Two determined summit baggers have become joint first to finish one of the longest and toughest British hill lists, the HuMPs. Rob Woodall, of Peterborough, and Alan Whatley, of Derby, reached the top of the 137m Old Man of Hoy in the Orkney islands on Sunday.
This was their 2985th, and final, summit of a HuMP. The name stands for Hundred Metre Prominence, a list which includes every top in Britain with a drop of 100m (or more) on all sides (the tally excludes HuMPs in Ireland).
You get caught up with the lists, the people who do them, the social side and a bit of friendly competition
Rob and Alan were led on the exposed climb by Scottish guide Tim Hamlet, of Hamlet Mountaineering in strong winds, although they managed to avoid the forecasted rain.
Rob says: "After weeks of fine weather it suddenly changed and that made the completion summit a hard one. But we had booked a guide and that was our window for finishing the HuMPs."
For many years, Rob and Alan had enjoyed friendly rivalry as they both aimed to finish the list of hills. At the start of the year Rob had 25 HuMPs left to do, while Alan had just five.
Rob says: "Knowing that Alan had fewer summits to do than me did spur me on this year. But in the end, we decided to do some of the final sea stacks together, including the Old Man of Hoy."
One of Alan's last HuMPs was Bass Rock in East Lothian, Scotland. Rob had ticked off this one before.
Alan explains: "It was the logistics of getting on to the island rock that was hard. There are restrictions on when you can land there due to the gannet population. You can generally only visit in winter and then it needs to be on a fine weather day. In addition, there were health and safety issues and so it took a long time to get to this summit. It actually took me six years!"
Both Rob and Alan had several difficult sea stacks to summit. They decided to plan trips together for ease this year.
Rob says: "Two lesser-known sea stacks, Arnamuil and Lianamuil, off Mingulay in the Outer Hebrides, are a challenge because it's not easy to reach them. You have to go by boat and the sea swell and weather often prevents a trip. Alan and I ended up doing joint outings to these stacks."
In April, the duo finally reached the summit of Arnamuil. Rob said: "The actual climb was more of a scramble in the end so it was easier than expected. But Lianamuil, which we did in May, was quite a hard rock climb after a difficult landing. I would say this was one of the hardest HuMPs summits to reach."
Out of fairness, the Old Man of Hoy summit cairn was touched by both Rob and Alan at the same time.
Alan says: "We had not had a definite plan to do the Old Man of Hoy together but I had mentioned last year to Rob that it might be a nice way to finish. He agreed and we did end up going on the same outing."
Both men admit they enjoy the challenge of completing big lists of hills.
In 2014, Rob became the first to bag all 1556 Marilyns, which are British hills with a prominence of 150m (see our interview here). These are a sub-set of the HuMPS. Alan followed suit in 2016. To date, only nine people have completed all the Marilyns.
Rob also became the first person to tick off all the (then) 6190 British Trig pillars in 2016 (see news here). His current total of Trigs is 6194 after another four "destroyed" pillars were rediscovered.
He has completed the Munros, Munro Tops, Corbetts, Grahams, Donalds, Furths, Nuttalls (443 hills in England and Wales over 2000ft), Wainwrights (214 hills in the Lake District), and Birketts (all the Lake District hills over 1000ft).
Meanwhile, Alan has completed the Munros, Tops, Corbetts, Grahams, Donalds, Nuttalls and Wainwrights.
Rob says: "Like many people I enjoy a list and I really like a big list and one that no one else has done yet. Doing these summits has taken me to some wonderful places and I have enjoyed many great adventures."
Alan adds: "The lists do become a bit addictive. I started with the Munros and Corbetts and it took about 20 years to do those. Then I did another round of the Munros in 18 months and thought, 'What next?' What next was the Grahams, then the Marilyns, then the HuMPs. You get caught up with the lists, the people who do them, the social side and a bit of friendly competition."
Both Rob and Alan have another list, the Simms, to complete. Rob says: "A Simm is a hill in Britain that is at least 600 metres high and has a drop of at least 30 metres on all sides. There are about 2,500 of these and I still have 200 to 300 to do."
Alan is also ticking off Graham Tops and Corbett Tops. He says: "I've done about 2000 Simms, too, so I will bag more of them I am sure."
And then there are the Tumps (Thirty and Upwards Prominence). Rob says: "But there are so many of them I can't ever imagine finishing them."
Or so he says!