Published 1st January 2023, 21:10

    FAREWELL then 2022. If the roll call of years was a league table, you would have been relegated with one of the lowest points totals ever.

    Considering the previous two had been ravaged by a pandemic and the resultant lockdowns, that may sound harsh. Not to mention ungrateful, since I managed to clock up a record number of mountain days during these 12 months.

    Quantity is no match for quality however, and the number of quality days could probably be counted on two hands (or more likely three, to be fair: one of the great disadvantages of being a primate). The rest of the time there just seemed to be chaos or confusion to a greater or lesser degree, similar to what was happening in the wider world. 

    Much of this was a spillover from the Covid years. Every meeting, every outing, cancelled during that time was now back on, usually all at once, with the result that date clashes were inevitable. 

    Suddenly, instead of a well-spaced diary of events, we were faced with the regular occurrence of three meets scheduled for the same weekend, some paid in advance nearly three years ago. I often can't remember what I have arranged a week in advance let alone a few years ago, so it was no surprise there were a number of missed appointments.

    In addition, the slightest sniffle saw people dropping out of trips at the last minute, and others not signing up for fear of having to call off again, while we were all struggling trying to figure out disrupted timetables for trains, buses or ferries which would have left even Pythagoras bemused.

    I dropped out of a February trip due to family illness, and then chose Braemar over Knoydart in early May, although ironically I ended up in Knoydart the following week due to a booking I had forgotten about which, in turn, meant I couldn't go to Arran. 

    At least the Knoydart trip allowed me to strip three Munros from the remaining eight needed to complete a fourth round, which was supposed to be finished off during a long July weekend in Skye (which obviously clashed with a meet at Gairloch). Once again, I made neither due to a positive Covid test in the family. 

    The next opportunity for the big Munros finish came in September when I decided to combine a Torridon weekend for a friend's Corbetts completion with another trip to Skye. This naturally resulted in more disappointment, including just a single tick from a unexpectedly challenging venture on Bruach na Frithe followed by a serious of minor disasters involving lost (and later found) wallets and antiseptic cream/toothpaste mix-ups, a stressful 24 hours that shall be forever known as Savlon Wallet Day, 

    Then came the great Moonwalker calendar disaster. Having received 400 copies from the printers to sell for Scottish Mountain Rescue funds, a friend spotted that the grid dates were from 2022. Not until around 100 had already been posted out, of course. The company produced a hasty reprint, along with a profound apology and compensation, but delivery clashed with another planned weekend, this time in Glen Shiel. The calendars had to be the priority, so the last realistic chance of a big Munros finale before the end of the year slipped away. 

    There were moments of calm amidst the chaos, consolation in the form of long solo days out: a drop off the back of Beinn a' Ghlo to visit the beautiful and lonely Loch Loch with not another soul in sight; an evening run up Schiehallion in sensational light and cloud; rounds of all the Cruachan peaks and the northern corries of Cairn Gorm.

    There were some cracking winter days, from blinding sun and gleaming ice in the Trossachs, to waist-deep snow in Glen Doll; blue skies and deep snow in Glen Tilt, beaming laser rays piercing the cloud and chasing away the rain above Lochearnhead.

    Poignant moments too, a day of laughter and tears in Glen Esk in tribute to our lost friend Steve Barnes, and accompanying octogenarian mountain man Nick Gardner to the ice-blasted summit of Meall Ghaordaidh and later joining the hundreds celebrating his amazing Munros 'compleation' on Cairn Gorm.

    But every time I think maybe 2022 wasn't that bad, I remember the war in Ukraine, the cost of living crisis, soaring energy prices, a year in which it seemed like every single member of the Conservative Party seemed to take their turn at being Prime Minister, and so many government policies that were bordering on the morally insane. 

    Even taking all that into account, the overriding image that highlighted just how far we had strayed into a parallel universe had to be that of a former football star, a man with numerous international caps and dozens of domestic honours, idiot-dancing to the strains of 'My Old Man's a Dustman' on prime-time television. A desperate, fading bid to hang on to some sort of fame, no matter the cost.

    I'm almost afraid to say roll on 2023, but here's hoping for better days ahead. We deserve it.