2016: a retrospective

Writing a 2016 retrospective would be a pretty easy task if it was about stuff other than hill walking. By any accounts it’s been an eventful year what with Brexit, Trump and the sometimes untimely deaths of many celebrities. This blog isn’t really the place to go into any of this but it has seemed at times to be one thing after another, and the future – a world with President Trump and without Princess Leia – seems a more uncertain place than it has been for some time.

However this is (at least in theory) a hill walking blog so that’s what I’m going to try and focus on.

This year was never about big targets. Having pulled up our 100th Munro and my 50th Wainwright in 2015, all I was really looking for was a few good days on the hill – and get some other fun stuff in too. The other fun stuff certainly happened – a trip to Islay and Jura, which was focused on whisky tasting and made me wonder if the blog should be renamed ‘Mountains, Malbec and Malts’ given the amount of sampling of Ardbeg, Bruichladdich, Jura, Laphroaig and so on limited editions that got done. A trip to Florence, which had nothing to do with either mountains or malts but certainly involved Montepulciano, also followed in November and was great fun – a place which is highly recommended for a cultural city break although there is so much to see that a 5 day visit barely scratches the surface.

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Numerically from a hill walking perspective it was not great. I added some more Wainwrights to my total, one new Munro, a Corbett I’d meant to do for ages and a repeat of a Munro in glorious sunshine that I’d previously done in pea soup fog. But this included some good days and some great views. 25 degree heat and sunburn in Perthshire; atmospheric late spring snow and near whiteout in the Far Eastern Lakeland fells. Clag on Scafell Pike blowing through on the way down to terrific views over to Great Gable. A glorious early Spring day on Ill Bell (or should that be 3 Bell?!) were some of the highlights.

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Some of the lowlights were the increasing cost of getting to Scotland, and the reduction of options for doing so: BA has now priced itself out of being doable, and our default option, Easyjet, seems to have become rather less reliable on the Glasgow route than we would like, increasing delays culminating in us getting stuck at Glasgow airport overnight. My back – which every so often throws a wobbly to remind me I do have a spinal injury – hasn’t been too good, and given a 3 hour journey on a train after work and the proliferation of smaller hills which are (a) better for a marginal day and (b) less likely to aggravate my back, the Lakes is winning at the moment in terms of easier do-ability from London. My fitness isn’t where it should be either, something I need to work on if I want to do some of the bigger routes on my ‘wish list’ next year. Starting small and working back up to the bigger hills seems like the best plan. And I am not getting any better at taking summit selfies!

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So what do I want to achieve in 2017 from a hill walking perspective? Some good days on the hill. I’d like to do some of the classic hills I’m yet to do, such as Blencathra, Braeriach, High Street and Grisedale Pike. Do some nice ‘tiddlers’ in the Lakes and make some more inroads into the Wainwrights. See the sun rise, or set, from a hill (the former probably being the trickier given I’m not a natural early bird). Drop a stone and a half and do more non-walking exercise and see if my back / general fitness level improves as a result (the latter can’t get much worse!).

But most of all, I want to enjoy it. To feel the wind in my hair, and look round at the views and feel at peace. Hill walking at its best isn’t just good for the body but for the mind; a chance to wash out the brain; my husband refers to me as a ‘worry-bucket’ and I’m a naturally high stress person; a good day in the hills helps relieve that stress. And a good glass of Malbec for the post walk drink – or a nice single malt – doesn’t hurt either!

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