The Angry Corrie 17: Feb-Mar 1994

Killer mountains

The annual wave of mountain deaths has been mirrored by the annual spouting of experts and politicians expounding the considered view that "something must be done about it". TAC's profile in this area is disappointingly low. While the list of reasons for these deaths has included such diverse items as nuclear winter, global warming, ill-advised attempts to emulate MPs and the influence of Muriel Gray (this latter relates presumably to Monday night expeditions, heedless of conditions, in desperate efforts to avoid The Golden Cagoule - Cagoule!), TAC has not been mentioned once.

TAC's voice must therefore be added to the rest. I have two practical proposals with which the helpless, hapless politicians may be able to assist. First, any party setting out for the hills must include an Arthur. Arthur was middle-aged when he was a student, in fact he was probably middle-aged when he was born, hence the name. He is steady, reliable and organised and he is the one who, when the conditions have reached just the wrong side of marginal, stops and says with total assurance, "I'm going back". The rest of the party who have either been frantically trying to think of a macho face-saving reason for retreat or are by this stage too knackered to think anything, immediately follow suit with great relief.

We have to recognise that there are not enough Arthurs to go round at this point in time (this script is ready prepared for use by a politician), but surely a high-profile vote-winning job creation scheme for unemployed accountants and the like could easily be developed. However, even when the Arthur supply reaches a sufficient level, the perennial problem of regulation of hill-going appears again. If it were compulsory to take an Arthur with you, how would this be enforced?

My second proposal sidesteps this issue as its implications are so favourable that few would wish to ignore them. What is required is a major centrally-funded research project into the concept of luck. Most TAC readers would be able to contribute to a database of lucky escapes. Details of these, which are usually firmly imprinted in the brain, could be entered into a computer together with astrological charts, stock exchange movements, the complete prophecies of the Brahan Seer, atmospheric pressure readings and the current price of Mars Bars. The computer, assisted by seventh sons of seventh sons (more job creation there), would analyse this information, identifying similarities and patterns, and these findings could then lead to forecasts of luck ratings being available to individual enquirers for a specific destination on a specific day.

These luck ratings would at first be in percentage form and there would be provisos depending on, for example, whether your party contained an Arthur, whether you had the right map with you, whether you had porridge for breakfast etc. There would at this stage still be an element of uncertainty and of course this luck rating would be overridden by sheer incompetence or stupidity.

As time goes on and more data is added and more variables identified, such an accurate luck rating could be produced that rescue team leaders will never again need to use the phrase "sheer bad luck".

Val Hamilton

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