Later, out on some hill, I met Geoff Wood of Bolton who talked of the thrill of nearing a summit when the immediate skyline finally falls away all around you! He was using the only available list of hills over 2,000 feet at that time, in 1980, by George Bridge, 'The Mountains of England and Wales'. I, too, bought the book. Those hills I completed in 1990 and I returned to Scotland to work through all the Munros and Tops in earnest. In total, they make for well over 900 summits over 2,000 feet in England and Wales and over 3,000 feet in Scotland. I have three left at the time of writing. (Now, all completed as of 8 June 2008, when I am updating this.)
FINAL SUMMIT 527 IS A VERY CLOSE SHAVE!
or, Knight's Peak - on our way to our very last summit - bowled a boulder down on us and Becky dodged death by a hair's breadth!
I was with my daughter, Becky and her boyfriend, Tim on 2 June 2008, having just soloed Bhasteir Tooth via the Lotta Corrie route. We were in the gully between Sgurr nan Gillean and my final Top, Knight's Peak, on Pinnacle Ridge. Tim was leading and stepped off a huge boulder wedged in the gully. That extra little push off sent the boulder but not Tim, thankfully, hurtling down. It missed me on my left side but Becky, who was bringing up the rear, had to step smartly to the left as the thing went thundering down in a cloud of dust down her right side. It missed her by centimetres. It was like something out of an Indiana Jones adventure film. The one with the boulder hurtling down, or rather chasing, Harrison Ford! (Becky's account went, "Tim tried to kill me ... I leapt dramatically out of the way!") From then on, we were rather more zealous in checking for loose rock before using it for a handhold or foothold - for the whole of the rest of the week!
THE BOTHY WITH THE TENT INSIDE!
In March 1992, I had two nights at the Hutchison Memorial Hut in the Cairngorms. Except, such was the filth of the place I actually put the tent up inside the bothy when I was ready to sleep in it! On the second night, I didn't bother and simply slept in the tent outside the bothy, on its lee side.
A shower booth door in Aviemore was completely smashed when I slipped and fell through it. I also hit a deer driving to the next hill but, no pheasants!
MOST BIZARRE ITEM, UNINTENTIONALLY CARRIED IN MY RUCSAC
This was a pillow that was in my bivy/sleeping bag when I hurriedly rolled it up from sleeping in the car the previous night. A quick, and late, decision to go led to an inadequate lunch. Later, I felt really weak and unwell until I realised I needed more food and finally stopped! Then, that evening, in the dark, at the summit of some 3,000 footer I couldn't get the tent pole through the sleeve. I finally managed it when I put my back to the wind that had been keeping the sleeve so tightly shut the pole could not be pushed through.
In Knoydart, I kept on meeting up with the same four guys but, I always got to the first summit of the day before them! Thereafter, they soon pulled ahead and were always far ahead of me for the rest of the day. For three mornings that happened. The reason was that although we were all going in the same direction, they had to peel off from the ridge to get to their bothy for the night. I put the tent up exactly where I had reached by the end of the day, with no diversion! On the final morning, I followed them back to their bothy where one of them took pity on my diet of sandwiches and cereal with dried milk and gave me my first hot food (of soup) for four days. Far better, they kindly gave me a lift back to where I had left my car by the dam and where they had left their second car. Otherwise, I would have been out for a fifth day and night just to do the long road walk back. A coincidence was that all four men came from either my home town or near abouts and I met two of them again at a quarterly meeting of the Halesowen Wildlife Group! On this expedition, I lost my rucsac for a few minutes as I hunted round rocks to find it on returning from doing the Munro that looks like a stuck up thumb and far too steep to climb.
DRIVING NAKED THROUGH THE SCOTTISH NIGHT!
Off the A74 in the Southern Uplands, my night's sleep was disturbed by a whirring sound just as I was getting back into my sleeping bag. I thought it was some engine that had started up in the nearby compound. I got into the driving seat and found a quieter spot to park up and sleep. Except, when I switched the engine off, I still had the whirring. I discovered that it was my electric toothbrush that I had put my hand on squeezing back into the sleeping bag! (I no longer bother with such excesses - the elecy toothbrush; not the sleeping bag!)
SAVED BY AN ICE AXE
This was on the N ridge ascending Ben Hope, many winters ago. There was a steep section in the way. Realising that I might slip, I had the ice axe ready to arrest my fall. Just as well I did because I did slip and the ice axe definitely saved me. I was shocked and shaken but soon recovered sufficiently to climb away onto safer ground where I thankfully collapsed into the snow to eat my lunch. I then retreated back to the car that was my base camp. The next day, I climbed Ben Hope successfully from the south in cloud and snow.