The Angry Corrie 36: Apr-May 98

TAC 36 Index

hill informed

Dear TAC,

Cruachan calculation (TAC33, p6; TAC34, p20)

For Roger Boswell to admit that anyone, anywhere, has ever got anything right is a remarkable and perhaps unprecedented event. So I'm particularly gratified that he endorses my assessment of the Cruachan / Windy Standard ratio.

Facts on these issues are supplied by people who are already banging hard on one end of the drum or the other. Such quantities as the "real" cost of wind-generated electricity can be calculated to almost anything. At the moment, wind energy receives a subsidy of 4p per unit so as to enter the grid at the same price as competing energies, viz 2p per unit. Roughly. A partisan for either side could provide, and justify, very different figures, and if there's a disinterested energy engineer who can give me anything more meaningful and accurate, I'll be glad to have it. 4p extra seems reasonable for a developing technology. Early bicycles were much more expensive than horses, or than litters borne by slaves.

My Cruachan calculation was in fact the dodgiest of the lot, but it hasn't been attempted before so I thought I ought to have a go. You can't just leave electricity lying in a pile until you're ready to use it. The main drawback of wind energy is not its price, which will presumably come down, but its unpredictable arrival, and hence the need for (very roughly) a Cruachan pumped storage system for every forty windfarms.

Suppose it were necessary, for the fertility of the soil, that five cabinet ministers should be ritually beheaded every spring, and their blood scattered from helicopters. There would be careful investigations as to whether, perhaps, four ministers might be sufficient. There would be monitoring of the results to make sure that the sad sacrifice was in fact justified; gorgeous marble tombs would be erected; compensation would be paid.

Such is not the case when hills go under windfarms, valleys under hydro schemes. Hill lovers, who are, perhaps, prepared to make such a sacrifice for the sake of the planet, are told that we are in fact making no sacrifice at all as the structures are beautiful. And while there's plenty of banging of the drum, anyone sitting in the middle trying to balance the damage to the Carsphairns against the ultimate benefit to the planet is liable to get pretty well deafened.


Ronald Turnbull

Dear TAC,

Does anyone know of any evidence regarding the salinity of sea lochs? When you think of the volume of fresh water flowing into them, they surely can't be of the same salinity as sea water throughout their lengths. Nor can this be constant, because of seasonal variations in the flow of fresh water, as well as differences in tidal level. Most of the western lochs will have the same range of tidal levels at their outflows; so, apart from variation in depth, width, and length, they should be broadly similar in level of salinity. Shouldn't they?

Loch Etive ought to have a marked difference, because of the sill at Connel Narrows which forms the Falls of Lora at low tide. So there must be a net outflow from the loch between ebb tide and the point where water level is the same over the Falls. Yet it's fifteen miles or more from Kinlochetive to Connel. Is there so much diffusion as to render all that water saline to some degree?

The case of Loch Duich is a real puzzle. It's nearly seventeen miles from Kyle to Shiel Bridge. A vast gathering ground for fresh water; yet Kintail is Cinn t-Saile, the "Head of the Salt". So how salty is Loch Duich?

We tend to think of "tidal waters" as sea water, when in fact they are merely affected by tidal rise and fall. Bonar Bridge and Inverlael are less than forty miles apart; both are tidal, but they're hardly to be classed as seaside villages, are they? The Lincolnshire town of Gainsborough, on the River Trent, is affected by high tides in the Humber; it even has a small tidal "bore"; yet the town is umpteen miles from salt water. Heavy rainfall combined with a high tide can cause flooding far inland, simply because the water cannot get away fast enough, not because the sea is pushing its way up river.

So where does a sea loch change from fresh, to brackish, to fully salt water? Anyone any ideas? Otherwise I'll have to write to Notes and Queries in The Guardian, and display my ignorance for all to see.


Mick Furey

Dear TAC,

It was interesting to read in Alan Blanco's MapWatch (TAC35, pp14-15) that the OS are attempting to Gaelicise more hill names. Scottish hill names are derived from four languages - Gaelic, Scots, Norse, and Britannic. As Peter Drummond points out in his Scottish Hill and Mountain Names, Norse and Britannic are dead, while Scots is in a critical condition and Gaelic is a living language for only a small number of people mainly in the Western Isles.

Although Gaelic is the most important language for hill names, Norse names are common for hills in the Western Islands and the north, while Scots and Britannic names appear in central and southern areas. It seems dubious whether Norse names should be "converted" into Gaelic. Should pure Norse names like Stulaval and Roneval be transliterated into Gaelic as Stulabhal and Roineabhal?

How far will the OS go? Will they deprive us of Scots names like Meikle Bin and Corserine? Will the Britannic name "Ochils" disappear from our maps? Can a mixed Gaelic / Scots name like Ben Cleuch remain? And what will become of Brown Cow Hill?


Rowland Bowker

Dear Angry Corrie,

Having recently retired from a long and enjoyable career in the haulage industry, during which time I spent almost every spare moment climbing the mountains of Britain and of Ireland, I decided to "thwart Time's grasping hands", as the hymn writer has it, by embarking on a study of the pop music charts so beloved of the young people with whom I must endeavour to keep astride of. Much of what I at first heard was a mystery and a puzzle to me, little more than banging and wailing and shouting, and so unlike the Big Band Classics to which my dearest Mavis and I courted oh so long ago now. I was about to turn to my alternative "Twilight Assurance" plan of catamaran racing when I heard a catchy ditty by an "independent group" (I think that is the term) of Indian boys who sang tunefully of "Brim Fell of Asher".

Now, I have no idea what "Asher" this may be - perhaps he is a land-owner? (I also faintly recall an actress of that name once cavorting with Mick Jagger.) Yet it was heartening to hear the youth of today expressing familiarity with dear old Brim Fell, such a fine summit on the broad "whaleback" between Swirl How and Coniston Old Man. Many were the splendid days I spent on those selfsame Coniston Fells, man and boy, always in the hope of seeing A Wainwright or Harry Griffin, neither of whom I ever met however. Such happy memories! I fully intend to continue to make use of my nephew's "garage-blaster" in hope of hearing more tunes which speak of hills of home.

Yours sincerely,

George Porridge

Dear TAC,

Harsh words from Mags Hunter and Richard Selman (TAC35, p19), but no less true for that - I did, indeed, not know my Otses from my Tsodilos. But I do now, with all credit to them for pointing out the mistake.

It happened like this: there were two mountain names I was never entirely satisfied with in World Tops and Bottoms - Otse (Botswana) and Rawanduz (Iraq). Both names were given by just a single source (one that I had found unreliable in the past), and both names were shared with nearby settlements. Could it be that a map had been misread, and a town's name applied to a mountain? So I was distinctly cheered to find the CIA's World Factbook giving an alternative name for the Botswana highpoint: Tsodilo Hill. I marked it down in my Stuff To Look Into file. And then, later, in a fit of brainlessness, I must have shifted it to my Established Revisions file (sadly, this is how I organise my life) without ever having checked it properly. Mea maxima culpa.

So: the Tsodilo Hills (the highest of which is occasionally called Tsodilo Hill) are of course exactly where Mags and Richard say they are, up in the top left of Botswana amid the Kalahari sands and the San tribespeople. And the CIA is wrong - the Botswana highpoint is at the opposite end of the country, down near the South African border, just precisely where I said it was before I started messing around.

But is it called Otse? Well, yes, it probably is. (Can you detect just the merest hint of gritted teeth in that last sentence?) Independent confirmation comes from the GEOnet Name Server at, which lists two Otses - one town and one hill, in the right location and separated by just a couple of kilometres.

And what about Rawanduz? Well, GEOnet provides the goods there, too, and this time in my favour - only one Rawanduz is listed (actually appearing as Rawandoz), and that's the town. The mountain appears as Gundah Zhur, the alternative name I provided in TAC34.

But with this sort of thing there are always going to be people with better local knowledge than I have, and I'm grateful for any and all corrections.

Please keep them coming.


Grant Hutchison

PS - Roger Bell wrote in about hill pictures that have been printed mirror-reversed (TAC35, p16). As befits my global remit, I'd like to point out a global reversal - did anyone else spot that the Earth was the wrong way round when it made its first appearance in Sigourney Weaver's latest sci-fi slasher flick, Alien Resurrection?

PPS - And palaeontologist Richard Fortey must be gnashing his teeth over a similarly reversed globe on the cover of his new book Life: An Unauthorised Biography.

Dear TAC,

Cross references (TAC33, p18; TAC34, pp17-18; TAC35, p16)

I can confirm that I was on Maol Chean-dearg on 15/5/87, and saw no cross. This would seem to narrow the erection down to the period 15/5/87 - 7/8/88. Also, the Ben Ledi cross was still fine on 21/10/97.

From: Chris Peart


Ed. - Ah, but a spanner has been thrown into this cruciform neatness, since we've all been assuming that the MCD cross simply toppled, never to rise again like a - er - phoenix from the ashes. Innes Thomson of Inverurie phoned to say he climbed MCD on 19/1/97, when the rugged old cross was leaning against the summit cairn, casual as you like. This was over eight years after Stuart Benn's summit sighting, and thirty-one months after Val Hamilton found it down in the crags. But when one of Innes' friends climbed the hill in December '97, it was away again.

Dear TAC,

After reading Nick Kempe's letter in TAC34 (p12), I put aside all the better things I had to do and spent some time hunting for Real Mountains, and am happy to say that I found a few.

In addition to those listed by Nick, and your Editorial recognition of Carn Eige, there are two clear candidates in Ben Macdui (separated from Ben Nevis by the Loch Ericht trench), and Ben More, Crianlarich (given its identity by Glen Falloch and Strath Fillan). Possibly more contentious is Sgurr Mor in the Fannichs, which according to Butterfield is either 1110m or the slightly lower 3637ft. (Blanco gives 1110m/3642ft in The Murdos - Ed.) OS25 gives the summit of the A890 at Luib as 197m, a tantalising 913m below Sgurr Mor, and John Thomas' The Skye Railway gives the highest point of that line as 646ft, which is the same as 197m. But both road and railway are slightly above the peaty bottom of the glen at this point, so presumably the requisite extra metre or two are there, making Sgurr Mor "Real", at least to metricated individuals like myself (though not, presumably, to Bruce the Baker's in Portknockie, who continued to use shillings and pence and refer to the conversion chart on the wall until they retired in 1982). It is interesting that the list thus includes two Big Hills and one Big Peak, so the folk who named the hills must have known a thing or two.

This definition of hills has its consequences: Glen Tilt is on the slopes of Ben Macdui, and Dunrobin Castle is at the foot of Sgurr Mor (or, for imperialists, Carn Eige). So will the Dukes of Atholl and Sutherland wish to be consulted for permission to climb these summits? (Tough shit if they do anyway - Ed.)

Guidebooks will require fewer chapters, but will need more information for each climb. Walkers tackling Ben Macdui from, say, the Moray coast should be advised not to cross the airfields at Kinloss and Lossiemouth. But at least these walkers will have the comfort of knowing that if lost and benighted in Elgin on their return, an RAF helicopter is not far away.

I'm sure the TAC Commission will come up with other ramifications; but, meantime, the Real Mountains leave me free to climb all the other Munros (apart from the three down, four to go) without fear of being labelled a bagger.


David W Summers

Ed. - In addition to the 3000ft-drop hills given by Kempe and Summers, Ronald Turnbull briefly broke off from windfarm-pondering to suggest Snowdon (with a col at the Forth and Clyde Canal), Liathach, and Beinn Dearg in Ross-shire - although surely the latter is superseded by Sgurr Mor above. He also estimates that Ben Lawers just misses out, the Rannoch Moor col near the Kingshouse being c1000ft. All will presumably be clarified when Blanco's Murdos Second Edition gives absolute as well as relative drops. Meanwhile, for more on Loch Ericht and the Nevis/Macdui col, see p5.

Dear TAC,

On a visit to Winter Hill, on a summer-like January day, I was approaching Horwich from Blackrod railway station. Imagine my surprise when I noted that the "Welcome to Horwich" sign indicated the town was twinned with Crowborough in Sussex. Not some trendy French village in Provence, but the much discussed urban Marilyn! Of course this opens up a whole range of Marilyn-twinning possibilities. Clearly civic dignitaries are catching on to the kudos associated with our much cherished relatives.

What's this? After Donald Munro, of Runrig and TAC quiz fame, comes an equally hillific Graham Corbett, former Chief Financial Officer of Eurotunnel, seen on the BBC2 Channel Tunnel series. (Maybe more hillific: DM is 118 [or 89] + 284 = 402 [or 373]; GC is 224+219 = 443 - Ed.)

After my flush bracket and mirrors episode (TAC35, p17), comes the latest obstacle to confront a trigspotter. After a recent "The Wolds" bag, I visited a couple of trigs in the area - like you do. Hamilton Hill (OS113/1290) proved a bit tricky. A telecomms construction has resulted in a bit of earth moving, such that the bottom third of the trig is concealed. Not to be outdone, I dug away with a stick to reveal the flush bracket and the number! So it now appears that the hill-prepared trig bagger not only needs a small mirror, but a small gardening trowel as well. I dread to think what other problems are out there.

Yours excavatingly,

Gary Westwood

Dear Editor,

I see an advertisement in one of your competitors for a U-DIG-IT lightweight trowel, including a tough nylon sheath, total weight 6oz, at the bargain price of #22.50 plus #1.20 p&p.

Last week, in a local hardware shop, I bought a Fiskars plastic planting trowel for #1.99. It weighs 3oz. The local supermarket provided a lightweight plastic bag to shove it in free of charge.

Yours sincerely,

John Allen

Thornton Heath

Ed. - Maybe Messrs Westwood and Allen should go into business together? Call themselves Trowel Services.

Dear TAC,

Re stupidly-placed trig points (TAC35, p17): trigs in hedges are common enough. Also in woods: the latter planted and grown since the trig was built. I know of three in gardens, and several surrounded by buildings, and more come to mind as I write. Trigs in hedges on banks are very common in the West Country, and trigs are also often on large 4ft-high concrete blocks.

Best wishes,

Barbara Jones

Ed. - In response to the assertion that his local trig is "embedded in a hedge", Mick Furey writes: "The pillar is not "embedded"; it is embowered in the blackthorn hedge which is a thing of beauty in Spring." And Mick is a poet.

Dear TAC,

This is probably in bad taste and has already been said, but couldn't we send in the USAF to take out the Gorms chairlifts?


Chris Cant

Ed. - It must have been a dreadful last few seconds for those poor sods, starting from the fearful moment they saw the plane coming up the valley toward them, through rising no-this-can't-be-right sweaty-shakes panic, then cold metallic disbelief of the cablecutting impact. Then just plunge. Hopefully the windows were too fugged with skier-breath for folk to see much. The McWatt incident in Catch-22 comes to mind, although this pilot never "dipped his wings once in salute, decided oh, well, what the hell, and flew into a mountain."

Heard a stupid and arrogant RAF wallah on the radio saying it couldn't possibly have been a lark/prank/dare, because who would do that with #60M of hardware?, and they were highly trained fighting men anyway. Eh? Surely the whole point of a dare is that the higher the stakes, the more edgy and potentially bar-room-status- winning it is. No-one dares anyone to have a cup of tea - not unless it might have cyanide in it. Time to quote the great Joe Strummer: "I hate the army and I hate the RAF".

Dear TAC,

Why do we need a list of Corbeteers? Why do we need a "Marilyn Hall of Fame"? Those of us who enjoy the Corbetts, Marilyns, and other, smaller hills do so, either partly or mainly, because of the simple fact that they are less cluttered with people. So far, mercifully, these hills have - with obvious exceptions - escaped the worst of the crowds. The last thing that we need is an influx of people desperately running around trying to get their name on yet another list.

Moreover, compiling a list of Corbeteers is doomed to failure. Many people who nowadays finish the Munros do not send in their names, so even that list is not definitive, but the list of Corbeteers would not even have all the early compleaters. Call me a killjoy, but even I - representing just your average punter - know of half a dozen or so Corbeteers (and a similar number of folk who qualify for the Hall of Fame) and all are united in that they would refuse to sanction their name being added to any list. That's the beauty of Corbetts, you see.

The list of Munroists may be past its heyday, but it is historically interesting and it is, still, unique: let's keep it that way.


Matthew Shaw

Ed - This letter initially came in at a personal, rather than publishable, level, and sparked an email discussion around the areas concerned. As well as agreeing to let his thoughts appear in TAC, Matthew suggested my response should be there too, in hope of sparking a wider debate. So here's a summary of what was shoved back down the wires:

Obviously we don't need people-lists in any real way, yet not only are they of interest, some can also serve a useful purpose. Matthew's examples differ: personally, beyond a mild curiosity, I have no great desire to see a list of Corbetteers. The Marilyn Hall of Fame (ie anyone known to have reached >600 of the 1551 summits) is a more fluid, living, interesting thing, however. No-one is yet near completing a round of Marilyns, not least because the St Kildan seastacks present enormous problems. Most "active" Marilynbaggers treat it as a self-competitive game, as an exoskeletal motivational method of getting out on the hill. Conversely, any list of completionists, be it Munroists, Corbetteers, whatever, is museum-like, something fixed and finished. I'm more game for an eclectic, living Marilyn list than for a dust-dry one. Anyway, if an attempt is to be made to obtain a broader hill-demography than previously available, it's necessary to compare baggers from different parts of the country and the century, and one way to approach this is to convert individual data and histories into some common hill-currency. Marilyns serve as well as anything for this purpose, since they contain many other British hill-groupings as subsets, and the whole of Britain is covered. In terms of where such research leads, the vague data-hotchpotch is starting to show the Munro boom of the last twenty years as a bit of a diversion. It's not as though folk weren't specifically bagging before that time, as often assumed by those who regard such activity as "sad". What seems to have happened is that the locus and interpretation have narrowed, such that the words "Munro" and "bagger" are near- synonyms to the wider public (and, sadly, to much of the hill community). I'm all for broadening this back out, since this seems healthier for walkers and for hills themselves. Many old- time pre-Munro-boom baggers did an enormous amount of non-Scottish or sub-3000ft stuff, without having to face any of the current stigmas. These folk, and others at present, tend to get overlooked or lumped in with the Munros-only masses. And this undoubtedly dovetails with Matthew's concern for those who choose, not unreasonably, to keep shtum. Such folk, be they Corbetteers or putative Marilynists, are justifiably wary of the Munroist/trainspotter label. No-one should try to flush them out if they genuinely want to stay hidden; but, at the same time, they shouldn't feel pressured into lying low just because of an overall antagonistic/cliched climate. One way round this, which links directly with James Lamb's specific offer to collate a list of Corbetteers, is that some folk may be happy to let on, but without wanting their name put to it. At risk of sounding like Crimewatch, no pressure is being put on anyone to "own up", other than via a general appeal/trawl for information (eg Charles Knowles was "Anon, Yorkshire" for a good while before reaching 1000 Marilyns). It would be nice to think that the more anonymity-inclined don't feel it necessary to reverse-pressurise or even disparage others more open about their achievements. Sadly, as is certainly the case with some Munrocentric walkers, there's a tendency to evangelical negativism (witness Robin Harvey's notorious letter in TGO June 97).

Re Matthew's other point, there seems little likelihood of a massive increase in "use" of Corbetts, Grahams, or lower Marilyns. Take Corbetts: two big guidebooks out for a decade, and certainly busier than they were, but not evidently beyond the overall increase in hill-use. Munros remain far more hyped, far more trendy, far sexier on a CV. And the word "Munros" far more readily gets a book or an article accepted, even in the outdoor press, which should know better. No sign of that changing, sadly.

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