The Angry Corrie 4: Nov-Dec 1991
The climbing and walking world is, like most other worlds, continually beset with an absolute welter of controversies: Or at least it likes to think it is. Yet more often than not, these so-called 'controversies' take the form of snooze-inducing debates about climbing 'ethics' (e.g. did or did not Rudolph Bultmann place the expansion bolts up the front of the Cruachan Dam?). Or sibling-rivalry bickering between the various outdoor magazines (e.g. just why do the two tedious glossies, The Great Indoors and Clamberer 'n' Rambler operate out of the same East Kilbride. office: could they by any chance be the same?). Or even puny, pathetic attempts to incorporate the hills into news and current affairs - with the tabloid emphasis resting firmly on the affairs (e.g. did John McCarthy use Backhill of Bush or Shiel of Castlemaddy for his bothy hideaway from the prying eyes of the world's press, and did his pal Jill join him over a beanfeast-filled Trangia?).
The real issues, the ones endlessly debated in the pubs, clubs and tearooms of the north, rarely if ever receive an airing. Like isn't it about time we had a hillwalking World Cup? After all, by early 1992, football, rugby and cricket will all have had their quadrennial jamborees. Certainly if the recent TAC mailbag is anything to go by, there is a strong lobby for this - or at least national squad of Munrobaggers willing and able to take on the world and lose. The only real hitch seems to be how to prevent Frank 'Wild Years' Bough from getting the linkperson's job.
And the reason for mentioning all these less than inspiring issues? Precisely because another non-event has been steadily stockpiling column inches over the past few weeks: the stunning, stirring, world-shattering discovery that Foinaven might just have ended its ten million year initiation stint as an ordinary, quietly anonymous hill and suddenly, overnightly, qualified for that peerage among peaks: Munro Status. Indeed, the Munros are not that dissimilar to the House of Lords: there are far too many of them for a start; admission is only by long-held tradition or, as in this case, by the backdoor route of the New Satellite Honours List; and, when all's said and done, they're bugger all use to anybody, especially north of the border.
Yet here we all are, gleefully poring over Rennie McOwan in Scotland on Sunday, over Tam Weir in The Tam Weir Magazine and undoubtedly soon over Jack 'Urban Moliere' McLean in the Herald, eager to find out the latest on the great bastion of the north (Foinaven that is, not Sorley MacLean). Suddenly the hillwalking fraternity has been thrown into a frenzy, has gone apoplectic with an aneroid: does the latest Ordnance Survey rethink push the vital spot height of Ganu Mor above the god-given 3000ft Plimsoll Line and into the realm of immortals such as Geal Charn, Geal Charn and...em...Geal Charn? Does it? Does it? The public need to know!
This time it's even worse than when Beinn Teallach received its statutory boot up the Corbetts in the mid-eighties. Should Foinaven indeed transpire to have joined the elite, then it wouldn't have become just any old Munro, but that most precious of objects, the most northerly Munro. The fact that it appears to be little more than a gneiss boulder's throw beyond good old Ben Hope is a situation which has in itself thrown the baggers and cartographical pedants of this world into orgasmic squeals of excitement. War rages in Jugoland, Arabs and Jews squabble over land-for-peace, Gavin Hastings misses an absolute sitter, yet all that folk can find to get worked up about is whether or not a muckle stony bing in Sutherland is inches over or under the 914m contour.
There isn't the time, space or motivation here to discuss the ecological disaster that began to befall Foinaven the moment it was mooted as a citizen of that great Munropolis, Baggio City. All that can be hoped is that the height is only fractionally over the mark, because then it will only take a few thousand ascents by bugeyed zealots before it's worn back down to tranquillity again. But even that will of course take some time, time in which the Butterfields and McNeishes of this world will rake in a few coppers more by churning out 'urgently-needed' redrafts of their trainspotting guidebooks.
But fear not, all is not lost: TAC readers can rest assured in their bivvybags that the obvious commercial possibilities of this matter will not lead their favourite fanzine astray and into temptation. Our comments have been studiously confined to this one small editorial. There will be absolutely no mention of Foinaven from this point on.