The Angry Corrie 9: Sep-Oct 1992
On becoming a newly-promoted Munro
Trendy and right-on as TAC undoubtedly is, and try as we might to avoid all the taboo -isms such as racism, sexism, communism, plagiarism, etc., we've long since discovered there's no way of keeping all the people happy all of the time. So, at risk of accusations of heightism,
Any TAC readers remember the 12 Red-Bearded Dwarfs? No, it wasn't the nickname of the 1973 Stirling Albion side. The 12 Red-Bearded Dwarfs were an anarchic and surreal outfit invented by the late J.B.Morton, or Beachcomber. At least I always thought he'd invented them until I happened to meet them recently on the top of Beinn Dearg in Torridon.
As the small flat top of this magnificent Corbett came into sight I became aware that I was not alone. I had not seen a single walker on the increasingly narrow and interesting ascent, but suddenly there they were - all 12 of them. They were sat in a row near the summit cairn, and they seemed far more interested in my arrival than in the superb views of nearby Beinn Alligin. I had the uncomfortable feeling that it was almost as if they had been waiting for me.
Feeling slightly intimidated by their startling and scarcely suppressed nudging and winking, I paused before making the last few yards to the cairn. They were certainly a strange crew, their red-beards glowing in the afternoon sun and their little conical Goretex hats nodding and bobbing as they whispered to each other. I noted that each one was wearing Brasher Boots specially curled up at the toes. They were all kitted out in the latest Rohan and Molehill Equipment gear. As I pretended to gaze around and take in the grandeur of my surroundings, I could not help noticing that they were scrambling to their feet, tightening their boot laces and generally looking as if they were preparing to move off.
I decided to approach the cairn and said a cautious Hello as I walked past them. They nodded in unison as I reached the summit of Beinn Dearg: a mere couple of feet short of Munro status and much more worthy a mountain than many higher peaks. I began to forget about the Dwarves and became lost in awe at the view of Liathach's northern corries.
Suddenly, without warning, the nearest Dwarf put the curly toes of his tiny Brasher Boot onto the top of my left gaiter and swung himself nimbly up to grab hold of my rucksack strap. With a muttered 'Excuse me! I hope you don't mind', he clambered onto the top of my shoulders and touched the top of my head.
'Please don't move, we won't be a minute - I know this is a little presumptuous but it is rather important!' piped a Dwarf who had scrambled up to the cairn to talk to me. Too taken aback to move or even protest I stood still and waited for all 12 of them to climb up, touch the top of my head and then climb down again.
Once this was over they appeared to lose interest in me entirely and began busily packing their miniature Karriless rucsacs. I coughed loudly and declared that I thought some explanation of their bizarre behaviour was called for, that I had heard some strange stories about Scottish Mountaineering Club meets but that this was something else.
'You are now a Munro and we are the only people in the world who have a complete round of the Munros!', exclaimed one of the little 'baggers' excitedly. 'Yes', added another, 'this mountain is just a few feet short of being a Munro, you came along and whilst you stood there your head became a Munro! We climbed you and now we can add you to our list - we've already done the other 277. We can't wait to get back and tell Cameron McNeish that his pathetic little almanac is out of date!'
The logic of his words gradually sank in. I am over 6 feet tall, rising to at least 8'6" in my wedge-soled Zamberlan platforms and shag-pile, hi-fibre trekking socks. I had briefly attained Munro status, at least from a point somewhere above the waist. My elation at the idea of having been a Munro was somewhat dashed when one of the Dwarves observed sarcastically: 'Of course, you will never be able to do a complete round yourself now!' There was a burst of derisive laughter as the group began to make their way back down the ridge.
Alone with my thoughts on top of Beinn Dearg I suddenly remembered the Beachcomber books and the stories of the 12 Red-Bearded Dwarves. Knowing the boundless energy and resourcefulness of these gentlemen, I would not be at all surprised to find that, after some controversy, future SMC lists of those who have completed a round of the Munros will consist of only 12 names. A quick perusal of Beachcomber reveals that those names will indeed be worthy to ring down the years in the annals of bagging history: Scorpion de Rooftrouser, Cleveland Zackhouse, Frums Gillygottle, Edel Edeledel, Churm Rincewind, Sophus Barkayo-Tong, Amaninter Axling, Guttergorm Guttergormpton, Badly Oronparser, Listenis Youghaupt, Molonay Tubilderborst, and Farjole Merrybody.
Subsequent correspondence with the Dwarves has revealed that the first one to make the scrambling route up my rucsac was Scorpion de Rooftrouser. He thus supplants the Revd A.E.Robertson as the first true Munroist.