TAC 34 Index
TAC33 featured twenty-seven voxpops as part of a democratic trawl of hillgoing opinion re the Munro changes. These seemed to go down well, so here are the remaining thirteen which had to be Sgor an Iubhaired last time due to lack of space. In passing, it's also worth noting the response, or lack of it, from the various politicians canvassed. Feedback from Tony Blair's Press Office, from Chris Smith, and from Sir Teddy Taylor was included last time (Teddy has since had a nice holiday in Portpatrick so he tells us). Sir Michael Forsyth wrote back, politely declining to comment, Paddy Ashdown's office sent an acknowledgement card but nothing further, whilst there was zilch from Sam Galbraith, Anne McGuire and Harriet Harman (all Labour), William Hague (Tory), and Alex Salmond (SNP). The spirit of Henry Root lives on.
I was very amused to hear about the latest revisions because I just know that lots of people are going to be really annoyed - and it serves them right, the lazy gits. Any mountaineer worth his/her salt would have done all these new ones anyway. Who would do the Lawers hills without An Stuc? Who would fail to traverse the Buachaille to the Etive end on at least one occasion? Who would skulk round Sgor an Lochain Uaine on the way to Cairn Toul? Only the sort of people who are on the hills for the wrong reasons. Only after a tick. The Twitchers of the mountaineering world. I have no sympathy for them.
Munro tally: Second round nearly completed whilst doing lots of other enjoyable things in the hills. All the new Munros done at least twice already.
True confessions time. The recent decree by the great chieftains of the SMC seems an appropriate moment to share my darkest Munro secret. I was in the early stages of Munroitis when numbers, peaks, ticks and cairns meant everything and if there was a view then that was a bonus but it didn't really matter. My first major bagging expedition was the completion of the Lawers range in one day without transport at both ends. Even Muriel Gray advised that it was necessary to have thighs like Graeme Souness before attempting this one. After many hours and endless ups and downs we realised with sinking hearts that the way to the penultimate Munro was barred by a steep, pointy, lump called An Stuc which wasn't even a Munro. A quick confab resulted in the brainwave of skirting round the side. An old hand could have told us that clambering round a steep scree hillside would be sheer torture compared to just climbing the damn thing, but we were young and innocent and the deed was done. Over a hundred hills later I do have thighs like Graeme Souness and I see the error of my ways. I look forward to An Stuc being my last Munro.
Munro tally: 141 (old), 143 (new: +3, -1).
(a) The SMC should stop arsing about, bite the bullet, and come out with a definitive statement of reascent and/or distance from another summit required for a summit to qualify for Munro status. This will be controversial, but at least it would be clear.
(b) A Munro by its purest definition is one of those summits defined by Hugh Munro in his original list. The latest additions and deletions, whilst pedantically accurate, are merely additions and deletions based on a list of 3000-foot-plus mountains.
(c) It doesn't really matter whether a summit is deemed to be a Munro or not. The judge of a mountain is its inherent quality, or indeed the quality of the day one has on it.
(d) Does a new addition to the list mean that, if not previously climbed, then a person cannot be considered a "compleationist"? Here, the SMC would seem to be in danger of being hoist on their own petard. If they claim that the new list is the Munro's Tables, then anyone who hasn't climbed everything on it cannot be a compleationist. If, however, they maintain that compleationists are those who have climbed those summits on a particular version in force at that time, then it weakens the argument for having revisions at all. So, perhaps a clean break would be in order. Munros could be those on Hugh Munro's original list, and a new name found for the definitive, accurate list of summits over 3000ft, with clear criteria on distance and reascent stated from the outset.
Option (a) is probably simplistic, and would require a decision from a committee hidebound by tradition. Option (b) is true, but the name "Munro" has become synonymous with anything over 3000ft. Option (c) is the purest way of doing things - make your own list of mountains! However, as an avid list-ticker (of all types of hill), I recognise that a list is part of the fun. So how about Option (d)? Apart from tidying the tables neatly, it would give the publishing industry (including the SMT) another opportunity for a series of coffee-table style guides!
Munro tally: about 98
Sir Hugh's list as far as possible was accurate as regards height and which summits were above the magic figure. Therefore I would agree with all attempts to achieve accuracy and subsequent changes due to new surveys. However, the distinction between separate mountains and "mere" tops only loosely followed a pattern. Allowance could thus be made for the different character of mountains across the country. This also gives a "quirkiness" as much a part of Munro's mind as the list itself. Without this, Munros would be that much closer to a clinical classification. Thus we are gifted South Shiel and toil for others and have more to discuss in the pub afterwards.
Munro tally: Somewhere a little past 160, including two new ones, so six more still to look forward to.
All this hoo-ha about a mere nine Scottish tops certainly highlights the division between those focusing on someone's list and those wishing to visit as many significant points as possible. Much as I love Scotland, it gives me satisfaction that I could not bring myself to register for the Munros until I had visited "all" the 900m tops including the so-called "Outer Furth" (remember Beinn Teallach?) Aspiring top collectors are advised to think beyond the current target. Coming from Manchester, my hero is J Rooke Corbett who, based there, was the first to recognise the significance of a 500ft rise, and was never satisfied with his lists. Although a deserving achievement, the Munros and the SMC have had their day. A far more worthy target is the 514 "True Corbetts" - all points in the British Isles and Ireland over 750m with 150m rise.
Munro tally: Round completed in 1988
Half of me says in a rather academic way that you must keep the measurements current and accurate. But the real hill-walker in me says "really, who cares?" The Munros are a historical curiosity, a reminder of earlier days when a few mostly rich eccentrics looked for challenges and started a trend. They are an interesting side-salad, a goal to aim for in a lifetime perhaps, but if you're just ticking off summits then you've missed the point. The experience of being on the hill is what counts - the scent of the early morning pines, the colours of the Hebridean sunset, the fleeting glimpse of the soaring eagle over the cliffs. What is a list of tops compared to these?
Munro tally: Have only climbed a mere fifteen or so but wouldn't swap the "lesser" hills, the coastal saunters, or the peace and quiet for a hundred ticks in the book.
Rewards and angels
The mountains have a way of rewarding those they like. They have an irrational fondness, not shared by the Mountain Rescue, for those who walk up into cloud, at dusk, carrying bivvy bags. At the same time they punish those whose behaviour is improper. Such punishments include the ordinary route up Spidean of Liathach.
Lives there the mountaineer so depraved, so Munro-fixated, as to have climbed Beinn Alligin without Tom na Gruagaich? (I exclude native folk of Inveralligin who used to do it on Sundays after church.) Has any such not suffered enough up that long grass via neither Rathain nor Gash? Is it correct of the SMC, mere earthly denizens (albeit bearded as the prophets), to add further torment in the shape of the follow-up slog from sea-level to the Tom and back down? Earthly law sweeps in at the innocent. What of he who's climbed all but Sgor an Iubhair and is thus deprived of any last Munro? What of Adrian Belton, former joint achiever of 29-in-a-day, whose 29 are now 28 while his rival's Affric ones have grown to 30? I went to ask the Angel. But the Angel was jumping up and down on the Devil's Point and to my enquiries answered only: "I'm a four-thousander! I'm a four-thousander!"
Munro tally: 177 old style, 184 new style - fancy that: exactly 100 left both before and after Bearhop!
So the SMC have discovered eight "new" Munros? There couldn't be a new, updated edition of the SMC Munros guidebook mooted, could there? With a finite supply of hills in Scotland, it's rather ingenious of the SMC to find new ones occasionally: it reminds me of the way that bands who only release one album still generate endless "best of", "unreleased", and "rarities" spin-offs. However, the SMC should note that, when you've got Revolver and Abbey Road, you needn't bother with The Beatles Anthology 37 (featuring Take 89 of "Help!" where Ringo audibly scratches his backside).
Munro tally: 70-odd (don't keep count). From the new list, only The Angel's Peak.
Having recently made the trip to Blair Atholl from the deep south of Albion to join my brother-in-law and forty others for his "last" Munro, it was with some irony that I received news of eight new Munros. I suppose I qualify as an ex-bagger, since I have only climbed three or four in the last twelve years (and notably about three times as many "old favourites" in the same period). Yet I did study the new list carefully to see if I had actually been up any - such is the power of the bagging instinct - before catching myself at it. Cynically I began to think of the whole exercise as a ploy to buoy up flagging sales of Munro's (sic) Tables, or to allow many re-publishing exercises, eg Hamish: The Final Eight. Then I thought - why not, if it keeps the punters happy?
Munro tally: circa 150.
When I first heard from a man as we were coming off Sgurr a'Mhaoraich that there were some new Munros, I was curious. He, being nearly finished, was obviously deeply perturbed. I found a copy of The Scotsman the following day on Skye which satisfied my curiosity to some extent, but it took another week and a return visit to Loch Quoich before I got the whole picture. On Gleouraich I met a father and son who knew about Sgor an Iubhair, so, curiosity satisfied at last, off I went down the stalker's path doing calculations: gained four, lost one, four more to do. Main reaction relief: no camping involved, no huge walk-ins, no stalking problems, just four more hill days to look forward to on wonderful hills well worthy of revisiting. That was okay then.
Munro tally: 195 (old), 198 (new).
I must have been living on Mars over the past few months. I do not buy newspapers and had only heard a whiff of rumour about changes to the tables. Then I received TAC33 - bombshell! These changes could affect me!
After an anxious hour poring over the maps, things looked a bit rosier. It was nice to have a tally of six new Munros for this year, even if the highest hills I have been up are Windy Standard (Galloway) and Beinn na Seilg (Ardnamurchan). The only two that are doubtful this time round are Sgreamhach and Broige. I think I have done them both but my records are incomplete. I must be getting old when I cannot remember which hills I have been up. I am quite happy to do them again sometime, but I won't be rushing north to top-up next weekend. We've seen this all before, in 1981, when I got two new Munros from the comfort of my armchair, one in Knoydart and one in Torridon. Then there was the Foinaven fiasco a few years back. I wonder how many retired Munroists dashed north to Sutherland then, only to find out later it was a waste of time?
Frankly, the new list throws up little that is new. The mountains included are ones vaunted for Munro status at the time of the last changes. I would like to have seen some of the marginals appearing in the new tables, mountains like Sgurr a'Choire-bheithe (Knoydart) and Beinn Dearg (Torridon). It seems like the contourers and baggers who only climbed specific mountains on their list will be hardest hit by the changes.
Munro tally: Round completed August 1985, on Carn Liath
We have a Dutch word which sums it up nicely: Broddelwerk! Having compleated two years ago, I'm off the hook, but I do sympathise with those dozens of hillwalkers who had their compleation parties thrown in disarray! I seem to remember, once upon a time, the SMC saying that the '81 changes were to be the last, providing the OS didn't throw some spanners in the machine. Obviously the OS didn't, but apparently the SMC is quite capable of making a shambles themselves. Having said that, there are two ways to get out of this mess: (a) return to the '21 list (the last in which Munro partially had a hand); or (b) find an objective criterion first, eg Murdo-like, or according to the interesting article by David Purchase in the 1997 SMC Journal.
My own preference, at the moment at least, is (a), and meanwhile I'm quite happy hillwalking (and cycling) about, ticking off Corbetts, Wainwrights, Grahams, and various other hills - even the odd Munro - and enjoying nature and people.
Munro tally: 277 old style; 278 new style (+2, -1), or even 279, because I did climb the "old" Spidean Coire nan Clach on Beinn Eighe, given (with appropriate grid ref) as 972m in the '84 and '90 Tables ...
Who are these people and what are they on? I mean, what kind of wacko actually enjoys spending their waking (and probably sleeping) hours agonising over how hills should be listed? Let's be honest, they're well up there in the seriously deranged stakes - in fact, probably only surpassed by anyone in Crash, Albion Rovers supporters, and the lulus who encourage them by following their wafflings. Other obsessive behaviour at least serves a useful purpose - knowing Geri Spice's favourite brand of oven cleaner (Jeyes Kleen Off, incidentally) allows an insight into her mind the better to understand her work - but the latest outpourings from these recidivists will only perpetuate the agony, heartache and profits for Mountaincall that are the legacy of the Chief Wacko himself. Take some good advice: ignore them, jump off that hamster wheel, start today. You can do it!
Munro tally: Munros and Tops (1989), Furth (1990), Corbetts (1996), Grahams (1999?), Marilyns (?)
TAC 34 Index