The Angry Corrie 31: Mar-Apr97

TAC 31 Index

hill informed

Dear Editor,

TAC - Two Awful Calumnies

Two calumnies in one review! - in Gordon Smith's TAC30 page on my pal Ian "Am Bodach" Mitchell's new book Mountain Footfalls.

Calumny No.1, that Ian is a "bearded, bespectacled relic of the 60s". OK, unlike the young whipper-snappers who scribble for TAC, those of us who are old enough to have voted successfully for a Labour government are by definition "relics of the 60s": but Ian is an upstanding and clean-shaven relic.

Calumny No.2, that the book's front cover depicts "a couple of somnolent old codgers". As the right-hand member of the vilified duo - and but 45 at the time - I must protest that had young Smith taken the trouble to look at p118 and read p120 (instead of being obsessed with women's bums), he'd have known that we were TACing - Testing Arctic Conditions - in the ice-grotto of the Slugain Howff. The artist took liberties with our photo, and the reviewer then smears it in ageism.

I realise that "Gordon Smith" is probably a pseudonym for Robin Campbell of the SMC, and have no wish for his autograph. But since he needs keeping an eye on, please start my subscription forthwith to TAC.

Pete Drummond
TAC (Testy Airdrie Curmudgeon)

Gordon Smith replies:

I am sorry that I mistook the relatively youthful Mr Drummond for a somnolent old codger; on the matter of his description of me as a whippersnapper, I would say that we are not so very far apart in years: although I have never successfully voted for a socialist government (and, alas, am now never likely to), I am old enough to have voted in the last rigged devolution referendum. In fact, I am so old I can even remember Killie playing in the European Cup!

In the case of The War of Mitchell's Beard, however, I am not prepared to yield. I have not had the pleasure of meeting Mr Mitchell, and thus had to base my description of him on the evidence provided by his own books. As Exhibit "A" I present the illustration on the cover and on p138 of Mountain Days and Bothy Nights, which features two men, both of whom are bearded like the pard. I had assumed, not unreasonably, that this was intended to be a representation of co-authors Mitchell and Brown; but even if this was an unwarranted assumption, I still have Exhibit "B", the illustration on the cover and on p120 of Second Man on the Rope. This features two climbers on Crowberry Ridge: the belayer has a beard like the Devil's in the Collins Children's Bible; the active climber bears a strange similarity to Roger Whittaker. Now, the only all-male climbing team to appear in the story "Crowberry Curfew" (pp117-121) is the duo of Mitchell and Brown; it is therefore clear that one of these beardies is intended to represent Mr Mitchell.

There are three possible conclusions which may be drawn from the above: (i) Mr Mitchell does indeed have a beard, and Mr Drummond has simply never noticed it; (ii) Mr Mitchell is clean-shaven, but carries a beard in his rucksack for hill-use, just as most other folk would carry a balaclava; or (iii) Mr Mitchell's books are illustrated by artists who have never met him, or who are just plain crap at drawing, as Mr Drummond hints at in his letter. This option would also explain how I came to mistake Mr Drummond for a somnolent old codger.

Dear TAC,

I was on Leith Hill last weekend and hereby make a claim for it as the noisiest Marilyn. As I picked my way up the wooded slopes, I could hear volley upon volley of shotgun blast - presumably the Barbour and Brogue set "bagging" in a different sense of the word. Then once atop the tower on the summit, I was defeaned by a sequence of jet air- liners hauling their way up into the western sky having just taken off from Gatwick. We've had the boggiest, most remote, easiet to bag etc. But has anyone out there had such an "ear bleeder" as this?

Your TAC29 Stob Press item on spooky numbers reminded me of a similar spook that occurred this summer. We take our bagging pleasures where we can down here on The Plain, and during a recent "trawl" of West Yorkshire trig points I happened upon Stanbury Moor in square SD9735 on OS103. It's 444m high. Then a week or two later I was on the Marilyn Freeholds Top near Todmorden, and noted that the trig point was number 4444. I'm giving Beinn Gaire [666m] and Tarn Crag [erstwhile Marilyn number 666] wide berths at present! I wonder, though, has anyone located trig points in the sequence 1111, 2222, etc? If TAC readers can locate blank squares ...

Gary Westwood
Ringo Sheffield Steall

Ed. - And bag blank squares also: Blanco and your Ed once ended a Borders hill day by deliberately diverting to visit the trig point in the otherwise pretty darn empty 1955 square on OS72. As you do.

Dear TAC,

I enjoyed Paul Hesp's letter in TAC30 regarding my own hill-informed and even worse-judged epistle in TAC29. Clearly, Paul is not a man to be messed with, and as he has a brain the size of a planet and is not afraid to use it, I merely pass comment that anyone whose surname is an anagram of Shep ought to take more care. I note that he states "Sono Inglese di Gerrard's Cross". (Or "Gerrald's Cross", as Chris Smith would have it - Ed.) Judging by the tone of his letter, Paul's Apoplectic might have been a more suitable birthplace. I did like the idea of the innovation diffusion model however, and believe it deserves greater prominence in the pages of your bag-rag. Scottish bank notes and haggis are readily available in Carlisle, for example. But have you ever tried spending a five-pound haggis in London? Not easy, believe me.

In TAC28, p2, I read "And if your Ed hears The TGO one more time ... ". Then in TAC29, p11, under Stob Press and therefore under editorial auspices, we have what our Viennese friends might refer to as a Definitearticlefest with no fewer than three appearances of The TGO and even one of The TAC. Also Perkin Warbeck refers to The TAC on p3. (I think this counts as nit-pickery -dangerous, this mote and plank business.)

And finally, on the subject of pet hates, may I express an intense dislike of GPS sys... (whoops). I can imagine situations in which they could come in handy, but use of a GPS on the hill is a bit like canoeing down the rapids at Disneyland or hang-gliding in a wind tunnel. All the action, none of the excitement. For goodness sake, getting lost is half the fun of being on the hill. You may as well stay at home watching Cameron McNeish and Wainwright-clone Chris Brasher (even the same views on women, as well as an uncanny physical resemblance) poling around the Cairngorms. I must say it was interesting to see these two using not one but two sticks each, obviously having read Grant Hutchison's piece and very publicly taking the mickey. Brasher carried it off quite well, but McNeish looked like a man caught out in his wife's underwear - exquisitely embarrassed and walking with difficulty. However, no mention of the dreaded GPS, so we must be grateful for small mercies.

Yours battered by the winter storms of TAC quizzery,

John Hunston


Ed. - You hope ...

Dear TAC,

I see that Messrs Crocket and Stanton (TAC30, pp17,18) have invented a new perversion: "inverse bagging". As a native of the Low Countries I would like to suggest another: "horizontal bagging". In horizontal bagging, a Hesp 1 is a point which is at least 3000m away (at a 90 angle) from an imaginary line issuing from your front door and acting as a substitute for sea level. The bagging procedure starts with a left or right turn, as appropriate, at any convenient point along this line. The Hesp must be separated from the next Hesp by an obstacle (block of buildings, etc) forcing you to backtrack at least 300m. A reverse horizontal bag will take you home again - and you can tick two Hesps in your Official Horizontal Baggers Book. The new approach to bagging has two major advantages: (i) it minimises the role of gravity in walking and thereby maximises energy savings; (ii) it makes your trips to the supermarket more interesting (I used to imagine flying a Douglas C-47 Dakota or - on rainy days with lots of puddles - a Short Sunderland flying boat, but that's no longer environmentally correct).

Yours for more lateral thinking,
Paul Hesp

Please note that Hesp is written horizontally. I feel that TAC should use vertically-written names of categories in future editions of the Tables. Chinese characters are ideal for this purpose.

Dear TAC,

Further to your enquiry about the existence of WL Gore dental floss (TAC29, Bright too soon), a perusal of the Gore 1997 Diary revealed the following Gore products:

Microwave coaxial cable assemblies; millimetre waveguides; hi-tech sealants and gaskets; medical grafts, patches, sutures and facial implants; chemical vessel coatings; compression packing material; microporous and industrial filters; fibres (as used in the NASA space suit); photocopier cleaning devices and dental floss.

It would seem that it is their Goretex membrane which is a very nice (and presumably profitable) sideline rather than the dental hygiene products.

Chris Butcher
The Cheshire Plain

Ed. - All of which leads me to wonder if I perhaps have some Gore gubbins secreted internally about my person, having had a varicose vein op last year. Maybe my legs will now stay forever dry and breathable without recourse to Val Hamilton's breeches or any other external covering? And since before the op I could be said to prevaricate, am I now postvaricating?

Dear TAC,

Windy Standard, the Donald south-east of Glen Afton, has recently been in the news because it is the site of a wind farm. (See TACs 29 and 30.) But that is not my real reason for writing. A little south of the summit of the hill is the Deil's Putting Stone (the Scots-English linguistic confusion is the work of the OS). This is a lone rock, three feet high and seven or eight long, not very conspicuous. It has a hollow on top in which coins have been left by visitors, presumably in the hope of attracting good luck - though given the name, one wonders who is expected to bestow favours. This is obviously a survival of the tradition of leaving gifts at healing or holy wells, which continues in a few places in Scotland, such as the Clootie Well at Culloden. In some cases the "well" was not a well as such, but a depression on top of a large boulder.

So, Question One: is the Deil's Puttin Stane one of these? And Question Two: does anyone know of other places on the Scottish hills (excluding conventional wells such as the Cheese Well on the Minchmoor path where gifts of food are sometimes seen), where money or other tokens are still deposited?

John Burnett

Ed. - There's also Well Hill itself, a fine 606m grassy lump in amongst the summits of the southern Lowthers.

Dear TAC,

I feel that I must respond to Iain Johnston's article concerning walking poles (TAC30, p12). Whilst my views on the use or non-use of poles are not polarised, I wish to inform anyone who knows either of us that I have never worn "a pink and purple fleece and loud Troll trousers" in the Kintail Lodge. Or anywhere else.

With colurful salutations,
Ian Johnston

Ed. - On the subject of coloured clothing, TAC's Lancashire Correspondent (your Ed's sister's husband's friend) brings startling news that Accrington-based firm Karrimor hit such severe financial difficulties as to have been bought out by hyper-trendy Benetton. Chapter and verse on this would be interesting to hear, as would suggestions as to the content of the next Karrimor advertising campaign.

Dear TAC,

I noted with anger and concern that the Harris Corbett and Marilyn, The Clisham, 2622ft (799m) has been named "Mount Clisham" in The Times Atlas of the World. (At least it has been named, as many maps don't have it at all.) In English and Gaelic, this lovely peak is always "The Clisham", always with the definite article, similar to "The Cuillin". (Or "The Ponds" - Ed.) Gaelic has An Cliseam, with the definite article "An" implying "Cliseam" is a masculine noun, singular. I see the Corbetts and Marilyns tables still name this peak just "Clisham". The name comes from the Norse "Klyfshamra". Harris was part of Norway until 1266 and Norse was probably spoken there as late as the 15th and 16th centiures.

And Ben Drinishader (Beinn Dhrinisiadar), 86m, near Drinisiadar township at NG172944, must be one of the smallest Bens in Scotland. Readers might also be interested to know that a Scottish Place-Names Society was founded last year.

Yours aye,
Alan R Macdonald
Partick, and all points west

Dear TAC,

I don't know why it gives me such a buzz when I find an OS error, but it does. A recent discovery has such subtlety and panache that one could almost call it the coup de grce of errors. It was discovered whilst compiling a Christmas quiz for another organ (Ha! As opposed to entering our quiz! - Ed.), including the question: "The unique thing about the Black Hall near the Old Hill with a Croft a couple of miles away is that they appear on the only bit of Britain where four OS Landrangers overlap. How big an area is this and how high is the Old Hill?" An additional gem of idiosyncrasy is that Old Hill only has its height marked on one of the sheets.

First port of call for most quizsters would be the legend map of Britain on the back of the Landrangers. Map purchasers may have noticed that on the most recent sheets, this legend is outlined in blue. However, hunting for four overlapping sheets will prove useless, because the OS has redrawn the legend - previously correct - to include an error, whipping out evidence of the four-sheet overlap.

Precision specialists will doubtless want chapter and verse, ie that on the legend one eastern map's edge has shifted 0.125mm west and another's western edge has migrated 0.5mm east, till both lines merge as one.

Now all you need to decide is who to have most pity for: the OS for making the mistake, or this cart ped anorak for finding it!

Best wishes,
Charles Everett
Jrg Albertz

Ed. - On Charles' favourite theme, that of erroneous OS heighting, ED Clements, during correspondence re his upcoming Irish Table, mentions having discovered a new Munro! This is on the 1989 edition of Pathfinder 278 (NN27/37), with a 977m spot height inside the 470m contour at NN354764, south of Fersit! As Clem suggests, one day it may cause a huge splash as it topples into Loch Treig.

Dear TAC,

As a newcomer to TAC and suffering from the great problem of living down south with wife, kids, mortgage etc, my trips to Munros have a tendency to be short-lived. I was therefore quite impressed when I found out about Marilyns: this was something that I could get into, and I have now set out to claim a few. This is fine when I am out visiting, but on home ground in the Dark Peak there are remarkably few - one to be exact, Kinder Scout.

I have also started to visit stone circles, and find these really good to drag the kids to on Sundays when they haven't got anything to do, since they are usually close to roads and infrequently very high up, so present good objectives for afternoon walks.

I was wondering if anyone else has got any comments on stone circles? Since I started to get interested in them I have found out quite a lot of interesting stuff and there are definite possibilities for compiling lists, along with associated sites such as standing stones and barrows.

Richard Hakes
Sheffield Pike

Dear TAC,

Is Outraged of Kent serious? (TAC30, p17) Topless rambles may be unacceptable in the Garden of Albion, but surely not on An Teallach. Possibly the group your anonymous correspondent encountered was Norwegian. In Ice Fall in Norway Ranulph Fiennes describes his (very different) reaction on spotting a group of shirtless Nordic climbers:

All work came to a grinding halt, poles were dropped, and the eight of us stood silently, rudely watching. The girl was very pretty, well tanned like the men she was following except for her breasts which swung free as she walked: they were as white as the ice. Like a fool I had not brought a telescopic lens for the Nikkon, but on reflection perhaps The Sunday Times would not appreciate evidence of this sort of expedition highlight.

The vision passed on up the glacier, and we heaved a communal sigh.

Yours etc,

Charles Swan
Muswalbion Hill

Dear TAC,

" ... but goats have got four feet!"

The game older lady (long time retired) whose comment this was has been coming on our geological field trips for some years. Three score and ten must be a reasonable if low estimate, and the quotation was recorded on a frosty and slippery hillside at altitude in North Wales in Dec 1996. Not, as you may gather, a fair weather walker. Along with most of the rest of us.

This friend, with twenty or so others, was on a geological weekend, a regular excursion to diverse parts of the country. Meanwhile, I was perching on half a boot on the selfsame hillside supported by a pole of similar design to that slated in TAC29. I was not carrying it 'tween teeth, but anyone who remembers the Baden-Powell Scouting for Boys of 1963, p34, would recognise the stance:

It was held at an angle perpendicular to the hillside, and provided two-and- a-half-points of contact. I was quite comfortable in that position. You may consider that I am also very sad in remembering the illustration and being able to find the reference. I am of an age where my son calls me a greybeard. He will, if allowed to live after many more of those remarks, be twelve this year, and has been coming on field trips since he was four. I am therefore of an age where a prop is becoming more important and the half century is looming.

But I do wish to say something serious amid this attempt at humour. Whatever length of stick or pole you employ, you come across a fatal flaw in Grant Hutchison's argument. The assumption is that the ground over which one walks has some semblance of horizontality. This is a rarity as far as we, and I assume many other people, are concerned. Therefore if your pole is a standard walking stick length, you either have to grow extra-long arms if the stick ends up on the downhill side, or still have a bent arm when the stick is on the uphill side. With a longer pole this doesn't matter: on your downhill side it has a better chance of reaching the ground, and on the uphill side you can hold it half-way down. You could also use the Baden-Powell (Baden-pole?) method as illustrated.

There's another advantage. If wanting to take a photograph after a stiffish climb, you find that your adrenal gland has been working quite a lot, and you suffer from (at least I do) a degree of unsteadiness - enough to impair a photograph's clarity. A pole doubles as a monopod supporting the camera.

But I don't use a collapsible pole. Mine I bought in Keswick eighteen years ago. It's of wood with a forked top and I still get the jokes about catching snakes.


John Colby

Dear TAC,

Recent letters pages have been so full of stimulating topics that it has been difficult to pick one to respond to. For instance, in TACs 29 and 30 we were treated to discussions on the old favourites of stalking/access (or should that be no access?), Irish maps, and then, in the main text, a review of a new book by Butterfield. This provided the missing link to combine all these topics in one letter.

It starts last summer with the new Irish maps. Fine-looking maps they are except for a minor omission: cliff markings! MacGillycuddy's Reeks look like fine, narrow ridge-walking on the map but turn out to have major sections of "entertaining" scrambling, and it is not altogether obvious that instant death of the three-bounces-in-1000ft variety lurks just twenty paces from Carrauntoohil's summit cross. Not that I would have been fooled by the maps anyway since I found it impossible to buy the appropriate ones near the hills. I could have got the one for the Wicklows in Killarney or Dingle and the Kerry ones in Dublin, but not the correct ones locally. (And nowhere did I see the one which may solve the Galty Gap conundrum.) My theory, backed by the recent correspondence about paper quality, is that they self-destruct within days of purchase and exposure to use. The local stocks therefore sell out rapidly and supply fails to meet demand. Fortunately, I had taken the precaution of photocopying the relevant pages from my copy of Butterfield's big book (first link!) These proved every bit as useful as I suspect the maps would have been, and the only time I was lost was when running off Lugnaquillia, in its perpetual mist, towards Glenmalur - but then so were the walkers I met, and they had a map! I also deciphered some new euphemisms to add to those I was already familiar with (usually when old Irvine encounters scrambly bits): "moor" = bog; "soft pastures" = bog; "for the moorland enthusiast only" = bog from start to finish!

Access problems in Ireland (second link!) are of a totally different nature to our own. Rural road signposting is almost non-existent or ambiguous at best, and when finally at the start of the track to the hill you have to negotiate your way past the farmer. Not that they want to stop you from getting on the hill, they want to blether all day and extract your life history first. Then when you get back down you have to give a full account of your day and an opinion of how the hills compare with the Scottish hills. Add at least an hour on to your Naismith's Formula calculations.

And what about the stalking connection? Well (third link!), I found the end of Aug / start of Sept an ideal time to head for the Irish hills: school holidays are over, tourists are thinning out, prices are back to low-season rates and the weather is still quite good if a bit "soft". So after two or three weeks of difficult access and Keep Orf My Land signs back home you can dispel frustration by heading to the land of the stout (and the bog).

Graham Benny

Dear TAC,

Maybe the ideal place for Murdo to spend next Valentine's Day is the Isle of Ewe. Not only doubly appropriately named, but on the revered OS19 (as recommended by the great TGO).

This was serendipitously found on my cursory search for placenames with many syllables: seven seemed a good starting point. After Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair, I found Loch Dubh Camas an Lochain and Loch Dubh Geodhachan Tharailt (both near Mellon Udrigle) and Loch Caol na h-Innse-geamhraidh (near Mellon Charles). Further examination revealed two octosyllabic "places" called "Hydrographic Survey Pillar" opposite the Isle's west coast, but I arbitrarily disqualified them on the basis they weren't places but establishments. OS24 (vaut le voyage) gives seven-syllable places, plus Holm Island (NG5251), a pure tautology, and Island of Raasay, a partial one.

At this stage I thought I'd better check out Anglesey, although OS114 gives the official name of that town as a mere "Llanfairpwllgwyngyll". I disqualified "Welsh Environmental Centre" by the "establishment" rule. Likewise such annoyances as "Battle of Britain Memorial Flight", in deepest Lincolnshire. Further south still were the first nine-syllable names: Wiggenhall St Mary the Virgin, and Wiggenhall St Mary Magdalen, both in the SE corner of OS131. (See also quiz answers, Qn 7f.)

Presumably one could find more and better oddities using the list of all placenames on the OS sheets, but that would be No Fun At All.

James A Cunnane

PS - Sheet 114 also has an island variously described as Puffin Island, Priestholm, and Ynys Seirol. Do any other places have three names?

PPS - "Albion's Plain": tautology? Or statement of fact?

TAC 31 Index