The Angry Corrie 34: Nov-Dec 97

TAC 34 Index

hill informed (Letters)

Dear TAC,

Given the profitability of The Munros book and speculation about possible financial motives behind the decision to revise the Tables, some readers are no doubt wondering what prompted Ian Mitchell (TAC33, p20) to suggest that the SMC are no longer fit to be guardians of the Munros and that it is time responsibility for these should be passed on to the Mountaineering Council. I'd like to make it quite clear that not a bob changed hands (or ever will!). Indeed, if we were not so keen to keep litigation out of mountaineering, it would be tempting to sue Mr Mitchell for making such a damaging suggestion! The last thing we need is all the flak that the SMC attracts!

Meantime, it is clear from all the space you devote to bagging issues (a much greater percentage incidentally than the space the SMC give over to Munro-mania in their journal), that TAC is now the main driving force behind bagging in the British Isles. Nothing wrong in that of course. However, is it not time to question the creation of ever longer lists of ticks of ever smaller bumps, many of which hardly merit the term hill let alone mountain? No doubt even now someone is working on a list of hills with 250ft of reascent on all sides. Where will it all end?

Surely it is time TAC moved the other way. Why not a list of hills that require a reasonable amount of effort, say 3000ft of reascent on all sides, to be called "real mountains"? A quick mental reference suggests this would have the radical effect of leaving only Ben More on Mull, Sgurr Alasdair on Skye, Mam Sodhail north of the Great Glen, and Ben Nevis to the south as "real mountains" in Scotland. No doubt the Editor will point out some deficiencies in my mental cartography. (Indeed - Carn Eige, 1183m, overtops Mam Sodhail, 1181m; sorry - humble-but-still-pedantic Ed.) Even more radical, make it 1000m of reascent on all sides and make all the Hebrides mountain-free!

Rather than being elitist this would be a populist move, because it would make it much easier for people to complete at least one list and indeed be able to afford at least one guidebook. (Irvine Butterfield could be commissioned to write the slim volume on The Real Mountains of the British Isles.) Perhaps TAC could set up a commission to look into the other ramifications of thinking bigger-hill-specifically?

Yours with altitude,

Nick Kempe
President, The Mountaineering Council of Scotland, Perth

Dear TAC,

I spotted a couple of errors in TAC33 - I wouldn't have bothered you with them except that the magazine seems to thrive on pedantry. (Ped an' try - attempt at a walk?)

(a) on p16, the "aerials" on the heads of Dipsy and Po have been transposed.

(b) on p15, para 1, Lincolnshire may be very flat, but Lincoln is not. It sits atop a N-S ridge (more correctly, on the edge of a gap in it), along which runs Ermine Street. Also, it is a city, not a town, as it has a cathedral!

Best wishes,

Frank Montgomery

Dear TAC,

Nearly every mountain-top trig pillar I have visited of late seems to have been robbed or damaged. For example, the round bit that screws into the centre of the "spider" (the three-armed bit on the top) is invariably missing and on Moel Siabod it looks as though a serious attempt has been made at removing the whole spider. On Rhinog Fawr and Tarren y Gesail the flush brackets have been removed, while on Garnedd-goch most of the pillar is gone. Also, on Moel Fferna, Carnedd Dafydd, Pen y Fan, Waun Fach, and Manod Mawr, the whole trig pillar has disappeared. In marked contrast, nearly all trigs on lowland sites are intact.

Is this situation only to be found in Wales, or is the same deterioration happening on hills in other parts of Britain? If so, why? Is it that I belong to a recreational group with a high propensity for theft and vandalism, or could it be that Cameron McNeish and his anti-cairn brigade are getting just a bit too enthusiastic? (Surely "getting ideas above their trigonometrical station"? - Ed.) I would be glad to see a halt to this damage until I have a chance to record more flush bracket numbers. Meanwhile, if anyone has recorded the numbers of the vanished brackets and trigs mentioned above, I'd be glad to hear from them.

While on the subject, I note that the pillars on Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon summit) and Crib Y Ddysgl are only 750 metres apart. Is this the least distance between two trig points? Also, S10684, the number of the flush bracket on Yr Wyddfa, is almost exactly three times the height of 3561ft given on some OS maps. Fascinating.


Dewi H Jones

Ed. - Maybe the spider-thieving is akin to the old Beastie Boy tactic of pinching the badges off the front of VW cars. Perhaps, even now, acne-ridden teenagers are playing air guitar in poster-covered bedrooms with neat little arrays of trig-paraphernalia on their bedside tables. For an example of a well cared for trig, take a trip up lovely little See Morris Hill west of Dumfries, where the pillar (S7978) is white-painted and lovingly tended. Re close-together trigs, the two on Ward's Stone in Bowland are slightly further apart distance-wise, approx 1km, but only differ in height by 1m and have scarcely any drop between. It's an odd place, as those who have visited, particularly in hard winter conditions, will confirm.

Dear TAC,

I was interested to read the editorial in TAC32 where you implied a connection between the "Cornwallis brothers" and the "branch Bothidian", the former alive and well, the latter a figment of someone's fevered imagination. It seems you have something to gain by placing myself and my brother in the "hall of fame" of extremists! Why, I ask you, are we being treated in such an unpleasant fashion by your august journal?

Strangely enough, while TAC attacks misuse of the Scottish landscape by a great variety of people, it has remained resolutely silent on the "activities" of the MBA. Not even a single remark about how they conduct their meetings and elections, for instance. Well, well. Could it have something to do with certain MBA people (including a general secretary) being on the TAC team of contributors, both past and present? Perhaps your readers should be told!

Yours sincerely,

Graeme Cornwallis

Ed. - Several points here. TAC hasn't included anything resembling an "editorial" since way back in TAC11, thank goodness. Nor has TAC ever had a team of contributors: this is a bit like the occasional letters which refer to "your editorial staff". But the person concerned - Andy Mayhew presumably - wrote good pieces, and these were included on merit, not because of some weird MBA PC-type vetting procedure. Likewise with the short piece by the current MBA Gen Sec, Lynda Woods, in TAC33. The reason why TAC hasn't indulged in MBA hand-wringing and sock- washing is that it is very factional, and very dull. Folk get kicked off the committee, folk get reinstated; folk hound and harangue people at their homes and their work, folk make grovelling apologies; folk make allegations, folk make counter- allegations; folk love to hear the sound of their own voice, folk love to - er - hear the sound of their own voice. Yawn. And all the while these folk are banging on, a few diligent non-factional folk are busy banging nails into bothy walls and saying Sod the lot of 'em. TAC has no desire to stoke fires, nor to stroke egos; besides, we don't pretend to cover all aspects of the Scottish hills: when did you last read a proper review of gaiters or cagoules or whatever in these pages? Again, yawn. But the main reason TAC digs away at the Branch Bothidian is that "the other brother", the only time he was in the house of TAC's co-Ed, was bad to Perkin Warbeck's dog. Forget the allegations of financial impropriety and mismanagement within the MBA; this is serious shit.

Dear TAC,

Donald Shiach (TAC33, p18) isn't quite right about Mhanach's claim to fame. On 7/8/88, the cairn on Maol Chean-dearg was adorned with a large metal cross with HE IS RISEN inscribed on it. No sign of it though on my next visit (11/10/92); maybe someone turfed it over the cliffs.


Stuart Benn

Ed. - There's also a massive cross on Whittle Hill, east of Ramsbottom in Lancashire. And what's the current spiritual health of Ben Ledi?

Dear Mr Hewitt sir,

As you are aware, Mr Hewitt sir, I have obediently, for the last fifty years or so, man and boy, been scribbling away in the bowels of the Corrie building, illustrating the surreal images of Perkin Warbeck and your equally demented writing team. Fair's fair. I have been commissioned to draw some unpleasant things in my time - from a puffin supper to Mr Van Morrison in a cagoule. Such atrocities have been executed with never a complaint; however an article in your so-called "edition 33", penned by the so-called "Mick Furey" has roused me to equal furey myself and I feel I must put pen to paper in non- graphic expression.

You yourself, sir, must be aware of my complaint: the self-styled "Furey", whom you describe on page 20 as "Fine-art photographer, poet, composer, traditional Irish singer/ musician", makes the laughable claim for himself on page 7 of the blat - and I quote the upstart - " ... in the long-ago time, when I was a young buck ... " (italics mine).

As you yourself will vouchsafe, Mr Hewitt sir, Myself, the Vicar, Brycie, Blackjack, Professor Snake, and Captain Morgan have for the past decade made up that retro Rock 'n' Roll combo which goes under the name The Young Bucks. Never at any time has that group incorporated a photo-grapher (fine-art or otherwise), nor would we contemplate including in our assemblage a poet, composer, musician or singer. In fact only one other contributor to our beloved Corrie has for a short time been a Buck - older Corrie readers will remember Dr McSharkie who briefly beat the skins with our company until taken away one night in an unmarked van. (Whatever has become of the good Doctor and his much-missed LSD hill-ramblings? Bring him back!)

Mr Hewitt sir, I expose the so-called "Furey" as a charlatan, a fop, and an impostor. If he persists in his claims, let me challenge him with a Bucks' quiz question: In Mr Chuck Berry's "Nadine", when Nadine "turns and doubles back", what is the colour of the Cadillac to which she makes? Haha, Furey! Unveiled!! Fraud! Coxcomb!!

Thank you, Mr Hewitt sir, for allowing me to get this grievance off my chest; I return now to my bench in the cellar, and remain,

Your obedient servant and low-paid employee,

The Swan

Lower (de)basement, TAC Tower

Dear Ed,

My first reaction to Gordon Smith's "surprised and delighted" letter (TAC33, p17) was: "You what?" The second was of pain at the implication that I'm liberal-sounding, lacking in intellectual rigour, foolish, trendy, and politically-correct. OK, I'll stand for foolish, but I'll have you know that I'm about as liberal as Stalin, as intellectually rigorous as Jamesie Cotter, as trendy as William Hague, and as politically-correct as the Pope. (Mind you, when we recently met up to tramp through some South Yorkshire (coal)fields, you did wear a very natty hat - trend-detecting Ed.)

I didn't imply that poetic beauty is in the eye of the beholder; it's in the ears of the listener, because it's meant to be spoken, not just read. I do believe (I do indeed) that the value of any poem is subjective. What moves Mr Smith may well leave me cold; so what? If I dislike some particular verse, I put it out of my mind; I don't harp on about it.

For him to say that content doesn't matter is intellectual snobbery; of course content matters, otherwise there's no point shuffling words about until you get some sort of emotional reaction to them. To have poetry without content is like going to a concert and reading the score throughout the performance; arid, sterile conceit.

I would have thought that someone who has the sensitivity to subscribe to TAC would have more regard for the finer feelings of others than to descend to the level of Andrew Motion (in whom, I'm told, there is poetry) and the rest of the quivering-nostril brigade, who like to tell us poor ignorant peasants that we wouldn't understand good poetry if it fell on us. (I know that's a crazy-mixed-up metaphor, but I don't care.)

And anyway, (Rt Hon) Smith and McNeish only quoted/misquoted the few lines that most of us remember of "Inversnaid"; which is not solely associated with the WHW in people's minds. It is used in other contexts, notably by the JMT.

Gordon Smith is fully entitled to his implied belief that Keats is the greatest rhymer ever, and the sonnet the finest verse-form of all time. He's wrong, but he can believe it if he wants. I just wish that he'd accept that others of us are entitled to like the wee snippet of "Inversnaid", or "The Ball of Kirriemuir" for that matter. (I prefer "The Good Ship Venus" myself - Ed.)

TAC is not the place for arguments of this nature, unless the Ed has it in mind to feature an arts column? In which case, can I have my sub back please?


Mick Furey

PS - You were serious, weren't you, Gordon? If not, I've been had, haven't I?

Dear TAC,

As a recent devotee to TAC, though aware (dimly) of its elusive presence in the past, I feel the need to reply to your TAC31 review of Wilderness Walks. Since I was the subject, or victim, of Val Hamilton's wee synopsis on "Programme Four", I could not help but pick up my ancient Amstrad, in true aristocratic style, for an allegorical throw, generally in her direction.

The Estate once did own lots of hills, now only minor bumps thank God, and not a Marilyn amongst them. However, a more serious, nay heinous, accusation was describing me as "an experienced walker". Steadying the Amstrad for the broadside about to fire off in a Hamilton direction for a moment, the full, ghastly, implication of those words has to sink in first. Delighted though I was to appear on a Walking Programme, I am first, middle, and last, a climber. Summer and Winter. Home and Abroad. Ropes and all. Definitely, most absolutely definitely, an "Ultra-montane", not a Salvationist. The An Teallach bit on the programme failed to show Cameron (unhappy) and me (happy) soloing directly up the crest of Corrag Buidhe by the section graded as Difficult. If more folk did the true traverse then the track below would be smaller. Now for the knockout blow. Any missing out of the true crest simply does not count as a traverse of An Teallach. Wimpish options are simply Not On. A bit like missing out the In Pinn, which admittedly is the "Munro", whereas Corrag Buidhe is not. However, a sense of moral outrage should be encouraged where the true crest has not been followed. Now let me think for a moment - in the bad old days of Pit and Gallows, perhaps all those "avoiders" could be forced to walk up the corby steps of the Castle after a large, locally brewed, dram. The crest of Corrag Buidhe would be no problem after that ...

Rucsac Management Skills ... hmmm. Is this a Glenmore Lodge Certified Award? A merit in RMS would mean that all your oranges are in neat order, so arranged that at exactly lunch time (worked out by Naismith Rules), they are naturally at the very top of the sac. Further, she suggests (in a whisper) that someone else carried all my gear. Sadly, not the case. However I endeavour to shed the heaviest load upon my partner, somehow their own ambitions have been identical and mutual suspicion leads to simply two heavy rucksacks rather than one that merely looks heavy at the expense of the other. Life's a tough cookie really, especially on the hill. Standard Carrier Bag (Tesco?) Systems have escaped me so far; too many pointy bits of rock gear like nuts, Friends, and other metallic objects. Also you can't really sit on the sac so effectively to reduce its size if all those (bursting) carriers are popping away like the aftermath of a vindaloo. However, Val, if you want further information on my personal "baggisms" for your forthcoming "Kwik Save versus Schipol Duty Free" essay, then the Ed will give you the secret number.

Yours aye,

John Mackenzie (Earl of Cromartie)

PS - Would you like to carry some of my belongings next time we go walking? I'm sure you have very up-market carriers compared to mine.

Dear TAC,

When the new government took power in May, things seemed to be looking up on the issue of access to wild land. I wrote to Chris Smith, Secretary of State for Heritage, Media and Sport. It was put to him that it would be a fitting memorial to John Smith, who loved the Scottish hills, if access to Scottish wild land was enshrined in the law. Chris Smith answered my letter through the Scottish Office. His letter points out that there are proposals for a review of access arrangements for England and Wales and Scotland. "Future legislation regarding access in Scotland is seen as appropriate for a Scottish Parliament", said the Scottish Office spokesperson. So it looks like it will be into the next century before any change comes through on this issue. That leaves plenty of time for outdoor organisations and individuals to campaign for changes to the access laws.

On a practical level, it was interesting to read Ken Stewart's comments on access to the northern Rhinns and Cairnsmore (TAC33, p14). The farmer seems to be a prickly customer (carefully types the last ten letters - Ed.), and his lambing signs were still up in mid-August. I just about wrote to you on this matter myself.


Dave McFadzean

Dear TAC,

Your research department needs to sharpen up a bit. Eponymous names is it? (TAC28, p20.) Look no further than the Ponds of Albion. Try Robinson, more properly Robinson's Fell, named after one Richard Robinson who bought the mountain, and a good bit more, in the time of Henry VIII, as part of that fat rich bastard's redistribution of wealth programme. Funny isn't it how those who do the redistribution always collect?

If you want a few more, try Albion's premier county. Rogan's Seat, Lord's Seat, and Simon's Seat are surely memorials to those of suitably large posteriors. If you want to get really political and proletarian, how about Scargill High Moor and Scargill Low Moor ... never to do things by halves was our Arthur!


The Tyke
Sheep Town

Dear TAC,

On a Marilyn bagging expedition on Ardnamurchan I thought I ought to visit the most westerly point of mainland Britain. All the guidebooks tell us this is at Point of Ardnamurchan, upon which stands the lighthouse. However, looking at Landranger 47 and Pathfinder 287, it seemed to me that Corrachadh Mor (NM416661), a small hillock to the south, protruded further west. (The lighthouse itself also claims to be the most westerly point - Ed.)

Careful measurements back at base, somewhat hampered by the weathered condition of the maps after three days in the field, led to the conclusion that the shore at Corrachadh Mor is about 100 metres further west than the shore at the Point. "Back at base" happened to be aboard the yacht Calico Martlet, and Admiralty Chart 2207, at 1:50000, also shows Corrachadh Mor to be further west but only by about 50 metres.

Time then, to rewrite the guidebooks; and, for those who reckon to have visited the westernmost point of mainland Britain, time to pay a second visit. Whatever its status, I can recommend Corrachadh Mor. It is a pleasant green hillock topped by a small cairn of lichen-encrusted stones. In early May the seaward rocks were bright with orangy-yellow lichen and shocking, freshly-flowered, sea pinks. The tiny inlet of Port Min, immediately to the north, ended in a beach of golden sand edged with a silvery-green silverweed studded with yellow flowers. Above this fringe, sheep and lambs grazed on a greensward while to seaward the eye was drawn to Rum, Eigg, and Muck, and to the Cuillin of Skye. (That's enough flowers and lambs - Ed.)


Barbara Jones

Dear TAC,

Just a few random thoughts in response to last issue's letters. Braemore Estate (p19) is rather friendly - witness the estate worker on his tonka bike who shepherded me past the dogs en route to Enaglair and attendant Graham; it's just the dogs that aren't. As for the demon goats of Ben Vrackie, there are few experiences to compare with sheltering behind an eight-foot-high boulder with your waterproofs thirty miles away, hearing a strange clatter followed by seeing a rather large goat sailing over your right shoulder. Unless it's that of its long-haired sidekick sailing over your left shoulder a split second later. In such circumstances, diving out of the way is probably inadvisable.

As for list revisions, I think rationalisation has gone far enough and any future alterations should be on height grounds alone (fat chance). Still, as I'm aiming to compleat (sic) Donalds, Grahams, Corbetts, Munros in that order and am busily scurrying up each table more or less contiguously, I've got time to digest the changes and clamber up all the deleted tops first as well as dozens of hills not on any list that I know of. When lists become a raison d'etre rather than simply an aid, it's time to look very carefully at the use we make of them. The hill's the thing.

Yours decrepitly,

Roderick Manson

Dear Editor

"Munros Tops Vox Pops" in TAC33 included so many sentiments with which I agree that I could give you my views by cutting and pasting. So, with nothing new to offer on that score, you may wonder about the purpose of the letter.

One comment that recurred (well, at least twice) was the fact that the originally published list is not available. I was about to suggest that the next TACit Table might be a re-issue of the original list until I had a better thought, more in keeping with the TACit policy of complete and accurate lists: a cumulative Munro's Tables. This would list all mountains, tops, and other bumps which have ever appeared in any edition of the Tables - and, for those which have changed status, include a note of when and (if known) why. In order to assist those aspiring compleat compleationists, the current grid reference and height would suffice - although a tracking of changing locations and heights might provide a rich source of research material. Perhaps the same treatment could also be given to the tables of Corbetts and Donalds. In the time-honoured phrase, can I leave this with you?


Martin Hampar

Ed. - Yes you can, since TACit was considering this well before the latest revisions were announced. The most valid outcry re changes to Munros - an outcry well represented in the voxpops - concerns the divide between objective and subjective data. TACit Tables have focused on providing correct objective data, eg heights and grid refs, since only by getting this right can people make a fair choice as to what version of the list to use for their own purposes. Such thinking would be aided by a chronological breakdown of what was once what: extra info, and also dispelling the myth of infallibility re the 1891 original, too often assumed written on tablets (or tables) of stone. As Hamish Brown said in his voxpop, the list has been evolving from the very start. But any move has been put on hold while awaiting an upcoming Munros history by Robin Campbell of the SMC. During a brief flurry of TAC-Campbell email in 1996, precisely what Martin Hampar suggests was put to Robin. He seemed interested, before retiring to some shadowy, silent, vestry of Chateau SMC. Hence the Club's intentions are unclear; but, if the book proves a non-tabular history, TACit would indeed be keen to step in. Such a chronology might force the hand of the SMC in terms of what a lot of the TAC voxpopsters are saying, ie that there should be an original - or at least an earlier (eg 1954) list published in tandem with the current one.

Dear TAC,

I've just remembered that Munro's Transport in Aberdeen, who name their lorries after Munros, have had a lorry called Sgor an Lochain Uaine for three years or more. They must have connections in the SMC or be very far sighted. Also, my next door neighbour has just moved out. She was called A(shley) Munro and her boyfriend was called Ben. Spooky or what?


Dave Purser aka The Sic Munroist


Dear TAC,

Ronald Turnbull (TAC33, p6) says that 150 hilltops would each need to be occupied by a wind farm of 40 x 500kW turbines in order to meet the (ex)government's target of 3000MW of windpower by the year 2001. He says the average power delivered by a wind turbine is a quarter of the maximum. He says the maximum is 500kW. So the average is 125kW. Therefore the number of turbine farms needed to generate 3000MW (ie 3,000,000kW) is 3,000,000/(40 x 125) = 600, not 150 as the article says. Turnbull adds that he consumes 375W, ie 0.375kW. On this basis he says a Windy Standard sized farm could service 333 households. Using his figures, one farm will generate an average of 40 x 125kW = 5000kW, and the total households each farm may support is 5000/0.375 = 13333. So, on Turnbull's figures, one windfarm will supply enough power for 13333 households, ie a town the size of Fort William, a bit larger than Thornhill.

The trick to making viable wind-farms, as Turnbull points out, is to store energy when the wind is up, so as to have energy available in the event of the wind dropping. He reckons we'll need a new Cruachan (400MW) for every 40 windfarms. On this occasion, he got his maths right. Assuming each farm diverts 50% of its maximum output to one Cruachan-sized pump storage power station, then the farms this can handle total 400MW/(40 x 250kW) = 400000kW/10000kW = 40.

Turnbull says the cost of wind power is 11/2 times that of conventionally generated electricity, ie about 12p per unit. I've just come back from Llanberis, where they have a 16500MW storage facility, which cost #450 million to build in 1980, designed to last for 40 years (80 years for the civil engineering bits). One of those could look after 165 windfarms and 4.4 million households like Turnbull's, using his figures. The cost, spread over 40 years, is about 0.15 pence per unit (kWh), assuming the pump storage station is optimally worked. That works out at about #200 per person for their total electricity consumption for 40 years, ie about #1.25 per quarter at 1980 prices.

Nuclear power, leukaemia. Fossil fuel power, acid rain, global warming, opencast coal mining, more cancer. Wind power. Which looks worst? Which damages and pollutes the environment the most? Which infringes freedom of movement the most? Why are we paying 7p per unit (kWh) plus standing charges for nuclear or fossil fuel power? Roll on the windmill.


Roger Boswell

TAC 34 Index