TAC 33 Index
HILLCLIMBING usually only hits the news pages of the national press in tragic or near-miss tragic circumstances: honeymooning teachers helicoptered off Highland crags, bunches of kids benighted on some dreadful Duke of Edinburgh moorland, that kind of thing. Hence it's good that the recent spate of column-inches has been grief-free, even if it hasn't been gripe-free. It has certainly been high-profile: blanket coverage when most of us are more used to blanket cloud. And the subject matter of this widespread broadsheet moaning? The much-Heralded arrival in Hillwalking Central of a rickety old Trainspotter's Special with a few re-upholstered carriages tagged on the back. We're talking Munros of course; we're talking the July press releases by the Scottish Mountaineering Club announcing the first major changes to the list since the much discussed/reviled 1981 revision by (ostensibly) Jim Donaldson and Hamish Brown. (In reality it seems Hamish's role was minimal, and certainly not enough to warrant the critical pasting he subsequently received; overall, it was a classic case of fudge-by-committee.)
There have been two minor revisions since 1981, in 1984 and 1990, but no real heave-ho, let's-move-the-furniture-round session. Until now. There's no Hamish B this time (some might say it looks as if Spice Girl Mel B has been drafted in instead), but TAC should, however, declare a slight interest. The SMC Editor, Derek Bearhop, approached both TAC's Editor and his statistical sidekick Alan Blanco early in 1996, as part of a widespread trawl of opinion on what should and should not change. Much of the resulting input centred on the SMC's happy adoption of the Grahams, but we also proffered a few thoughts as to what should befall the Munros. At least this time there was a genuine consultation process rather than it all being done behind closed doors. The worst thing perhaps, was the ease with which the general media latched on to matters Munroesque - when, as TACers well know, there are plenty other fine hills to climb. But put "Sex!" on the front of a trendy magazine, or a pic of Princess Di on the cover of The Puzzler, or "Munros!" in a Scotsman headline, and the result is the same. It sells.
Most readers will by now be all too well aware of the alterations, but for those living on Mars or in Maidenhead during the past two months, we'd better start by flagging up the main changes. There are eight new Munros:
Spidean Coire nan Clach, 993m, one of the many outliers of Beinn Eighe; Tom na Gruagaich, 922m, just above the Gash on neighbouring Beinn Alligin; Stob Coire Raineach, 925m, at the Coe end of the Wee Buachaille and with the greatest drop, 177m, of any non-Munro; Stob na Broige, 956m, at the "far end" of the long ridge of Buachaille Etive Mor; Stob Coire Sgreamhach, 1072m, a pointy thing at the head of the Lost Valley on the Bidean nam Bian massif; Sgurr na Carnach, 1002m, a middle sibling of the Five Sisters of Kintail; Sgor an Lochain Uaine, 1258m, the only Cairngorms peak promoted, miles from anywhere on the plateau west of the Lairig Ghru, and now the fifth highest Munro; and An Stuc, 1118m, a steep lumpy thing in the Lawers range and previously idiosyncratic through sharing equal height with neighbouring Munro Meall Garbh.
And one deletion: Sgor an Iubhair, 1001m, in the Mamores at the point where the spur of the Devil's Ridge docks with the main range. This young upstart only became a Munro in 1981, but is quickly shooed back to the ranks.
Less well-publicised (less sexy) have been the changes to Subsidiary Tops. There are nine new ones: the "seven summits" listed by Blanco on p17 of The Murdos; plus a strange re-entry - Little Pap of Lochnagar, chopped in 1981 but now back in; and one controversial choice, seemingly after the style of Seve's "Captains Pick" in the Ryder Cup: Knight's Peak on Sgurr nan Gillean. This is certainly a distinct peak, but may be under 914m, let alone the 924m claimed by the SMC. Fifteen Tops are sacked, with various others relocated or reallocated. All in all, Munros are up from 277 to 284, Tops down from 517 to 511.
Much more detail on all this can be found in your Ed's new Baggerwatch series in TGO from September onwards; but, rather than TAC offering a standard-issue, in-depth, in-house breakdown of the changes along with some editorial pontifications, we've decided to take a more radical approach. Changes to the Munros always provoke broad swathes of opinion, pro, anti and indifferent, since every walker/climber has a unique set of experiences and feelings, and quite rightly reckons they should have a say. Sarcasm, cynicism and conspiracy theories may abound, yet there are no absolute rights and wrongs, only opinions and viewpoints. So, having failed to get the Munro question on the September referendum, TAC has done the next best thing. With a nod towards the great Studs Terkel, and in the finest of egaliarian traditions, we've written to a wide spread of interested parties and asked for 150-odd-words of voxpop soundbites. Some are known hillclimbers, some not. Some are famous, some not. Some have gone on a bit, some declined to comment. The patchwork of their twenty-six-strong opinion is spread throughout TAC33, and will hopefully provoke further response from other opinionated readers. So, in no particular order, here goes ...
I have ambivalent reactions to the recent adjustments. My negative reaction is, first, disappointment that all the changes relate to mountains already well-known and frequently visited. In particular, I'm sorry that there is no new mountain listed, eg Foinaven in Sutherland, which must have come close to promotion. Second, I'm sorry that the Mamores have been punished. Yes, Sgor an Iubhair is little more than a junction on the ridge, but it's a remarkable setting in one of my favourite groups. Moreover, I had climbed it earlier this year for the first time!
My positive reaction is that Beinn Eighe deserves two ticks, if Liathach, Cruachan and others have two - maybe Beinn Alligin does as well. The Angel's Peak, Sgor an Lochain Uaine, certainly deserves its new status, whatever the precise statistics may say.
I'm easy about the new list, partly because An Stuc is the only one I haven't visited, according to what I hope is an honest judgement. But why the changes? Are they designed to sell more copies of the Tables? To boost a new edition of The Munros? Yes, the list is subjective. But look at the basic argument in favour of a list. Its great benefit is that it encourages hillwalkers to visit all parts of our splendid inheritance of mountain marvels - and not just the most accessible. The additions to the list (and the subtraction) make no noticeable difference to that basic benefit. Therefore, much ado about very little.
Munro tally: By strange coincidence, still eight to climb of the old list.
I ticked Munros when eighteen, and then stopped, finding the rest of a hill more interesting than the summit. I don't know how many I've climbed, and don't wish to know! Too many want everything on a plate, from instruction courses to map references. Munro emphasis is part of this over-organisation and profit-making. It lowers the potential for exploring for yourself, in my view the greatest joy the hills can give. The answer to Munro over-use is not to encourage folk to lower hills. Money-makers would then publicise these for tickers, and eventually nowhere would be free of this anthropocentrism.
I am a bit wary about saying the following in this magazine which obviously holds to the tenet that if there are going to be lists and tables of anything, they might as well be properly attended to and scrupulously accurate. However, here goes. I actually don't understand what this is all about. I don't know the difference between a "subsidiary Top" and a Munro. I don't tick, I don't tally. I know I could find out the "rules" fairly easily, but I haven't the remotest interest in doing so. I just like walking the Scottish hills. Do you now cancel my subscription to TAC? (No! - Ed.)
At 86 years of age the fact that I have now collected another seven Munros "from the comfort of my armchair" does not seem very important - and Sgor an Iubhair never felt like a Munro anyway. I was always quite happy with Munro's original list and feel that all the alterations over the years have only been cosmetic tidying-up. Unfortunately, Munro never laid down any specific re-ascent - as Corbett did - but a modern list of three-thousanders with a re-ascent of 500 feet or 150 metres would not be Munros, although, no doubt, a desirable target. So, no more messing about with the lists. I finished messing about with Munros several years ago with about 200 of them - and a lot of Tops.
It was bad enough when rumours suddenly flooded the papers that Foinaven had been elevated to Munro status. People from all parts of the country flocked to climb it - and quite right too, because it remains at 2999ft one of the very finest mountains in the land. I suspect it was a plot by the proprietor of the Rhiconich Hotel to boost trade. Now I fear the Kingshouse and the Torridon Hotel must be at it. But if these eight new Munros (of which I've done five) get us out on to the hills a bit more often than before, then they'll have done us all a service. After all, it must never be just about ticking numbers in a book. It must always be about enjoying the mountains. Munro tally: 277 old style, 281 new style.
A couple of years ago my other half and I spent a delightful week climbing in Torridon. On the day we attempted Beinn Alligin we only got as far as the summit of Tom na Gruagaich due to desperate visibility and the buttery, part-thawed consistency of the snow on the ridge to the main summit. I reflected ruefully on how fruitless the slog up the snow-filled gully had been. We had been cheated out of our goal by a trick of the elements after investing the effort required to get us this far. After a snack and cup of tea at the rime-covered summit, we departed and had descended some 600ft down the chute when, without warning, the cloud cover broke and the sun came out. We looked at each other and, without a word, immediately turned and reascended. On regaining the summit we were presented with the sight of snow-covered peaks of Beinn Alligin, Beinn Dearg, Beinn Eighe and Liathach. To the south Beinn Damh was emerging from rapidly retreating clouds, while to the west Trotternish was already visible. The Minch was a mirror and the Hebrides so clear that it seemed we could almost reach out and touch them. Last week my brother in law told me that Tom na Gruagaich had been "upgraded" to Munro status. I doubt, somehow, that this will have the slightest impact on the quality of the vista delivered from its lofty summit, but it undoubtedly means that, should I ever climb it again, I will have to now share it with someone else who will now deem it worthy of breaking step for.
The announcement's timing was amusing - I'd been to Cairn Mairg the day before and then added four more over breakfast to my second round total (+8 in 24 hours). Overall, I'm happy with the changes. Munro's principles should be followed (a rigid height/drop criterion would devalue the east), but I don't think he saw the list as set in concrete. It's not crucial. Lists are valuable not for themselves but to stimulate diversity of interest. A second round gives reason to use different approaches, whether to see another side of the hill or in a different season. One visit reveals only so much. Even visiting minor tops gives new insight, eg an approach to Heasgarnich from its north top.
Munro tally: Round One (277) finished Sept 1994. All new Munros visited during this. Round Two (new style): 117 visited (including five of eight new). Thirty tops (old style) still to visit.
Pieces of eight!
There have been frequent changes to the Munros all down the years, Sir Hugh himself was revising his list before he died, maps improve, and our knowledge sharpens. Change is the pattern. I hate to think how many revisions there have been since the Tables I grew up with. Metrics weren't even on the horizon then. It was only with the Second Series 1:50000 that a hill in Perthshire was corrected by 400 feet! (A Corbett thankfully, and if people complained at new demands from the last Munros shake-up they should be glad they weren't into Corbetts: 17 new ones I think it was!) Some of the present furore could have been avoided had the changes been made in the last big revision, but so much in this country is committee deciding ... I'll only just resist saying "Told you so". As I'm grabbing Grahams whenever possible, I find the Munros just a bit of a bore. Munro twitching is as inane as the ornithological equivalent. I've never been a Munro-bagger exclusively so I can say this. My writings have proclaimed it. The mountains matter, not our silly games on them. We do tend to treat vital matters as a joke (politics for instance) while taking our pastimes so deadly seriously. Having, unfairly, taken stick for past revisions, it is very entertaining to observe the replay. Eight goals though - wow!
What I find quite illogical is people complaining at "having to go back" to a hill/area to top up, as if this was some hateful duty. Don't they do it for fun? This is a bonus not a bind! As most new Munros are on ridges bearing a past Munro, it bears out my criticism of the fanatic tickers who do the minimum for their ticks. Had they done the aesthetic thing (the full traverse of both Buachailles, a great day, for instance), they would have been over the new Munros already. So serves 'em right! The rationale behind the changes matters not a whit. If someone wants to keep to Munro's original list, let him. He might find obtaining a copy difficult. And it might just be an excuse to avoid Mhic Choinnich and the In Pinn, neither a Munro in Munro's original list. What's more, the In Pinn was a Top of Dearg, the Munro, so we had a Top higher than a Munro. What makes anyone think all these arguments "about it and about" are new? "Laugh and let live" is my attitude. I'll stick to metric Munro-bagging in the Atlas. There is no list, no likelihood of one, and the joy of solitude. Just like the Grahams in fact.
A serious plea to end. Do tick lists, but work on them all simultaneously. Discover a country, not a hurry-hurry list. There's nothing wrong with lists - just some (too many) Munro twitchers.
Fats Waller described himself as the world's greatest piano player at seventeen stone. This Munro thing makes me think about the "ploughman's lunch" which people will tell you consists of bread and cheese and a bit of onion or that, when in fact it's an advertising slogan thought up in the sixties to encourage people to eat in pubs. If there is not an happy Eater (sic - Ed.) being thrown up (sick - Ed.) beneath each new Munro as I write, I'll eat my ball of clava. I wouldn't cross the street to hear an orchestra of ginger haired men, I'd rather sit on a well placed pavement and read a book of an excellent length. Call me awkward but when mankind has conquered every bing in Fife, I'll still be trying to forget the name of the man who shot John Lennon. It's a pile of nonsense brought about by people without imaginations being exposed to great beauty.
Our first reaction was that it interested us about as much as studying wallpaper. Mind you, I know a few people (mostly female) who would much rather study wallpaper and plan a new décor than climb a Munro. However, bearing in mind our reputation as Britain's most besotted baggers, this seems a bit of a cop-out, so here is an attempted reaction. Our indifference arises from the fact that we see Munro-bagging as a part of the past, something which we completed (or in Rowland's case almost completed) a long time ago. Of course all the new Munros are ex-Tops and so we have done them anyway. The same is of course not true of the new Tops which I gather include some fearful pinnacle on Sgurr nan Gillean. But as far as I am concerned this will not invalidate my satisfaction at climbing all the Tops. Perhaps it's okay to move the goalposts, but surely not after the goal has been scored! Do these changes rationalise the list? Far from it. Take any group of Munroists who have climbed all the hills and ask them to guess which are the eight new Munros and I very much doubt if they would all come up with the same list. When I heard that Buachaille Etive Mor was to get a new Munro, I naturally assumed it would be Stob na Doire (which happened to be my last Top), but I find that the new one is a Top which is both lower and less separated from the main summit. What's rational about that? The previous rationalisation of the list took place right in the middle of our bagging activities and had little effect on them. Mainly it deleted a lot of Tops, but we went ahead and did them anyway, just as we are doing the deleted Marilyns.
We don't have access to Sir Hugh's original list, so don't know exactly how idiosyncratic it was, but Rowland strongly feels that it should be retained whereas I think that the only changes should be from re-surveying. Beinn an Lochain has to drop out and Beinn Teallach come in for example, and probably the new Murdo on Ben Starav should become a Top since it is so well separated; presumably Munro would have included it had he realised it was over 3000ft. My reaction to the previous changes was that it seemed a bit stupid for such an obvious individual mountain like Liathach to be given a second Munro. The same applies to Beinn Alligin and Buachaille Etive Mor, though perhaps not to Beinn Eighe where it is the highest top which is the outlier. Rowland as usual wants to make the point that once you have started on a list you should stick to your original goal regardless of someone else's changes.
Munro tally: Ann, first round including Tops 1986, Furth 1983; Rowland, first round bar In Pinn 1986.
What I can't understand is how they missed Sgor an Lochain Uaine. The thing is four thousand and something feet high after all. Must have been a fluky temperature inversion at four thousand and something and one feet when they surveyed the Cairngorms summits. There is no higher rank than a Cairngorm. I have finally decided, after much considered abusing of the subject, that Munro-bagging is mountaineering's equivalent of fox hunting. It is cruel to the quarry, and I have never yet heard one good reason for doing it. Munro tally: several, at least.
I doubt if am the best person to write about Scottish Hill walking now that I am a resident in Southend-on-Sea where we have no hills at all. However it was very kind of you to write. Munro tally: unknown.
The tables must change, but only slightly with new mapping. The 1954 tables got it nearly right. A fine tuning of this list would have been sufficient. Munros are illogical. TACit Tables produce the numerically accurate list for those who want it. Murdos are not Munros, and the new list appears to be a half-hearted attempt to bring in a "drop criterion". Half-hearted? Have you noticed all the "new" hills are in NTS areas? It appears the SMC have not got the bottle to direct thousands of baggers at once on to a private estate. The whole underlying concept of separateness has changed, but only on public land. If the NTS were to acquire East Glen Affric or Wyvis, then tops more worthy than Sgreamheach would get promoted. Myself, I have completed the 1981 list, but am returning to the 1954 tables for round two. But usually I am on hills under 3000ft. The SMC are no longer fit custodians of the list.
Only ten left: Ben Cruachan and Stob Diamh, four in the Mamores, three in the Cairngorms and the final Munro on Mull. Plans have been made for the party on Ben More (August 23rd, bring a bottle). Then front page news in The Scotsman that some ?&*@%*?! has added eight more. A frantic look at maps tells me that I have only done two of these; even worse, I have already done Sgurr an Iubhair. Is there time to bag all the additions before Mull? What to do? I ring Cliff to break the news to him. Cliff has completed 276 and is waiting for me to catch up so we can bag the last Munro together. But wait, the new Munro book is not out until the autumn, so we can still finish the "Classic Munros" with time to spare. What a relief!
I can't say I took a great interest in the revision upward of the number of Munros. My immediate thought was that pub quizmasters who don't keep up with events will annoy folk. The actual number, 277 or 284, doesn't affect me since I have no intention of doing all of them - anything with five dots in the seriousness box is way off limits. My Munros are selected by whoever is giving a lift - I'll just tag along and so much the better if it's a Munro I haven't climbed before - somewhere different to see, pub to visit later, rather than some new name to tick. Munro tally: 38 different Munros, some doublers.
I completed the Munros in May 1990 in the company of TAC's esteemed Editor, who had camped overnight on Carn a'Gheoidh. (By the way, is that still a Munro?) I'm sorry, I'll start that again ... I thought that I had completed the Munros in May 1990 in the company of ... A party of forty of us celebrated my fortieth birthday on The Cairnwell that day, and it was a great experience. I never did get round to notifying the SMC, so my name was never on the list, and now never will be. I can't say that I give a ?#*& about these additions/deletions which will no doubt not be the last (are the Scottish hills moving up and down or something?) I really enjoyed doing the Munros, it took me to lots of places I would never have seen otherwise, and I see nothing wrong in bagging as a pastime as it is good to have goals to aim for. However, I completed what I set out to do, and that's enough. It is great now to do favourite hills again and others I haven't done before. Of course, I've still got to get up the Matterhorn ...
I don't think these changes rationalise the list: we all know it's not as scientific as the Corbetts. As to going back to the original list: no future in the past and I haven't climbed Beinn an Lochain anyway. Aren't the patterns of DNA particles random? So is rationalisation really possible? Or is it an illusion? (Sorry, I teach a bit of philosophy ... ) I think magazines should emphasise "lesser hills" more as just as good for a day out. A complete view of the land is more balanced. Actually, many people (like me) combine ornithological interests etc with hillwalking. I think the need to "achieve" is genetically inherited. Some are blessed (or cursed) with the tick mentality. Munro tally: I now have not climbed three (An Stuc and the Buachaille ones). I compleated last year before these were added, so am technically compleate. But I'll do them anyway. Good excuse for a day out (on a proper hill!?)
I smell a rat. The SMC in their wisdom (?) have decided to tamper with the Tables yet again, just as a new edition of Munro's Tables is due to be published. And stranger still, all eight new Munros are in non-controversial areas under the care of the NTS. No irate landowners getting an influx of hill bashers during the stalking season there. If there really was a burning need to make changes, surely this would be the ideal opportunity to bring sanity to the Tables and bring in a height difference rule as with the Corbetts, thus getting rid of anomalies such as Tolmount / Tom Buidhe or Broad Cairn / Cairn Bannoch. My personal preference would have been to revisit Sir Hugh's original list with amendments due to more accurate OS heights. And surely Carn Cloich-mhuillin, saved for last, should be a Munro in tribute to the great man. Munro tally: Old, 3 rounds complete (first in 1986); new, all climbed.
I'm afraid I'm not really into the ethics of changing the list, but each change seems to take us further from Sir Hugh's original concept of a mountain and closer to such as the Murdos. When that 1981 update quoted two Munros for An Teallach and two for Liathach, I thought it grossly unfair that Beinn Eighe was left with only one, which wasn't even on the main ridge, and so created my own 278th. As compensation, if any were needed, I would have thrown out Creag a'Mhaim. The only other candidate I'd reckoned should be promoted was Sgurr na Lapaich. Apart from these, I'd never really thought about the problem, much less ditching Sgor an Iubhair. It seems to me that there are two main criteria for looking at possible new Munros; drop, and distance along the connecting ridge. A table of Tops with drops >90m highlights in particular Glas Leathad Beag of Ben Wyvis (132m drop, 4.8km), the sort of hill one would easily overlook. Other possible contenders might be Beinn Iutharn Bheag (105m, 3.4km), Sgurr na Lapaich as I'd thought earlier (109m, 3.6km), Sail Mhor of Beinn Eighe (again! - 116m, 2.9km), Stob na Doire of Buachaille Etive Mor (144m, 2.0km), and possibly even Cairn Lochan (90m, 2.8km). If the Five Sisters ridge can sprout three Munros in the space of 2km, the surely Beinn Eighe and the Buachaille can do the same in twice that length of ridge!
Munro tally: All eight new Munros are in the bag (six by end of May '48), as are all the above suggestions, so I've no reason to be biased. Ladhar Bheinn was no. 277 (or 8) at 4.50pm on 24/5/69, with no celebrations as no-one else was around - as was the case on the vast majority of Munros in those days. 1981 style finish was on 1/6/70, Sgurr nan Ceannaichean, not one I'd choose to finish on! I'm not sure if it was even a Munro then; Beinn Teallach certainly wasn't. Had already started on the Corbetts when badger surveying took over in 1970.
In 1921 was published Munro's Tables in the SMC "General" Guide. Page 109 is headed: Munro's Tables of the 3000ft mountains of Scotland (revised by the compiler, the late Sir Hugh T Munro, Bart., of Lindertis, and rearranged by Mr J Gall Inglis, FRSE. At the time of Munro's death the revision was only partially completed, but he had left a card-index and the reclassifications are from this, carried out by Mr J R Young with the help of various members of the SMC.
So there we have, as near as dammit, the list as devised by Sir Hugh. No mountain has grown or subtracted since the list was revised, so why apply pernickety mathematics to detail why a top should be a separate mountain or vice-versa? I speak as one who hasn't done them all, though I have been standing within a dozen for twenty years. I just happen to like hills at all heights and seasons, being something of an old square who first climbed Ben Lomond aged 16, sixty-seven years ago; I have no desire to be the oldest Munroist in the list.
Sir Hugh Munro turning in his grave at yet another debasement of his Holy Writ? Not a bit of it! He would be green with envy at the generally much greater accuracy of today's maps, especially as regards contours, which make such revisions possible. With such data, he might even have suggested "criteria" for determining mountain status. I have recently submitted to the SMC proposals for doing this, which use drop and "distance" (defined as "to the nearest higher ground"). All their promotions "qualify" (some only marginally); but why some glaring omissions? Glas Leathad Beag on Ben Wyvis, and Sail Mhor on Beinn Eighe, are far more deserving than Sgurr na Carnach or An Stuc. Cairn Lochan is at least as eligible as, and more prominent, than Sgor an Lochain Uaine. And Carn Ghluasaid is more clearly a "Top" than Sgor an Iubhair. Munro tally: First round completed 1989, Furth 1988; all new Munros climbed before finishing first round; 53 into second round (51 on the 1990 list).
These are whose mountains?
Clearly the present tinkerings are an admission that after over a century, the SMC still hasn't got the Tables right. Indeed the Munro demoted in this edition, Sgor an Iubhair, was only promoted in the last revision of 1981! As to the addition of "new" Munros, the point is not whether a case can be made for promoting Spidean Coire nan Clach, to give a Munro on the main ridge of Beinn Eighe, or whether it can't for Stob Coire Raineach - giving the Wee Buachaille now two Munros. The point is the criteria used for revision. Munro's Tables were a subjective list, devoid of any rational criteria. The SMC has had, for a century, two logical choices. Either to keep the original list, amending only when mountains are found to fall, by new measurements, above or below 3000ft. Or, to modify the Tables by the adoption of some rational criteria, eg 500ft drop, or minimum distance between peaks. (Personally, I feel only objective criteria will ever produce a definitive list, and debate should be devoted to that end.) The SMC has taken neither course, and for a century has, according to the whims of whoever is appointed to the task, tinkered in an unacceptable, arbitrary, way with the list. And this could go on forever ... who is to guarantee the mandarins of the SMC will not, in a couple of decades, decide to demote Stob na Broige and elevate, for example, Tom a'Choinnich on Ben Wyvis? Or re-promote some of those deleted in the past? The whole process is absurd, and should end. The solution? Quite simple. Munro had the right of the pioneer to choose his list of hills, a right which cannot automatically belong to members of a club which now (unlike its pre-1914 heydays) forms only part of the Scottish mountain scene. Another organisation, eg the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, more representative of the broad range of present-day mountaineering opinion, should establish a committee to look at ways of producing a rational and definitive list of mountains in Scotland over 3000ft. The present SMC ficherings about have all the hallmarks, as Peter Gillman said in The Guardian, 23/7/97, of trying to boost a reprint of their Munros guidebook, and the best outcome will be if people begin to challenge the SMC's right to produce the list in the first place. They've had a century; it's time someone else took over.
An Stuc? Ha! Done that. As a matter of fact, I remember thinking at the time, having trolled round the featureless lumps of Meall Greigh and Meall Garbh on the Ben Lawers circuit, that this satisfyingly jaggy little pyramid was much more collectable than the other two. I've often thought there ought to be points for aesthetic appeal or degrees of difficulty, as well as sheer footage. Of course, no-one would ever agree but that would be half the point. It would certainly reflect the average post-hill (not to mention pre-hill and during-hill) blether better than the dry deliberations of some SMC quango. But then I'm not collecting Munros. I'm collecting Storers. I hesitate to add another category to the groaning board of Hewitts, Marilyns, Corbetts etc, but for an ingénue like myself, Ralph's book, 100 Best Routes on Scottish Mountains, has been an indispensable companion. Only 81 to go! Munro tally: Actually, just like everyone else I can't help keeping a record of Munros, 29, but some of the best.
The Prime Minister has asked me to thank you for your letter of 26 July, together with the latest issue of The Angry Corrie. Mr Blair was tempted by your request, as he is a keen hill walker, but I am afraid his many commitments these days make it impossible for him either to undertake much walking, or still less, to write about it. However, he has asked me to let you know that, in spite of his commitments, the reclassification of the Munro (sic) had not escaped his attention! Prime Ministerial Munro tally: Unknown
As a recent Munroist, I have cured myself of the bagging curse. I will never feel the same compulsion again. Hallelujah! Since finishing the Munros I've got myself a smart job, and expect to be seeing some trim lassie before I know it, such is the power of being no longer Munro-obsessed. The only new one I've not done is on Beinn Eighe, and I've been wanting to do a full traverse of all Beinn Eighe's tops for some time anyway, so it's nothing I'm not already planning. No, no, SMC, you'll have to try harder than that. It will take a change in the list of Corbetts to get me to buy your new edition.
Enquiries, can I help you?
The phone rings for the umpteenth time and for the umpteenth time the enquiry is the same. "Have you got a list of the changes?" It is almost rhetorical ... harsh and demanding. Yes, we have managed to procure a list, but not through "official" channels. "I hear there are eight new ones." Is the caller making a statement or asking a question, I muse? Then comes the inevitable riposte: "Why are they changing them? What is the reason?" I am unable to be more specific, as there is no obvious logic to the choices made. By the end of the first week it has become a routine. Sorry, don't know the answers to your questions, but if you let me have your name and address I'll pop the list of changes in the post tonight. I maintain composure with increasing difficulty, for this one facet of my work is acting to the detriment of other more pressing needs. Nor am I particularly enamoured of the tone of some of the enquirers, which is positively aggressive.
There is no respite at home. Serves you right for writing a book about them ... you should know ... it's all your fault. And so the sad litany goes on. Six calls in twenty minutes ... the word is obviously out that I have a list ... "the BBC can't get the number you gave us". It seems the compilers of the changes have gone incommunicado. I just wish I could do the same, but daren't pull the plug on the telephone as I am expecting an urgent call. I seal the last envelope. It is past midnight, and that, by my reckoning, makes this Day Ten, but in truth I've lost count. Rising at 6am to do a three-hour stint on my own work before heading for the office is taking its toll. Does anyone really know the knock-on effect of what ought to be a simple process? Does it really matter? What is so earth-shattering? ... Not a stock market crash, death of a President at an assassin's hand, landing on Mars ... no, just a few changes to tables of mountains ... but then they are Munros.
Munro's criteria were subjective and quite vague; so any revision is arbitrary, except where heights are revised by the OS, and serves no useful purpose to hillwalkers. How can they be "Munro's Tables" if compiled and revised by committee? Call them "SMC Tables", then they can be revised periodically as the SMC wishes. Bagging summits is like taking endless penalty kicks; you get a score, and miss the point of the whole game. It's like sex without foreplay; takes a load off your mind, but misses most of the fun. "Doing" Munros often entails flogging up some dreary lump in total cloud cover; passing great hills in order to tick something you've not been on before, simply because it's on a list. Get out and on to hills you fancy; bugger the list. Munro tally: Don't know, don't care. New Munros: Two (so what?)
TAC 33 Index