TAC 35 Index
Stuart Benn's letter in TAC34 has explained a mystery. On 12/6/94 we set off from Annat in Glen Torridon to climb Maol Chean-dearg. We had a pleasant enough walk in, but the cloud on the tops didn't shift. So we found ourselves scrambling up the steep hillside in search of Butterfield's "obvious line of ascent on the north- western corner of the hill". I don't think we found it. The going was harder than I'd expected: loose, bouldery, unpleasant, the sort of route you would not choose to take if you could see more than a few yards. I had reached that stage of thinking, I hope this isn't going to get much worse and I really don't fancy going down this stuff and I would really quite like this to be over, when suddenly a vast metal cross loomed out of the mist in a most unnerving manner.
It was sticking out of the crag, and on closer inspection (which wasn't easy), we found that the words "He is risen" were inscribed on it. Given the nature of the terrain, we thought it might mark the spot where someone had been killed, yet it was wedged among rocks rather than attached as you might expect. The explanation seems to be that someone had simply "turfed it over the cliffs", as Stuart Benn had guessed.
I know very little about the aero- dynamics of large metal crosses (no doubt some learned TAC reader will enlighten me), but I have to wonder if there was some divine intervention to ensure it landed in a suitably upright position.
Re TAC34, pp17-18, I can confirm that, at least on 25/9/97, Ben Ledi's spiritual health was fine. I wish that I could say the same for Ben Challum; this had a fine metal cross on my first visit, 16/4/83, which had completely vanished on my next, 9/9/90. I have also visited Maol Chean-dearg twice, on 29/5/80 and 10/6/90. There was no cross on the first occasion and I am almost certain not on the second either.
Ed. - Ah, so the picture (or icon?) is coming clearer. Combining the evidence from Stuart, Val, and David, it seems the cross was erected between 4/83 and 8/88, then tossed down the crags between 8/88 and 6/90. Can we narrow this down further? Any claims for having done the sacrilegious deed?
As one of the "TAC worthies" who "clutch their foreheads over footling Ordnance Survey revisions", I must challenge Grant Hutchison's assertion (TAC34, p4) that Ascraeus Mons on Mars (23944m) is the highest point in the solar system. Surely such a pedantic tabulator should be aware that every so often the Sun shoots off massive flares a few million miles into space. These must be tricky to bag, as you'd have to first land on the sun (not easy, there being no land) then try to find a likely spot just before it set off into space, making sure you were surfing out on its leading edge. Makes Stac Lee seem quite benign. You wouldn't need waterproofs though.
Alan Blanco, Glasgow
For some time, I have been puzzled by the picture on this Royal Bank of Scotland Mastercard. I am 99.99% confident that it is taken from the lochan near Signal Rock in Glencoe (a popular postcard and calendar view), looking south-east, with the hills from right to left being: Stob Coire nan Lochain / Stob Coire nam Beith / Beinn Maol Chaluim / end of ridge from Aonach Dubh a'Ghlinne. So, it is printed the wrong way round, a mirror image. By all means, let a Scottish bank feature a pleasant Scottish scene, but let's print it correctly.
As a Royal Bank customer, I recently received yet more junk mail requesting me to apply for this card. I decided to phone their Help Line with the query: Where is the picture on the card? Immediate answer from "this is Kim, how can I help?" was Lock Lomond in an accent far removed from Scotland. I dismissed this as nonsense, but she claimed that it used to be Lock Lomond. I cannot remember that, and it has certainly been in its present form for at least two years. She said that she would pass on my comments, and phoned back a few minutes later with the answer: "It is Lock Oich and it is printed the wrong way round because it looks better that way." Could TAC confirm that I am correct?
The reversal of photographs is not all that uncommon. I quote three more examples. Landscapes of Scotland has a dust cover of Glencoe the wrong way round: looking up the glen with the Aonach Eagach on the right. Poucher's Magic of the Highlands has the same shot in twice of near Victoria Bridge looking west to Starav etc: once as a frontispiece the wrong way round, and correctly in the Blackmount section of the book. And the book of the BBC2 programme The Edge had a lovely colour picture of that most famous of outlines, the Cobbler corrie, printed the wrong way round. How could they do that!?
Roger Bell, Paisley
Ed. - On my first ever Skye trip, in the early eighties, I bought a card-framed photograph of another standard view: the north end of the ridge from Sligachan. Very nice, except, of course that Gillean was to the right, Bruach na Frithe to the left ...
I was surprised that you allowed to pass without comment the claim by Charles Everett (TAC34, p13) that Foinaven (Ganu Mor) summit is north of that of Ben Hope. Foinaven certainly has a more northerly grid reference, but my measuring (from OS9) puts it about 450 metres south of latitude 58º 25', whereas Ben Hope is only 350 metres south; ie, in terms of true north (the real criterion), Ben Hope is about 100 metres north of Foinaven.
This might also be relevant to the Ardnamurchan (furthest west?) question posed by Barbara Jones (TAC34, p19). However, OS49 suggests that Corrachadh Mor is west of Ardnamurchan Point, though by less than she says.
Re Barbara Jones (TAC32, p6) and Steve Weatherill (TAC34, pp10-11), I keep on meaning to go and read the numbers on my local trig point. But, as it's on the traffic island in the middle of a busy dual carriageway, it's never a very appealing walk goal.
What is the most stupidly placed trig point in Britain (or elsewhere for that matter)?
Ed. - When recently dropping in on Mick Furey in Maltby, I was taken for a walk round various ploughed fields and shown a trig, embedded in a hedge, but lovingly tended by Mick. Far from being visble from distant points, I initially completely missed seeing this despite passing less than a metre away. Mick may correct me, but I think it was at SK514899 on OS111.
Good to see an outbreak of triggery and flushplatery in recent TACs as a yin to the yang of all this Munro revisionism. Maybe with the combined knowledge/data of the likes of Barbara Jones and Steve Weatherill, TACit could dip its toe into the trig table waters? And just what did happen to Jethro Lennox, whose triggery we read about ages ago?
A couple of recent trig trips of my own illustrate the problems of the flushspotter. At Moel Gyw in the Clwydian Hills, what looks like a TV aerial has been inserted down the central hole of the trig, with wires leading out of the hole beneath the flush bracket. These lead into a large metal box which is itself enclosed within a metal mesh cage. This structure is flush up against the side of the trig on which the flush bracket is attached. A few small stones have been slotted into the gap to protect the wires.
All this makes it difficult to record the flush number, as it can't be seen clearly. My first thought was to trace a finger over the flush - the gap was wide enough to insert a flat palm. For some strange reason, I couldn't get the hang of this trig-braillery. However, on the point of giving up, I remembered that, as a contact lens wearer, I always carry a small mirror. By sliding the mirror into the gap, I was able to reflect on the number. Sad really. Maybe I could patent a flush bracket mirror.
Meanwhile, closer to home at Whitwell (5276 on OS120), the trig had been demolished, lying on its side in three pieces, curiously. The flush plate had been removed. And following on from Dewi Jones' letter in TAC34 concerning trig-condition, for an unknown reason, the trig at Higher Shelf Stones (0894, OS110) is painted yellow, whilst that on nearby Cock Hill (0596, OS110) is painted red. But my nominee for best maintained trig goes to Moel Farnau, again in the Clwydians. On a recent visit, this proved to be whiter than white in a radiant thick gloss paint. Even in thick mist, sunglasses were required to protect the eyes from the glow.
And further to my recent observation of a political message on a Welsh trig (TAC33, p17) comes this from Druim na h-Earba just south of Fort William: "English go home - SNP". No sign yet of any advice on a trig d'Albion. Maybe there's an arcane sect of trigoclasts out there - Branch OSsian perhaps (which, come to think of it, is not that far from Blackburn of Pattack!)
Meanwhile, during a recent trip to Glen Roy, a thought occurred which may be of interest to poker-playing baggers. There's a pair of Leana Mhors as well as three Carn Deargs. Together, esoteric baggers could have a "Full House" day on the hill. I've yet to locate a "flush", which would presumably contain a bracket. Maybe Deeside contains a "Royal Flush? Perhaps the Ed could metamorphose some chess gambits into bagging strategies? (Well, funny you should say that ... - cryptic Ed.)
Here's to a trigtastic '98 and much more trigcentricity in TAC.
Can any of your readers help me with some information on two tracks on the west coast? They are: (a) Loch Arkaig to Glenfinnan; and (b) Strontian to Loch Linnhe via Glen Gour.
We plan to do these on horseback next June. Information which would be particularly helpful includes: state of path (boulders/boggy/good going); burn/river crossings (depth of water is not so difficult on horseback, but access is, eg overhanging banks); any precipitous slopes (bare rock at 45º is no fun on horseback); and, especially, any peat hags (not good for nags)?
Old OS maps show a footpath right through Glen Gour, but this is missing on the new ones; has anyone been through here? Any information very gratefully received.
7, Moor of Balvack,
Aberdeenshire, AB51 7SQ
My Munro reclassification thoughts run like this. Whatever the SMC do must be open to complaint, because there are no laid-down rules for what makes a Munro. I can see no justification for most of the changes: they are just points on ridges, and Sgor an Iubhair is at least a junction of ridges and therefore should be left. Apart from those hills with reascent above 500 feet, the rest are just tinkering for no good reason.
It is obvious to me that the SMC should not have any say in the classification - how did they get the job in the first place anyway? (Well, Munro did first publish in the SMC Journal - Ed.) They can't do the job properly and can give no reason for the changes. The old chestnut that Munro himself was making changes doesn't hold water as he was making them on the basis of reassessment of height - not just, as is the case now, lesser men trying to make a name for themselves (or possibly more money on new books!)
I intend to carry on using the 277, which by the by over 75% of the Munro completists have used for their complete rounds, When and if I finish, I shall claim on the basis of the 277, then go and climb any on the new list which I haven't done.
Now a criticism of our glorious editor, who, in TAC33, admits to knowing a rethink was on the cards early in 1996. But does a hint appear in the magazine? NO! Why? It seems to me that he is saying without him there is no consultation, with him there is, and therefore it's okay. Surely the decision is still being decided behind closed doors; it's just that the room behind the door is bigger. True consultation should have included the readers of TAC and other magazines, and walking and climbing clubs, not just the usual suspects plus a couple of others to make it look good.
Ed. - It's not true to say that no hint of the upcoming changes appeared in the magazine. As far back as Feb/Mar 1996, TAC26, p13, included a clear editorial request for input, which could be sent either to TAC or direct to Derek Bearhop himself. Indeed, several readers picked up on this, and their thoughts were passed on. There was further mention of the consultation process in Stob Press on p13 of TAC28. But even if these notes hadn't appeared, it's surely simplistic to think that mass consultation could have taken place on the level which John seems to want. Firstly, the sheer diversity of Munro-voxpop opinion in the last couple of TACs has shown - as if it needed showing - how downright impossible it would be to find a consensus or commonly agreed procedure about Munro revision. It's like a massive, milling, cranked-up Tower of Babel version of the problem which besets any committee of four or more people: plenty of voices heard, bugger all listened to, let alone anything achieved. Secondly, confidentiality. Your Ed used to be in social work, but it doesn't need that kind of background to see that Bearhop's approach to TACit needed to be treated with respect and tact. TAC cleared the request for input (and for giving Bearhop's address) before printing, and was never going to play wide and fast with the approach. Besides, had we abused this, Bearhop would have aborted the consultation process, and grassroots TAC/TACit readers would have been denied the first ever communication channel to such a revision. Nor did any smoke- or flapjack-filled rooms host secretive discussions: some of the changes pleased your Ed, some annoyed him, and several co-consultant names are those of complete strangers.
I fully expected the Munro revisions, as my other major pastime is watching football (specifically Middlesbrough). Over the years, I've visited most football league grounds, and had got to the point at the end of last season where I only had six left to visit.
Then, in the summer, Bolton, Derby, Stoke, and Sunderland all got new grounds, Macclesfield came into the league, and Brighton went to ground-share with Gillingham. I've now got twelve grounds to visit. I suppose it's character building though.
Ed. - Ah, not having visited Macclesfield is akin to having missed out An Stuc or Stob Coire Raineach: serves you right! But does all this mean that Gillingham's ground has to be revisited when Brighton are playing there in order for it to count for that team? If so, it's like thinking you need to climb, say, Queensberry four times because it's a Marilyn, a Graham, an Old Donald and a New Donald. Nothing wrong with climbing this or any hill four or more times of course - such behaviour is to be encouraged - but fragmentary deconstructed bagging does seem a bit odd. Mind you, many baggers, strangely, profess to wipe the slate clean after each Munro round and, to quote Larkin, "begin afresh, afresh, afresh". And, whilst on the subject of football grounds, Dewi Jones (who has been up Dundreich 27 times) asks if Porthmadog Town has the best ground for hill-viewing: 13 Marilyns, 16 Hewitts, 22 Nuttalls?
I climbed my 500th Marilyn yesterday. Alone, on a Sabbath. Considering religious matters of course, like whether there'd be an eponymous maiden awaiting on top? And, did the round number matter? We are a civilisation based on the decimal system, so 500 is significant - even the Romans gave it a special letter, C. But the decimal system is as much a human artefact as the patently man-made required 150 metres (of re-ascent) that define a Marilyn: imperialised to 492 feet strips this empress to her very briefs.
My next hill, if I'm spared, will be my 501st. Perhaps that number is more significant, because it will be exactly one quarter or 25% of the British and Irish Marilyns (post-revision) total of 2004. I'm told by one of the High Priests that 600 Marilyns is even more significant - is this because it represents a number significant both in decimal and sexagesimal counting systems (as used by the Babylonians)? Or because it will represent 29.94% of Marilyns done? I think we should be told.
And which Marilyn was my fifth century conquest? The 426m Broomy Law, no less. Celebrated, even. And misnamed, because it is heathery not broomy on the long southern ridge. I fought its ankle-clutching fronds, while chewing over the arithmetical aspects of the ascent. Suddenly came grass, old bent Scots pines, and a top, with an upright slab as marker: a metaphor for life itself, for it turned out to be a false top. Beyond lay the main top ... with two split-new erections. (Excuse me! Sexagesimal was bad enough, but really! - prudish Ed.) On closer inspection, these steel skeletons parted to reveal a tarmac track running up from the north, and bare dug earth lying around like fresh wounds. For this we have to thank Orange plc, and a rival company. Desecration by non-ionising radiation ... You're never on your own, when you've got a mobile phone ... O tempora, O mobiles.
Yours, agnostic on bagging, Calvin-istic on summit erections, atheistic on vestal Marilyns,
Before too many good days out are spoilt, I must warn Barbara Jones or any other prospective stone circle visitor that while Aubrey Burl of A Guide to the Stone Circles etc fame may be an expert in circles, he isn't at map reading. (See TAC33, p18.) I have found that some examples of his descriptions of how to find circles lack crucial detail such as the correct grid references and distances between points. He also has an annoying habit of being strangely selective in what he puts into his book, missing out many wonderful standing stones that were probably circles once. Then he includes any vaguely prehistoric site that has a circle in it, while at the same time missing wonderful features of circles because they are not part of the architecture. As the definitions of just what constitutes a circle (lots of them are oval-shaped anyhow) are still in their infancy, I believe there should perhaps be a set of rules perhaps? Something like a minimum of thirty inches high, or included within a mighty definitive historic text that hasn't risen to fame as yet.
Oh, when on the trail of our megalithic monuments, don't forget the second-hand shops. I found several good books, like 1970s reprints of 1950s books, wonderful stuff - but I'm still looking for the definitive tome.
I am grateful to John Hunston (TAC33, p18) for reminding me of my alter ego. I have indeed contributed in English to German-language publications. See, for example, my "Czech industry: the transition in trade", in CA Quarterly - Wirtschaftsinformationen aus Österreich 3/95. Every bit as gripping as my contributions to TAC.
"The Red Sea Sharks" (Tintin - see TAC32, p18) is gripping stuff as well, but the Allan to whom my worthy opponent refers went for broken skulls, while Bentine went for broken chairs. So much for the counterbattery fire.† Á vous, monsieur Unceton.
† How about a 19 Heavy Battery (Spike Milligan's Own) prize for the most devastating hit (or, alternatively, the biggest dud) in this exchange?
Ed. - This is losing me: I'm getting breakup on reception. But at least it's better than Rushdie versus Le Carré.
One takes great exception to your servant, Swan, being allowed space to slander one. (TAC34, p18.) Since a gentleman may not engage in dispute with members of the lower orders, one must take issue with you, Sir.
One is not "so-called", nor "self-styled"; one was so-named by one's noble parents. Nor is one an "upstart", but an upright member of society. Perhaps one is not upright as often as one would like, nevertheless, one is as upright as circumstances allow.
For a decade, a mere decade, your man was apparently a member of some talentless group of degenerate rock "musicians" of which one has never heard. A decade, Sir? One has spent longer in Point Five Gully!
How dare you allow him to call one "a charlatan, fop, and imposter"? One doesn't even like The Charlatans; you have seen one's mode of dress, so must vouchsafe that one is not a fop; and one has never imposted in one's life. It strikes one that, since one was a young buck (note lower case) many decades before this snivelling wretch was misbegotten, it is he who is the imposter. Since he uses "Young Bucks" as a title, it is obvious that he is under the impression that he coined the phrase, when in fact it has been in common usage on one's Irish estates for centuries.
One must insist that you severely chastise this miserable oaf for his impertinence. In the event of your failure so to do, one will be obliged to dispatch one of one's sturdiest grooms to administer a damned good thrashing to him.
Michael Furey Esq
Grant Hutchison doesn't know his Otses from his Tsodilos. (TAC34, p3.) While we can't claim to be experts on world tops and bottoms, we can claim to have been up the biggest of the Tsodilo Hills (called the Male Hill - the others being the Female and Child hills), and can assure Mr Hutchison there were no Otses to be seen. In fact there wasn't much of anything to be seen except a vast expanse of Kalahari thornveld and the hellish sandy track we'd just spent five hours driving down.
We believed at the time we were climbing the second highest hill in Botswana, the highest being Otse on the other side of the country, as Mr Hutchison first claimed. If he is now to be believed, he has not only come up with a hill name change but has moved the highest hill some considerable distance.
Should Mr Hutchison still be in any doubt about which hill we are talking about here, we should point out to him that it is unlikely that another would feature the Female Tsodilo's distinctive Bushman rock paintings - a highly animated group called "The Dancing Penises".
And so they do.
Yours in confusion,
Mags Hunter / Richard Selman
TAC 35 Index