I ONCE went to a farewell party where the guest of honour decided his attendance would ruin the evening for everyone else, so he sent along money for a free bar instead.
A noble gesture, and as someone else who's not too fond of parties, I could empathise. I'm happy for others to have a good time, just don't try to force me to participate.
I feel the same about big celebrations on the completion of a mountain round. For me, a mass invasion of a hill defeats the purpose of going there in the first place.
My five finishes have attracted a total of six people. I wouldn't go as far as sneaking off in the middle of the night – well, it happened once – but I tend not make any elaborate plans. Part of that is a dislike of any form of organised recreation, part of it is I simply love the peace and solitude that comes with being in the mountains.
There's also all the angst that comes with setting a date. You know as soon as you commit to a specific time and place that a monsoon will finalise its holiday plans. Then I just feel miserable that everyone else will feel miserable, and the whole thing spirals into one big celebration of misery. With cake.
Despite this, and the fact I had vowed never again to set a finishing date, peer pressure tipped me into drawing up a schedule for a possible Full House completion this year.
The plan is to have three completions over ten days; a Grahams finish on Mull on the weekend of September 21/22, the last of the Donalds in midweek, then the grand finale, a Munro Top of Ben Nevis on September 28/29. On paper it looks straightforward. I have 13 hill days to fit into three and a half months. In reality, maybe not so simple.
I long ago decided I was not prepared to trudge up mountains in appalling conditions and zero visibility just to get a tick. I want these remaining walks to be memorable. This ethos was reinforced last weekend when I set off with grand plans to climb the remote summit of An Stac, stay overnight at Oban bothy and then head to Mallaig where I would take the ferry to Rum to circuit the Cuillin.
These were serious, committing days, and the initial forecast had been for favourable conditions. As the days neared, however, things started getting complicated.
During the journey from east to west, I was reminded of that old hillwalking law: No matter how clear the weather is on every range you pass, the one you are heading for will inevitably be engulfed in mist and rain. It was dry at the head of Loch Arkaig, but the view down Glen Pean was grey and threatening, and the deeper I went into this beautiful, wild and lonely glen, the more moisture I encountered.
A lively breeze was driving drizzle directly into my face; my boots were proving no match for the waterlogged paths; the lazy, gently-flowing river was left behind and I had to wade across raging streams coming down from dark, dripping gullies. At one boulder hop, I slipped and fell in up my elbows, but it didn't matter – I couldn't have felt any wetter.
My search for the summit of this wonderful peak involved weaving in and out a series of ominous, shadowy shapes, each higher than the last, a needle in an An Stac.
I had to share space at the bothy with a group of kayakers who had travelled along Loch Morar. Their gear was drier than mine. The walk back out next morning was drier, but the views of the heights still non-existent.
Predictably, the drive round to Mallaig was in glorious sunshine. Even the Nevis range was in perfect clarity (the second part of the previously mentioned law is that every mountain on the journey out will also be clear).
I booked into my accommodation, showered, had something to eat. Then I checked the weather forecast for the next day on Rum: Starting off drizzly with low cloud, rain getting heavier right through the day. Chance of views – almost nil.
The Rum Cuillin circuit is one to savour. The idea of spending ten hours trapped on an island in pouring rain with no views was not an option. If it had been a four or five-hour walk with a bail-out option I may have gone for it. I decided to turn tail and drive home in the late sunshine.
It only needs a few more like this and my plans could be out the window. I don't care. I will happily forgo the drinks and cake if it means enjoying the big finish. The rest of you will just have to keep your party frocks on hold.
With apologies to the late Lesley Gore: It's my party, and I'll cry off if I want to.