THIS is the time of year when everyone gets around to making wish lists.
I’m no exception. But I’ve never been one for making New Year resolutions and I gave up on writing to Santa many years ago. Nothing to do with growing older - I just gave up when none of the things I had hoped for materialised.
You wouldn’t think that world peace, an end to poverty and injustice and a nice box of biscuits would be too much to ask, but then putting your trust into an elderly, borderline obese man who breaks into houses in the middle of the night is probably delusional.
No, the list I have been working on during the festive season is my mountain goals for the coming year.
Every December it’s the same. The pace of ascent starts slowing down and I find myself confined to barracks for longer spells as the weather and shorter daylight hours restrict opportunity, so, instead of chasing fruitlessly round the country to find a temporary lull, I turn my mind to anticipation.
I write down all the hills I hope to climb in the next 12 months, all the routes that are so far missing from my mountain resume, all the places I have yet to see. I pore over my maps, seeking out new approaches to old favourites, working out possible combinations that will provide a fresh experience.
It’s an exercise that reinvigorates the mind and the soul. I already feel like a greyhound straining to get at the rabbit. I can’t wait to get going properly again rather than the current state of feeding on whatever scraps the Atlantic fronts decide to throw our way.
Two years ago, for example, I had 16 specific targets on my list. Only eight of those remain. It may sound like slow going but these are all walks or trips that require perfect weather. There’s no point in going on a dream holiday and seeing nothing but wind and rain.
For instance, I have long wanted to do the Beinn Dearg and Cona’ Mheall circuit from the south, but there’s no point doing it in zero visibility. There’s also the small matter of having so many river crossings and wet ground to cover.
Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn‘t. My attempt to climb Morven and Scaraben in the far north-east in March proved to be a wasted journey after a request by a group of men dressed entirely in tweed to delay my walk by two hours. That immediately ruled out any chance of completing the circuit in time so I headed elsewhere.
The quest to finish my third round of Munros by moonlight on Ben More in Mull was lost when thick mist and blasting winds gate-crashed a good forecast and rendered any hope of a sunrise useless. On the other hand, I finally managed to catch the magnificent Suilven in perfect weather, a cracking Sunday walk in early October.
These dream outings also have to slot in alongside so many other mountain commitments.
I’ll be heading to Arran and Harris again for mountain festivals, and I’m also down for an appearance at the Moray event.
I have a week-long hill extravaganza at the end of April with friends, an annual outing which this year is based in Plockton.
There are long weekends booked at Loch Broom, the Great Glen and the Mamores, plus ten day trips. That’s around 30 days already accounted for.
I’m fortunate to be able to get out at least once a week - my final outings tally this year was 55, last year it was 62 - but throw in trips to Skye, Knoydart and Torridon and you can see how my wish list starts getting squeezed.
If it remains untouched over the next couple of years I may have to revert to begging letters to the red-suited one and hope that when he decides whether I’m naughty or nice, he plumps for option two.