TAC 37 Index
Val Hamilton's review of the MCofS Policies Book (TAC36, p8) quoted "remote" as one hour or 5km from a public road. She may be interested to know that the Tasmanian definition is that "no wilderness value is derived until a distance gained by four hours' walking is reached ... maximum value is attained after 48 hours' walking." Even then, "any visual disturbance within 40km is sufficient to negate wilderness quality." Any chance of a competition to find the most remote part of Scotland (or is it already "Hutchison's Crock"?)
Mick Furey (p16) was asking about sea loch salinities, but he misses an important point: sea lochs are three-dimensional. And, as fresh water is less dense than salt water, this can lead to a vertical gradient in salinity. (Fresh water has a maximum density at 4°C; if salt water has a different density : temperature ratio, this could lead to even more problems.)
What I can tell Furey is that if he goes scuba diving in such as Loch Fyne, the first few metres will be fresh water darkened to obscurity by peat particles in the run-off. Below this is crystal-clear salt water. Because of the dark top layer, the amount of penetrating sunlight is reduced, and hence "deep" species can survive at relatively shallow depths.
Offshore from Gibraltar, a surface current of warm water flows west, and a deep sea current of cold water flows east, into the Med. Thus a similar practice may happen in sea lochs.
All the best,
Interesting what Mick Furey was saying about sea lochs - I would have thought that a sea loch was one you could sail right out of into the sea. Mick talks about changes in salinity over length, but a different angle applies in parts of New Zealand. The rainfall in Fiordland is so high (8m per annum, not like the pretend rain we get in west Scotland), and Milford Sound so sheltered and calm, that it has a permanent layer of fresh water at the surface (I'm not sure exactly how deep this layer is). However, since the Sound (actually a fjord) is up to 265m deep, it's obviously still overwhelmingly salt.
Mick Furey should note that as fresh water floats on sea water, because it's less dense, the water 10m down even way up at the head of a sea loch can be completely saline, yet the surface water will be fresh or brackish. As a clam diver of fifteen years' standing (or swimming?), I can testify to this. In fact, when you look through the interface between salt and fresh, it looks like whisky and water (the fresh is often stained brown with peat!) This also explains why ice will often form on the sea in sheltered sea lochs - it's the fresh water on top that's freezing!
Please cancel my subscription and standing order and PEPs and TESSAs to your disgraceful magazine. It has always been a disgrace, ever since it started, and I don't know quite how I became enmired in ordering it. I fear I must have been conned into payment by some pierced-nostril homeless street vendor. But not any more, oh no!
My reason for self-cancellation is the disgraceful allegation by Michael Furry that some sea lakes contain a substance other than the full briny. I can assure Mr Furry that no such situation exists, and he should retract immediately, retract as fast as a neap tide in fact. Here in Bournemouth, which, I will have you know, is on the sea (unlike Rotherham, and we don't have any "mines" either, at least none apart from those made for lawful peacekeeping purposes by our beloved HMS Devonport, but I digress), here in Bournemouth-sur-la-Mer, the sea is pure British salt, no matter what adulteration may be occurring on the "Celtic fringes" which Furry and his type inhabit. Many residents of Bournemouth are privileged to own second homes in these less civilised but nonetheless picturesque regions (I myself have ten such homes, and make full use of them all regularly). And I can assure Mr Furry (surely not his real name - how absurdly pathetic!) that any mixing of salt and fresh water in such places is an anomaly and a perversion, just as surely as those acts performed daily at the very gates of Gomorrah were an anomaly and a perversion. The sooner birth control legislation is introduced into the corners of the Highlands, the better.
On a happier note, I might add that my wife regularly uses the very latest brand of nikwax, and we find that it serves our requirements perfectly.
My litany of woe as regards flush bracket research (TACs passim) continues. On a mid-March weekend I was on the Senior Citizen of Coniston in the Southern Ponds. And was it busy. I spent about twenty minutes on top and counted over 100 folk. A substantial number of these were from a rambling club (both senses) who formed a huddle round the trig. Then a mobile phone rang - ugh! (Surely it's time to inaugurate CANT - the Campaign Against Nuisance Telephones.) The offendee was plainly embarrassed, as his colleagues dispersed to leave him alone against the flush bracket. From his facial expression it looked like it was a Dear John call. I eventually got my number, having refrained from employing my now famous trig-mirror and trig-trowel (see TAC36, p18).
This trip was part of a Wainwright-completing visit which finished on Blencathra. Interestingly, I met a US student over from Pittsburgh on his "spring break", and who made his fell-debut on a hill I've waited 21 years to climb. How times change: here's someone flying over 3000 miles for what is essentially a half-term break. When I was at university, I could just about afford the train fare from London out to Box Hill in the North Downs. This affable fellow would have pleased Cameron McCairnkicker though, as he trousered some summit rock to take back to Pennsylvania.
I then found myself on The Calf in the Howgills. Crouching to note the bracket number, I was literally buzzed by scramblers - not the lycra-clad "precipitous rock" types, but youngsters on motorbikes and rikmayall- mobiles. Peace well and truly shattered, I pondered (lochered?) which Marilyn summit might be the first to see traffic lights. Not yet having visited the infamous Crowborough, I'm not sure if it hasn't happened already.
And as if this episode wasn't dangerous enough, observing the bracket on Mynydd Rhiw in the Lleyn was a doddle once I'd run the gauntlet of low-flying planes. It wasn't the RAF with their Top Gun antics, but locals with radio-controlled models whizzing around the ears. Maybe the BMC (or BMX? - Ed.) ought to introduce a special insurance policy aimed at trigbaggers. I've not yet been to Y Golfa or Mickle Fell, but I fear the worst.
Ducking and diving,
It isn't often I write to anyone's letters pages, but just occasionally something comes up that needs a response. In TAC31, Richard Hakes suggested that visiting stone circles was an interesting pastime that could augment the interest and enjoyment we get from the hills. I agree. In TAC33, Barbara Jones noted briefly a publication by Aubrey Burl that might be a useful guide to such a practice. No problems so far. However, Richard's further letter in TAC35 really does need an answer, if it isn't to mislead folk.
Richard responded to Barbara Jones' suggestion by making some comments about both Burl's work and the study of stone circles. For the record, Burl is a highly respected academic who is regarded by fellow professional archaeologists (even those who don't agree with his interpretations) as having contributed more to the study of pre-historic ritual monuments than almost anyone else. Hence, the recent pub-lication of a festschrift for him, with contributions by most of Europe's prominent prehistorians.
To turn to Richard Hakes' criticisms. These were at best misleading, and could give a false impression of both the study and of Burl's competence. Normally, I wouldn't worry, since Burl is better able than me to defend himself. However, it's unlikely that he'll see TAC, so some corrections need to be made.
Richard comments on Burl's grid references. While I haven't seen the actual book that Barbara Jones mentioned, I have others by Burl in front of me now. I see no evidence in them that Burl can't do grid references or measure distances. Richard also claims that Burl is "strangely selective ... leaving out many ... stone circles that were probably stone circles once." Well, certainly, there are occasional single stones which are all that remains of the original circle, but most standing stones were always just that: single stones, albeit linked to other monuments in the landscape. I'd be interested in the evidence for Richard's implied claim that this is the norm, not the exception.
And the study of stone circles is in its infancy, Richard? Who says? Granted, there is an awful lot still to know about these monuments and related monuments such as henges, but I think the study has at least finished primary school and might be just about to go to University. Over 900 stone circles are known in the British Isles, and they have been a topic of study since the origins of archaeological thought and speculation (since at least Stukeley's work on Avebury in the late 17th century). Richard follows with more scatter-gun criticisms, all unsubstantiated and generalised. They can't be covered here, but they are dubious to say the least. Coming from someone whose first letter implied that he had only recently become interested in the subject, they should be treated cautiously.
So, if you are interested, how do you find, visit, and understand these monuments? Well, fortunately, many are in the very areas that most of us go walking: throughout Scotland, the north and west of England, Wales and Ireland. A good starting point is Rings of Stone, an excellent guide to the best fifty sites to visit. It summarises the history and current thought on the monuments, and gives information, interpretation, and access arrangements for each. It's published by Yale University Press. The author is Aubrey Burl.
Richard Hakes longs for a "... mighty definitive historic text that hasn't risen to fame yet". Good news, Richard: there is such a text. Called The Stone Circles of the British Isles, it discusses circles by region and type, and includes a gazetteer of every known circle, with information on location, type, shape and architecture. For anyone deeply interested in taking their study further, it's the place to go. The author? Damn, it's Burl again. Sorry.
When I saw Question 9f of the TAC quiz, my thoughts turned immediately to the Dewey Decimal Classification system. But a moment's consideration meant that the sums did not add up: Cricket minus Chess plus Maps equals Hertfordshire (not Hillwalking), viz. 796.358 - 794.1 + 912 = 914.258.
At this point I had to assume that the link between Hertfordshire and hillwalking was another step in a warped TAC quiz clue, whose intricacies were beyond me. (Well, the booby-prize was a book on Herts walking - Ed.) So I was surprised to see the answer which, apart from simplifying the above numbers to the extreme (796 given for cricket is the overall number for all "Athletic and outdoor sports and games"), indicated that 914 = hill- walking. 914 is in fact the number for Great Britain, and the specific class number for hillwalking is 796.51. True, the scope note for 796.51 says, "Walkers' guides that give only route details are classed here. Guides that also give descriptions of things en route are classed in 914-919"; that is, with books about the geographical area they describe. While Hamish's Groats End Walk might be at 914, so would the
Reader's Digest Guide to Britain, whereas A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush would be at 915.81. There may be debate as to whether classification is an art or a science, but its flexibility has been stretched to the limits here.
My reputation has been impugned. Ronald Turnbull (TAC36, p16) alleges I am under the impression he has got something right. How many Windy Standard-sized windfarms can a Cruachan-sized pump storage facility look after? Turnbull (TAC33, p6) said forty. I agreed (TAC34, p20). But Turnbull was wrong. I was wrong to say he got it right. As Turnbull knows, I believe everybody is wrong about everything, that includes myself. Turnbull assumes the pump storage "sink" will need to cope with 50% of a windfarm's maximum generating capacity. This should be 100%. Turnbull also neglects consideration of the situation when the controller of the National Grid calls on the pump storage facility to do some generating of its own even when the wind is blowing; during this period the pump storage facility will not be able to sink any power from windfarms. Therefore, the Cruachan : Windy Standard ratio is less than twenty, not forty.
Turnbull also says the "real" cost of wind-generated electricity can be calculated to almost anything. Though it pains me greatly to do so, I agree. I am therefore baffled as to the relevance of the next paragraph, where he asserts that wind energy receives a subsidy of 4p per unit. One cost not paid for wind energy is the viability of planet earth.
Turnbull makes a tortuous analogy between decapitating cabinet ministers and siting windfarms on hills. The analogy fails to address several unwarranted assumptions; eg, all hillwalkers oppose windfarms; a hill on which a windfarm is sited "goes under". Turnbull himself is fed up with being deafened by the debate over windfarms. The conclusion is obvious: Turnbull should confine his attention to the problem of how to get rid of cabinet ministers.
I trust this restores my reputation.
Last time I wrote a letter like this (in TGO), it was completely misinterpreted by one of the TAC brethren. So let me be absolutely clear: I think lists of hills are great fun. I'm not at all bashful (nor boastful) about which lists I've completed, which I'm well through, and which I've barely made an impression on. I don't want to stop anyone climbing anything, whether on or off a list.
BUT, I can see no point at all in lists of people who've completed lists of hills. I don't want my name on any lists of completers, not because I'm worried about being labelled a bagger, but simply because think the whole notion of completer lists is silly. And if the game's silly, why should I feel pressured to play? (Are you? Surely any pressure here is entirely self- imposed - puzzled Ed.) The more of us who aren't "officially" recorded, the less accurate the lists become and, with any luck, one day they'll simply wither away. And if that means the peculiar idea of "hill-demography" withers away too, I won't be found weeping on the hillside.
I can see some historic interest in recording the first few people to complete a list, or who are closest to completing a list that's never been completed. After that, it's meaningless. Of the British and Irish hill lists with which I'm familiar, only Yeaman's and Dawson's are actually difficult to complete because of the number of hills included and the severity and inaccessibility of some of them. Other lists are fairly readily achievable given personal transport, a liberal use of spare time, and a top rope for the In Pinn and perhaps Pillar Rock. Completion is a personal achievement, not something that merits being a matter of public record.
David S Gordon
Ed. - It's unclear to what extent this is a particular response to recent stuff in TAC, or just a general complaint. As such, it's difficult to know how to respond, apart from stating obvious things like "each to their own", and making a few points-cum-disclaimers. Certainly at TAC Towers, whilst information is both sought and welcomed, I'd hope there's zero pressure put on anyone to become a name on a list. Yes, names tacked on information are of interest and serve to add a sense of completeness, but from my own point of view I'm chiefly interested in the basic data. Hence, perhaps, hill-demography: I see this as akin to a census, where the information is potentially useful, but where anonymity is no particular hindrance. There's surely value in trying to assess the extent to which the hills are being "used", given the explosion in busyness over the past twenty years, and the persistent skewing towards Munros.
I'm also worried there might be an unstated assumption here: that people want to be on a list for reasons of (admittedly localised) glory rather than of information. This may occasionally be the case - immodesty is inescapable in any people-list - but most folk merely seem to share a striving towards an approximation of completeness. After all, if someone is keen to complete a list of hills, they're quite likely to also be keen to see a fairly complete list of completionists - it's the same character-type, even if not applicable to David. And from a compiler/editor's point of view, it's like throwing a party: folk are invited anyway, but it's handy to have some kind of idea in advance as to who may or may not be around. Another factor, for me at least, is that whilst lists of hills are interesting, lists of people are, as Barry Davies once said in another context, very interesting. Too much has been written over the years about hills as purely hills - cold, clinical, impersonal stuff. For all its obsessions and pedantry, TAC has always been, and will hopefully always remain, a fanzine concerned not just with hills, but with people in the context of hills.
Paul Prescott is right about the rise of Scotland (TAC36, p5). Scotland was under the same ice cap as Northern Europe. The Åland Islands in the Baltic have been rising by about 50cm per century since the end of the last ice age - a bit faster than Scotland, but they never had a quasi-feudal land-owning class on their backs. You come across Stone Age ship barrows, once located near the shore, now hundreds of metres inland. There is also a former Viking harbour: a pond well inland. By the late Middle Ages, the harbour had moved to Sund Sound, 3km south. Sund can only be reached by rowboat now, and below Sund church the waters of the sound have parted in biblico-geological fashion, allowing a dry-footed crossing to the other shore (for map freaks: it's all on Peruskartta/Grundkarta 1021 10 Sund).
From the point of view of EU standards, the advantage of the post- glacial rise is that all Munros will eventually top 1000m. Action by Brussels bureaucrats like Monsieur Sentier (TAC28, p19) will not be required. Makers of various tables, on the other hand, will be kept in work for many millenniums.
I don't understand why the south sinks. Too many and sinful people?
Grant Hutchison (TAC36, p19) obviously doesn't have the Pathfinder of Crock - it's certainly trackless on the Hare Cairn side, but looks easy to get at from the NNW (from the map, anyway). Reminded me of fifty years ago trying to force a way down through the forestry coming off Ben Vane after a heavy shower; closely packed young trees then.
Re hills with an all-round 3000ft drop (p18), I've got the Lawers col listed as at NN292537, c300m or 301m, so agree that Ben Lawers just misses the 3000ft absolute drop. 31/2km E by S of Kings-house must be the one Ronald Turnbull mentions. Assuming that Ben More of Mull and Sgurr Alasdair were included (Eric Yeaman forgot the former some years ago), there are two Ben Mores and a Sgurr Mor in the top nine if Snowdon is included - Ben Lawers being number ten.
Re least distances between trigs, Greenham Common would be hard to beat. When I visited in March 1993, lying on its side, just five yards from trig S6936, was a second trig with both the flush bracket and the top fitting hacked off. I don't suppose this example really counts - cruise missiles felled the fallen one?
And Grant Hutchison's wee note about Crock: how about Drumcroy Hill, 512m, OS42, NN741629? At least Crock is clear of trees at the top, and is only defended by a mere half-km of forestry. Drumcroy is solid trees to the very top, and has almost 1km of forestry to struggle thro(')ugh!
Loch Ericht col (TAC36, p5): well, the sea shifts up and down, doesn't it? I see no problem with the concept of Mean Ericht Level. Similarly, I believe we may need Mean Oich Level for Carn Eige. The accumulated profits of TACs 0-36 could be dispensed (dispenced) on a suitable TAC plaque affixed to the dam wall. Meanwhile, those with a special interest in the Relativity of Macdui will go to Newtonmore on Datum Day and raise their mountain by a metre by flushing the public bogs two billion times very quickly.
Ed. - And so generate even more wind power. And oh, that old TAC0, what a one (none) that was. Good to see Bruckner (TAC19, p5) still getting the odd subliminal reference.
I'd like to put in my two-penn'orth in support of the revised definition of "Drop" in the TACit Tables, and wonder when this service will be expanded to the Scottish mountains (with perhaps the inclusion of the location of the col in question)? I would also contest that summits should then be ranked according to relative, not absolute, height. (Stuck one summer with an unwalkable wound and a house full of maps, I had begun the pursuit of this myself, and, whilst I was at it, setting so called "Significant Summits" a minimum relative height of 1000ft. This of course had nothing to do with there being so damn many Marilyns, and even less to do with eliminating the St Kilda sea-stacks.) This obvious advancement has many benefits ... no more will baggers be restricted to the 150m re-ascent criteria (who measures height in one-hundred-and-fifties of metres anyway?), but each will be enabled to choose their own minimum benchmark, be it:
Personally, being of the mathematical persuasion, I now go for Nevis's 1344m/e = 494.4m as a relative height for primary summits, and 1344/e2 = 181.9m for secondary summits of the British Isles, though I might well settle for Snowdon's 1038/e = 381.9m for the lowlands. Note also that Nevis's 1344m > 8848m/e2 = 1197.4m, and is thereby a secondary summit on the global scale by this reckoning. To bag all the summits in the world with a relativity of 8848m/e = 3255m would be a grand feat! Such a procedure might even bring reason to the bagging of small hills in the lower-lying areas of the country, eg if the most relative of your local range of hills has relativity of say, 120m, you might deem bagable every top in the range with a relativity of 120/e = 44.1m; or simply the twenty (or however many) most relative tops.
For those with a fetish for dividing things into political areas, one might also care to pursue the most relevant summit of every district, county, country.
There will also be the question of just how low one should begin walking for it to count as a valid bagging. Whilst one might claim the need only to clamber up the last 150m of Snowdon to bag it as a Marilyn, might one have to ascend all the last 1038m (if not necessarily from Kilsyth) to claim it outright?
Ed. - Brief responses: all future TACit Tables will record both absolute and relative drop data; this includes the revised editions of The Grahams and the New Donalds, and The Murdos, which may well appear later this year or early next, depending on how much time Blanco and I can find. Col grid refs would be hard to include in terms of space, and are notoriously difficult to pin down cartographically - but four- rather than six-figure refs might be viable at some stage. And when is an ascent not an ascent? ... well timed, since several folk have recently been discussing this, particularly in terms of the vexed question of what needs to be done between two "ascents" - go home, sleep, descend to sea level? Alun's "layered bagging" comment is precisely the idea being analysed at present - Blanco and I spent much of a Creag nam Mial day last December discussing it. I'd originally hoped to include a fair bit on this in TAC37, but the toad work has been squatting on my life, and it will now need to await either TAC38 or TAC39.
TAC 37 Index