The Angry Corrie 19: Jul-Sep 1994
The Mystery of the Cairngorms:
On Sunday 13th February, two and a half weeks after the discovery, an English woman and two companions set off to climb Derry Cairngorm. All three fell through a cornice and the woman was only found two days later after an extensive (and expensive) rescue operation. The rescue attracted widespread media attention, but it was only when the (supposedly) true facts of what had happened emerged that I realised there might be a connection with my discovery. What intrigued me was the fact that the group had actually fallen from Stob Coire Sputan Dearg - the implication being that they'd mistaken Ben Macdui for Derry Caimgorm and were thus on completely the wrong mountain. This just didn't gel. It's like climbing the Aonach Eagach (surely 'Aggy Ridge"? - Ed.) and thinking you're on Bidean nam Bian! Even the English can't be that stupid. Could the real facts have been deliberately concealed? Why, out of all the hundreds of people to have been rescued from the Scottish hills over the years, was this particular woman given £40,000 - supposedly by the tabloid press for her "story"? Could the money have really been a bribe to prevent her from telling the true story.? Why was the RAF mountain rescue team (ie the military) so keen to take all the glory for the operation? And most significant of all: was it just coincidence that the spot from which the woman and her companions fell was only a few yards from the true source of the Dee?!!!
The more I thought about it, the more questions came. I smelt a rat - and I'd thoroughly washed my clothes since my fall in the bog, so it wasn't that. All the signs pointed towards a secret conspiracy; something to do with the source of the Dee. But what? A trip to the pub was needed to help dear my increasingly befuddled brain. Unfortunately a quick lunchtime pint lasted all afternoon and long into the night, Wth a vindaloo to follow. I staggered home more befuddled than ever. Drinking obviously wasn't the answer.
The next day, surprisingly with less of a hangover than I deserved, I began to scour my bookshelves for references to the Cairngorms. Particularly anything strange, unusual, or indicative of a plot to dissuade people from visiting the eastern slopes of Ben Macdui. This proved easier than I'd expected. Everywhere I looked evidence seemed to leap out of the pages at me. Innocuous little incidences; tiny asides in mountaineering memoirs; things I'd read a dozen times before and never given a second thought to; all took on new meanings when taken in the context of my conspiracy theory. But even so, I still didn't know what it all meant - a conspiracy, yes - but for what purpose? I felt sure that there was something peculiar about Ben Macdui, something which somebody - or somebodies - didn't want anyone else to discover. But what? Finally, I came across a curious passage about the Wells of Dee in Syd Scroggie's excellent autobiographical book The Cairngorms Scene and Unseen:
... this first cold freshet of Dee snotters so briskly out of holes among the boulders as to raise a question where the head of water can be high enough above the altitude of these wells to make this water burst forth so vigorously here at around 4000ft. It cannot be anywhere else in Scotland, for there is no higher land...
Syd suggests a theory that the water actually comes from the Harz Mountains (in Germany), but this doesn't make geological sense. So where does it come from? I decided that if anyone could help me unravel the strange and entangled threads of this mystery it was my old friend Professor PP Posselthwaite. It was time, once again, for me to pay "Old Possel" a visit.
To be continued..