a bat). Then struggle with the apocalyptic anti-climax of the flat, rounded and frankly dull high- point of Lesser Albion - athrong with tourists with matching hamburgers straight off the train and hunting for their "I climbed Snowdon" T-shirts. Then pray it was all a bad dream.
6 Creag nan Clag (407m, Section 9B)
Straight up from the most obvious roadside parking place is a steep gully between two cliffs of conglomerate - an interesting-looking route onto the plateau. After bending double to get under a boulder-bridge, you come to a steep, wide corner where the sun never shines, where the holds are less than reassuring, and where the rock is wet and slippery. After clambering up 20 or 30ft, you discover that most of the contents of your abdomen have made a valiant attempt to exit via your left boot, and that your laundry bill has skyrocketed. Worst of all, you discover that the summit is half-a- mile away at the top of a disgustingly easy grassy slope.
7 Mount Eagle (256m, Section 15B)
Follow the forest road in from the west. Finding the fire tower near the top is easy. Finding the summit trig point, hidden away in a small clearing of a commercial pine plantation - and we all know what that means - isn't. This can take almost as long as the "climb" itself. (Hint: it's not as far west as you might think.)
8 Quinag - Spidean Coinich (764m, Section 16E)
As one who has dripped in the steaming twilight of Kinloch Hourn, sweltered in the sub-tropical aridity of Letterewe/Fisherfield and opened the car door below Stac Pollaidh in 90xC in summer, your intrepid scribe can claim to have bagged most of the world's great midge repositories. This is the capital: the supreme midge haven where, having walked up great rocky slopes, you seek rest from your labours and are spontaneously assaulted by millions of the most ferocious midges yet encountered by humankind. They don't follow you down, and what keeps them congregated there is a mystery to which yours truly had no intention of hanging around long enough to postulate an answer.
9 The Bochel (491m, Section 21A)
The Bochel isn't in the least bit gruesome, but I'm writing this and I'll be perverse if I want to (unless there are witnesses). Walk up past the farm, shimmy between the pine afforestations, and shoot up short heather slopes for a great wee adjunct to a day out on the hills. If Blanco was going to miss one off his list first time round, why couldn't it have been Cruachan-Glen Vic Askill?
10 Great Orme (207m, Section 30C)
A five-minute saunter from the car park to the summit, past restaurant, shops, "interpretative centre" etc. You could walk up along the tramcar route from Llandudno or via a few paths on either side, but why stay on it any longer than is absolutely necessary? The Blackpool of summits is just another tourist trap, to be ticked off as fast as possible before returning to grumpy isolation in a boggy wilderness five miles from anywhere in mist, wind and rain/hail - ie heaven.
If you're still keen, all these hills and many many more are listed in The Relative Hills of Britain, by Alan Dawson (ISBN 1 85284 0684, published by Cicerone, £8.99)
TAC 21 Index