Sir Chris Bonington and fellrunner Jos Naylor celebrate Britains Olympic status on top of a misty Scafell Pike

Sir Chris Bonington, young hopeful Laura Park and fellrunner Jos Naylor celebrate Britain's Olympic status on top of a misty Scafell Pike

In the slovenly hiatus between Santa’s return north and the alcoholic debauchery of the New Year, journalists traditionally have a problem: how to fill the space on their various publications when, well, not much happens.

So is spawned the annual look back at the year – an excuse to dig out the news from the previous 12 months in the hope that something interesting will come along to fill the columns once Twelfth Night has passed and the baubles are back in the dark recess under the stairs.

And who are we to differ? So here, we present grough’s review of 2008, a year which saw some acts of heroism, some of lunacy and quite a lot of oddities. We also said a sad goodbye to many in the outdoor world as we continued to be reminded of the hazards of taking to the hills.

Sir Edmund Hillary. Photo: Graeme Mulholland

Sir Edmund Hillary. Photo: Graeme Mulholland

But one of the biggest names in mountaineering died not as the result of a misplaced step on a Himalayan peak, but peacefully, aged 88. Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man ever to stand on the Earth’s highest point and return, passed away in January.

Also in January, two would-be mountaineers from Wrexham demonstrated how not to climb Snowdon and had to be rescued.

Sadly, in the same month, two men died after falling from Helvellyn. Two other walkers perished, one on Skiddaw in Cumbria and the other on a hill near Blairgowrie in Perthshire. Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team branded as ‘ridiculous’ a father’s trip up Ben Nevis in atrocious conditions.

The closure of the National Mountaineering Exhibition at Rheged in Cumbria left mountain rescuers scratching their heads to find an alternative venue for the celebration of their 75th anniversary.

Felltop assessors for the Lake District Weatherline warned that there was a risk of avalanche on England’s third highest peak.

The human equivalent of poop scoops were introduced on Cairn Gorm as winter mountaineers bodily waste became a growing problem.

An unlikely group, the Equine Ramblers, started a debate on whether we should be able to use personal locator beacons on land in the UK.

Thirteen cavers had to be rescued from a Yorkshire Dales passage and, in a portent of things later in the year, retailer Blacks announced 60 jobs would be lost in the face of poor sales.

Blogger Darren Christie decided walkers in England and Wales should have the same rights to wild camp as those in Scotland. His Downing Street petition attracted 2,022 names, but a negative response from the Government.

Naked Ramber Stephen Gough found himself back behind bars after just a few unclothed steps to freedom outside an Edinburgh prison.

The resourcefulness and determination of 61-year-old walker Bill Church who crawled for four hours after falling on Lochnagar, climbing into a stretcher box and waiting 11 hours to be rescued.

In February, former mountain rescuer Peter Grant perished on Sgorr Ruadh.

Stamp of approval: Merrick in action

Stamp of approval: Merrick in action

Sarda dog Merrick graced a Royal Mail stamp and a white stag was spotted on John Muir Trust land in the Highlands.

An even stranger discovery was that of a set of false teeth, lost on Haystacks in the Lake District, and found a year after owner David Packer mislaid them when he stopped for a snack on Wainwright’s favourite summit.

Hamish McInnes, mountaineer and rescue innovator, received the first mountain culture award at the Fort William festival. A less pleasant surprise awaited a potholer who found someone had taken his ropes away while he was exploring the Gaping Gill system in North Yorkshire. A patient wait saw the Cave Rescue Organisation come to his aid.

The death of David Woodland on Broad Stand on Scafell prompted calls for warnings and protection to be placed on the high fells, the idea of which was quickly dismissed by experts, including Sir Chris Bonington, who said such a move ‘would jeopardise the mystery and romance of climbing in the fells’. A further reminder of the hazards of our outdoor pursuits was the death on Ben Nevis’s north face of Leeds climber David Carney.

In March, the terrible toll of Cairn Gorm’s Northern Corries rose when Hertfordshire climber David Rainey fell to his death on Coire an t-Sneachda.

The troubled Brecon Beacons authority admitted it couldn’t afford to maintain its footpaths while Natural England admitted defeat with its Discovering Lost Ways project, which was supposed to find rights of way which had been missed off official maps. The Ramblers’ Association called the whole scheme ‘impractical’.

Michael Todd: body found on Snowdon

Michael Todd: body found on Snowdon

The highest profile death on Britain’s mountains was that of Greater Manchester Chief Constable Michael Todd, whose body was found on Snowdon. Numerous conspiracy theories were immediately put forward before it emerged a complicated love life was probably at the root of the top policeman’s downfall.

The Scottish Government pledged more than £150,000 to keep the Mountain Weather Information Service running, and the Ramblers’ Association’s Scottish president Dennis Canavan put on his campaigning boots for a walk round the Sauchiburn estate of Bill Roddie, which was at the centre of an access dispute.

Cricketing legend Ian Botham’s childhood playing grounds were at the centre of another row in Yeovil where the local council wanted to build a sports centre.

Weilin Wang fell to her death on Fuar Tholl in Torridon, a further reminder of the dangers of mountaineering.

China closed Everest as fears of human-rights protests against the Olympic hosts grew. Frustrated would-be summiteers, including Sir Ranulph Fiennes, could only sit tight and wait.

A search for a ‘confused and disoriented’ walker on Ben Nevis was called off when he was found 500 miles away in the English home counties. That’s some disorientation!

In what was to be a continuing theme through 2008, three walkers attempting the Three Peaks Challenge were rescued from a snowy Scafell Pike. They promptly set off for Snowdon.

Forestry workers made a gruesome find near the West Highland Way at Bridge of Orchy. The body of missing climber Nicholas Randall was discovered in a tent. His remains could have been there for nearly three years.

Eighteen youngsters had to be airlifted from Dartmoor when foul weather hit their Ten Tors practice.

Jethro Lennox wins the 2008 Three Peaks Race

Jethro Lennox wins the 2008 Three Peaks Race

In April, it was announced a statue was to be commissioned of faithful border collie Ruswarp, who stayed by his master Graham Nuttall’s body for 11 weeks in the height of winter after he died on a Welsh hilltop. The icon of the dog will be placed at Garsdale station on the Settle and Carlisle line, which Mr Nuttall campaigned to keep open.

Paul Lister’s Swedish elk made their first television appearance on a somewhat hagiographic BBC portrayal of the life of the millionaire who would like to fence off a large tract of the Highlands to turn into a wolf and bear reserve.

A more realistic campaign was launched by Mark Fisher to bring the 2020 Olympics to Milngavie, the quiet Glasgow suburb which resounds to the thud of thousands of West Highland Way boots on their quest for the route north. The Fringe was touted as the official hair salon of the games.

The Lake District’s mountain rescuers reported that they had had a 44 per cent rise in their workload. They tried to remedy the situation by producing a safety video aimed at those new to the fells.

The building timetable for Snowdon’s new mountain-top cafe – sorry, visitors’ centre – was delayed further by bad weather. Hard to predict on Wales’s highest peak, no doubt.

The Ramblers and the British Mountaineering Council teamed up with local protestors to try to halt further quarrying at Backdale in the Peak District,  while access problems continued at Vixen Tor in Devon.

Glaswegian Jethro Lennox beat a world-class field to win the Three Peaks Race, granted international status for 2008 as the World Long Distance Mountain Running Challenge.

Walkers won a victory as Stirling Sheriff Andrew Cubie ordered waste-disposal millionaire Euan Snowie to open his estate gates to allow access under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act.

Stanley, safe after his ordeal in a Yorkshire Dales pothole

Stanley, safe after his ordeal in a Yorkshire Dales pothole

In May, clueless leaders from a religious school were lambasted by rescuers in Cumbria after a six-hour search located the party of six was located near Scafell. They were, it was revealed, ‘regular customers’ of the mountain rescue teams.

On the positive side, a couple was praised for running three miles to get help when they saw a walker in trouble in Swinner Gill, Swaledale, North Yorkshire.

Sadly, Striding Edge claimed another victim when 80-year-old Sydney Smith fell to his death from the ridge.

Nine people escaped unharmed after being trapped by rising water caused by flash floods in Long Churn Cave in the Yorkshire Dales.

A walker on a long-distance challenge walk called for help via his satellite SPOT system when he fell ill in Glen Etive. A portent of things to come for mountain rescuers?

Two thousand competitors took to Dartmoor in 24C heat to tackle the Ten Tors and long-distance runner Mark Hartell chalked up his 11th Fellsman win over the 100km (61-mile) course.

In cooler circumstances, the Olympic torch was carried to the summit of Mount Everest by Chinese athletes in the run up (and down) to the Beijing games.

Cave rescuers were called to free a climber trapped in a freak fall on Gimmer Crag in Langdale. When lubricants failed to free the woman’s knee from a crack, the Cave Rescue Organisation used specialist rock cutting gear to get her out, unharmed.

More specialist work followed for the cave rescuers as they were called to extricate Stanley, a Staffordshire bull terrier, from a pothole after he fell down the Dales orifice while walking with his owners.

Tinder-dry moorland conditions led to numerous wildfires and the closing of open access land in England and Wales.

An exhausted Sir Ranulph Fiennes gave up his second attempt to climb Everest. Another change of plan was forced on organisers of the Garburn Trail Race in the Lake District, who altered the course because buzzards had reportedly been attacking runners.

Journalist Clare Wright died after a fall on Scafell in the same week climber Neil Wylie died on the Cuillins on Skye.

Gemma, reunited with owners after wandering on Scafell for two weeks

Gemma, reunited with owners after wandering on Scafell for two weeks

In June, volunteers tidying up Ben Nevis found a wheelchair buried under a pile of rocks. It was just the latest of bizarre finds on Britain’s highest mountain, which include a piano.

Filming of the Hillwalking Essentials film, to be released on DVD, was completed in Glencoe. Alfie Ingham and Nicola Lyons of the mountain rescue movement received gongs in the Queen’s Birthday Honours as did Robert Berry of the Ramblers’ Association.

There were two further deaths on the mountains of Scotland, one on An Teallach and another on the Devil’s Ridge in the Mamores.

Steve Pyke’s attempt to run 31 munros in 24 hours was defeated by some atrocious solstice weather, despite massive support and a huge effort. Maybe he’ll be back in 2009 for a new stab at the record.

Euan Snowie finally unlocked the gates of his baronial estate to let in the great unwashed walkers while more than a thousand runners and walkers took to the West Highland Way in a charity effort.

There was happy news for the owners of Gemma, a dog found by Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team on Scafell. She had been missing and presumably wandering the fell for two weeks.

Patterdale MRT celebrates its win at the Ambleside event

Patterdale MRT celebrates its win at the Ambleside event

In July, the 75th anniversary celebrations of mountain rescue almost became a victim of the aestas horribilis when torrential rain hit the event at Ambleside. Patterdale MRT battled through the weather to win the inter-team It’s a Knockout contest.

In Snowdonia, a rescue helicopter had itself to be rescued after the Sea King broke down at Nant Peris.

The Ramblers’ Association called for an inquiry into the financial shenanigans surrounding the Cairn Gorm funicular railway.

Even stranger goings-on were reported on the mountain tops as the Extreme Cellists dragged their instruments to the top of the highest peaks in Scotland, Wales, Ireland and England to perform a brief rendition to raise money for mountain rescue and a spinal-injuries charity.

Writer Jim Perrin was made an honorary fellow at Bangor University and the Lancashire seaside resort of Blackpool advertised the post of Climbing Officer.

Joey Pancaldi perished while climbing in Glencoe and David Kelsey was killed on Jack’s Rake in Langdale, the same week as Stephen Cutler’s death on nearby Raven Crag. The body of a second police officer, Anthony Mulhall, was found near Snowdon.

Rights of way experts said there was no need for compensation payments to landowners faced with opening up coastal access under the proposed Marine Bill.

Some of the rubbish collected during the Knoydart clean-up

Some of the rubbish collected during the Knoydart clean-up

August saw the continuation of the fun and games on Scafell Pike as rescuers searched for seven hours for two parties of wayward walkers.

Alladale’s general manager Hugh Fullerton-Smith announced he would be stepping into the lynx’s den by addressing the annual gathering of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland. By all accounts, Paul Lister’s right-hand man got a mauling over plans to close off a huge swathe of the Highlands to let wolves, bears and big cats play around in.

The remains of a catamaran, a carburettor and numerous hair-rollers were cleared from the beaches of Knoydart in a major effort by John Muir Trust volunteers.

Simon Bally’s body was found at the foot of a crag on Fleetwith Pike where he had been climbing and Alfred Wainwright’s widow Betty, his second wife and walking companion cum chauffeuse, passed away.

A man celebrating his 75th birthday fell from Striding Edge. Mountain rescuers, also celebrating their 75th anniversary, were quickly to his aid.

Tragedy struck on Sharp Edge on Blencathra when a mother, father and daughter all fell from the edge. Emma Anderson died in the incident and her husband and daughter were both hospitalised.

Crib Goch claimed a further victim when a 62-year-old Lincolnshire man David Stafford fell to his death.

Everest leader Sir Chris Bonington led a party, including fellrunning legend Jos Naylor, to the summit of Scafell Pike to celebrate Britain’s tenureship as Olympic hosts.

Prince William joined the RAFs search and rescue team

Prince William joined the RAF's search and rescue team

The Wat’s Dyke Heritage Trail was opened in September by Welsh Assembly Government minister Jane Davidson.

A determined ten-year campaign bore fruit when campaigner Diane Andrewes finally forced a public inquiry into two footpaths near the Jolly Sailor pub in Bursledon, Hampshire. Later in the year, they would be confirmed as rights of way.

Hafod Eryri, the replacement Snowdon cafe, was now nine months behind schedule.

It was announced that Prince William would take up a full-time post with the RAF’s search-and-rescue force. So far, there have been no reported incidents of paparazzi throwing themselves off mountain crags to try and get a long lens shot of the driver of the paraffin budgie.

Sixty-nine oxygen bottles were among debris cleared from Everest in a major clean up of the peak, which also saw a climber’s body recovered and given a decent burial. Meanwhile, a second Xtreme Everest expedition was announced, to conduct further research into high-altitude medical conditions.

Rescuers were astounded when a 73-year-old woman walked unharmed into a medical centre after spending the night on Schiehallion after getting lost while scattering her late husband’s ashes. Tayside Police said she was lucky to be alive. A major search had failed to find her.

Myles Farnbank demonstrates minimum-impact camping techniques

Myles Farnbank demonstrates minimum-impact camping techniques. Photo by Clive Grewcock/SNH

October saw another remarkable survival tale was that of the man who spent the night huddled outside the still unfinished Snowdon summit building. The team of walkers who found him and probably saved his life at first mistook him for a pile of discarded rubbish.

Eight teenagers were trapped in Long Churn Cave – fast gaining a reputation as a bogey cave – when rising water caught out their instructor. They were released unharmed eventually by a team from the Cave Rescue Organisation.

Scotland’s outdoor instructors were offered instruction themselves into how to keep the impact of wild camping to a minimum.

The Yorkshire Dales authority said it would continue its work to encourage ethnic minority members to use the national park after a pilot scheme ended.

Ofcom, the agency that oversees radio communication, started frantically backpedalling after a concerted effort by the mountain rescue community against proposals to change charges and availability of bandwidths currently used in rescues on the fells and mountains.

Mountain luminaries were invited to Number Ten and then were stood up as the Prime Minister was diverted to deal with the impending implosion of the whole global capitalist system. Sir Chris Bonington and others had to make do with sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe as Gordon Brown was otherwise engaged changing into his Superman outfit in the phone box on Whitehall.

North York Moors National Park Authority pondered whether the provision of eco-huts along the Cleveland Way and Coast-to-Coast Walk route.

The British Mountaineering Council announced it was to buy part of a Lancashire quarry to ensure continued use for climbers. Wilton Quarries, near Bolton, were being put up for sale by owners United Utilities.

The Independent on Sunday placed Kate Ashbrook, the ‘high-priestess of countryside access’ number 66 in a list of green gods and goddesses, champions of the environment. The Queen could only manage to scrape in at number 100.

Walkers were forced on to the buses as parts of the Great Glen Way were closed to allow forestry work. Taxi numbers were also provided.

Julia Bradbury finished filming her television footage of the Wainwright Coast-to-Coast Walk, which will screen in spring next year.

There was a huge rumpus following some ill informed comment when atrocious weather hit the Original Mountain Marathon in Borrowdale. Mainstream media reported thousands missing and the end of Cumbrian civilisation as more than 2,000 competitors dealt in their usual measured way with torrential rain and hurricane-force winds. Competitors donated thousands to Lake District mountain rescue teams and Mark Weir was crossed off many runners’ Christmas-card list.

Alan Hinkes, the man whose attempt on Nanga Parbat was thwarted when chapatti flour caused him to sneeze and rick his back, was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Teesside. Hinkes got over his chapatti setback to become the first Briton to conquer all the world’s 8,000m peaks.

Ben Neviss summit path is now clear of all but the most necessary cairns

Ben Nevis's summit path is now clear of all but the most necessary cairns

In November, the company that runs the Aonach Mòr gondola was fined £2,000 for health-and-safety offences following the 2006 accident which left five people seriously injured when two cable cars collided. Mountain rescue team member Kevin Byrne, the employee who was working the system during the incident, received a £1,000 fine.

Snowdonia’s Sherpa buses were threatened by the withdrawal of Welsh Assembly Government funding.

A group of B-list ‘celebrities’, including Radio 1 motormouth DJ Chris Moyles and Take That frontman Gary Barlow announced they would be climbing Kilimanjaro for charity.

Donald Trump’s plans for a mega-golf course cum housing estate on the dunes of Aberdeenshire were given the nod by the Scottish Government, to the dismay of environmentalists and walking groups. Money still talks.

Hot meals were back on the menu at one of England’s remotest youth hostels after operators YHA backtracked on an earlier decision to stop offering them as part of the ‘re-wilding’ of Ennerdale.

Naked Rambler Stephen Gough had another very brief taste of freedom after his acquittal on breach of the peace charges. This time he was rearrested before he even left the court building.

Some of the top names in mountaineering descended on the Cumbrian town of Kendal for its annual festival, fast becoming one of the main venues on the international calendar. Among them was Reinhold Messner, the first man to climb Everest without supplementary oxygen.

Ben Nevis was finally cleared of its extraneous cairns and plaques and the John Muir Trust, which owns large parts of the mountain, appealed for walkers to stop creating new ones.

Speaking of the JMT, it awarded a lifetime’s achievement award to Irvine Butterfield, writer, conservationist and possessor of a fine mountaineer’s beard. He was only the fourth person to gain the accolade.

Arran gained a new marilyn as amateur surveying team Alan Dawson, John Barnard and Graham Jackson confirmed the status for Sail Chalmadale, a 480m (1,575ft) hill on the island.

Douglas Scott, the renowned Scottish mountaineer who shared his name with a more famous peak-bagger, passed away.

The Ramblers’ Scottish president, former MP and MSP Dennis Canavan, gained an honorary doctorate from Stirling University. There seems to be more doctors tramping the hills than staffing hospitals.

Tom Buckley pauses on his Coast-to-Coast walk in a snowy Lake District

Tom Buckley pauses on his Coast-to-Coast walk in a snowy Lake District

As December brought its dark nights to bear on the hills, the Queen looked forward to next year, when her Government would introduce a bill to enable walkers to circumnavigate the English coastline. Ramblers cheered; landowners weren’t sure.

A brave young man began his trek across England. Tom Buckley, who has terminal cancer, decided to put his remaining time to good use and tackle the Coast-to-Coast Walk. In the process, he has raised more than £60,000 for the unit at Manchester’s Christie Hospital that treats young cancer patients.

A survey revealed mountaineering was in the top ten of sports in the ascendency, with an increasing number of people taking up the activity.

Mountain rescuers had to go to the aid of Minnie Mouse after she fell off her mountain bike in Langdale. The woman was taking part in a fancy-dress ride.

American scientists questioned the received wisdom that all your heat escapes through your head. In reality, though you will lose heat if you don’t wear a hat on the hills, it is unlikely to be more than ten per cent of your total body loss.

The Naked Rambler was returned, surprise surprise, to jail after a sheriff court found him guilty of breach of the peace for walking around with no clothes on.

Two drunken walkers were the subject of wrath after a major search on the eastern side of Ben Lomond. The charity hikers were found wandering in the forest. A police spokesman said: “If you wanted an example of how to do everything wrong on a walk then this was it.”

Red squirrels got more than 1,000ha (2,471 acres) of the Yorkshire Dales to play around in and walkers were invited to turn sleuths to turn up lost commons in seven parts of the country in a pilot scheme to rescue the land for public use.

And finally, Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team issued a heartfelt plea to walkers to go properly equipped after having to rescue 17 people from Snowdon since Christmas Day.

We wish them a peaceful New Year, and to all our readers and friends, we hope you have a productive and active 2009.

From all of us at grough, Happy New Year!