The latest edition of the Marilyn Hall of Fame newsletter, Marhofn 153.08, was published in late April and is available online, colour photography and all, along with the latest updates on top-tweakings, new discoveries, renamings and the like. See http://www.rhb.org.uk/
Speaking of renamings, curious goings-on at the Grauniad, where Jim Perrin holds down a Country Diary slot and where he has lately appeared with the byline "James Perrin". At first this looked like a stylebook glitch (and still might be, his most recent column having been a Jim one), but he's appeared in the polite form more than once, so a conscious attempt at Andy/Andrew Cole-type reinvention is a possibility. Or is he adopting different personas for different types of writing, as with Iain Banks and Iain M Banks? Or indeed Ian Mitchell and Ian R Mitchell? It's all rather strange. (Also on renamings, a certain Martin Koran appears in the Munro-records section of the Scottish Hill Runners website, http://www.shr.uk.com/ Does the home secretary know? Dawn raids could be in order at Achintee.)
The Guardian also published, on 20 May, a "Britain's 50 best walks" supplement which featured eight Scottish outings. The tone of the thing was well represented by a Zoe Williams comment on "how staggeringly difficult" Munros are. We live in a sedentary, decadent age, so we do. Or at least the metropolitan media set do.
Steve Perry's winter Munro round notwithstanding, the season's most remarkable deeds have surely come courtesy of Kendal-based fellrunner John Fleetwood, who recently racked up a winter Bob Graham Round, a 19-Munro Glen Shiel circuit, and - most notable of all - a winter Ramsay Round. The BGR came a week before Christmas, in snowless conditions, and he made it back to Moot Hall in six minutes under 24 hours after the requisite 66 miles and 27000ft of ascent. The Shiel effort, by contrast, was very much under snow, and involved 40 miles, 23000ft and 30 hours spread over 10-11 February. Outstanding though this was, it merely served as training for the winter Ramsay on 5-7 March: 23 Munros, 60 miles and 28000ft in an utterly arduous 47 hour 55 minute circuit from Glen Nevis. Fleetwood was hallucinating by the end, and his blog (http://www.longdistancechallenges.blogspot.com/) provides this description of his feet: "Eight of my toes are black, the rubbing on my ankles is so bad that it has gouged pus-filled holes, whilst my soles are ghostly white victims of trench foot." As if that wasn't enough, he contrived to lose his car key on Carn Mor Dearg, and found the Glen Nevis hostel warden "none too sympathetic" when he went in search of succour. "Instead of offering me a cup of tea, the use of the facilities, or even some words of comfort [...] I am told that I will have to leave." It's always interesting to see old hostelling traditions being maintained. The moral seems to be to turn up instead at the Station Lodge, Tulloch, where Fleetwood was made much more welcome as he started his recovery.
For those unfamiliar with what a Ramsay Round entails, it's all the Mamores, Beinn na Lap, Sgriodain, Chno Dearg, the Easains then back along the Grey Corries, Aonachs, CMD and the Ben. Fleetwood is a veteran of a sub-24-hour summer Ramsay (July 2003), itself a huge achievement, but this was several steps up. And there wasn't any network of supply drops, nor any on-hill pacing by fellrunning compadres: he did it in the grand manner, solo and unsupported. Impressive. (See also http://johnfleetwood.smugmug.com/)
In a distinctly non-Guardian bit of newspaperland, Gordon Smith reports having seen the following in a mid-March edition of the Metro: "In June 2001 I was walking in the hills above Grasmere in the Lake District. It was a pleasant summer's day [...] Out of nowhere I found myself in another place. It was a small room with silver metal walls. I was not alone but it was impossible to identify the beings with me. Instinctively I knew they were female. The next thing I remember is a feeling of quite extreme eroticism. To put it bluntly, I was 'milked' by one of these beings. I am embarrassed to elaborate but hope you understand what I am referring to. The next thing I remember is finding myself back on this hill." - John, Daily Mail reader.
There was also this: "My experience was in May 2005 whilst I was on holiday in Ullswater (Lake District). I was alone at the time. I believe that I was taken away from Earth during the abduction and was returned in a different place, a number of miles away from where I was taken." - Neil, Manchester.
Crikey. Are these for real? The paper included a full-page puff for an Alien Invasion TV series alongside these letters, allegedly culled from an earlier Daily Mail survey. The UFO-seeking Aetherians chanting on Coniston Old Man are odd enough, but this is on a whole other level of weirdness. Does any TAC reader have similar tales of paranormal activity in the Ponds?
TAC69 will include an account of a splendid expedition that ended just before TAC68 went to press. From 20 April to 20 May, David Gray and Nick Spedding did the Elvis to Presley walk: 420 miles from Elvis Voe in Bressay, Shetland (HU5044 on Landranger 4) to Presley south of Forres (NJ0151 on Landranger 27), in aid of Cancer Research Scotland. The route meandered round various outposts such as Beinn Sgritheall ("He goes by the name of King Sgritheall") and Ben Nevis ("It's now or Nevis"). You get the idea. See http://www.kingofwalks.org/ for route and sponsorship details.
Clearly more expeditions of this kind are needed, so here are a few ideas: Little Loch Broom to Charnock Richard. St David's Head to Ben Bowie. Beinn Bhan to a Morrison's supermarket of your own choosing. Tom a' Choinich to Pettycur, a real heartbreaker. (This has almost certainly already been done by Hamish Brown - in fact he came very close during his 1978 Groats-End walk, managing Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan to Kinghorn.)
Late news from Robin Howie, who tells of problems on the approach to Ben Alder Cottage from the dam at the south end of Loch Ericht. The woodland on the southwest side of the loch has been enclosed by a deer fence with no stiles, with walkers forced between the fence and the shore over ATV-churned ground. The old path is now on the inside of the fence, not easily reached. Does anyone know more about this? Doesn't sound good.
TAC 68 Index