The Angry Corrie 38: Aug-Sep 98

TAC 38 Index

hill informed

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Dear TAC,

During my recently completed round of the Corbetts, I visited both summits given for Buidhe Bheinn near Loch Hourn (High magazine: OS33, NG963090; 1997 revision of Munro's Tables: OS33, NG956087). This required two visits, and both times I have been unlucky with the weather. The first visit, from the north, also included Sgurr a' Bhac Chaolais, and required wading at waist depth the Allt Mhalagain; the second visit, from the south, required wading at knee depth the Allt Coire Sgoireadail. In both cases, I had strolled over these burns without any difficulty earlier in the day on the way to the summit. From a safety point of view it may be worth commenting on this rapid water level change in any future guidebooks. I look forward to returning to Buidhe Bheinn on a good day, as it must offer a fine view.

Yours, still drying out,

Graham Illing

Ed. - Good point: this whole area is notoriously fiddly and contorted, with some reasonable paths, but also awkward steepsided glens and sudden ambushes by rainstorms. Neither are on-the-ground problems helped by the ongoing summit confusion, which has been mentioned several times before in TAC and elsewhere. To reiterate, the problem is twofold: Buidhe Bheinn / Sgurr a' Bhac Chaolais are merely twin summits of a single Corbett, and not two separate Corbetts as suggested by the recent edition of Munro's Tables. There is not 500ft of drop between them. But the OS also muddy things on Buidhe Bheinn, because the NG963090 summit (885m) is the true one, having been found in 1996 by Charles Everett who mentioned it in High, as Graham notes, and also in TAC27, p15. The NG956087 summit is a 879m (really 880m) spot height on OS33, ie not the highest point of Buidhe Bheinn. Yet this grid ref is incorrectly given in Munro's Tables alongside the 885m height. The whole thing is in danger of becoming a complete mess - with the emphasis on "danger", as Graham points out.

Dear TAC,

With regard to the request, in TAC37, for information concerning weird and unusual experiences in the hills, I have nothing personal to report, but would like to draw the attention of your readers to a strange and eerie hill photograph. This occurs on p238 of Andrew Dempster's book The Grahams, where an elderly lady is to be seen sitting at the "marvellous" summit of Ben Aslak on Skye. Nothing untoward about that, she seems a perfectly ordinary lady, possibly even an elderly relative of Mr Dempster. But she may, in fact, be extraordinary: a medium or even a "cosmic channel". Look closely at the picture and you will see that the lady has, in front of her right leg, what appears for all the world to be a levitating pizza. (A mystic pizza! - Ed.) Not only that, but she is performing a weird Paul Daniels-esque hand dance above the pizza, such that it floats at her command not unlike the way in which a cobra dances to the guiles of an Indian snake charmer. Strange.

Even to the sceptical mind, it is difficult to offer an alternative, non- occult explanation here. Can readers shed any further light, or perhaps offer similar unsettling tales from other Grahams, Corbetts, or indeed Munros? Does Ben Aslak perhaps lie on a ley-line?


Stephen Bricklow

Dear TAC,

Hamish Brown, in TGO August, quotes an anonymous new owner of Glen Dessarry Estate as promising "a progressive attitude towards access and [the Estate] will welcome walkers". Things have certainly changed. In the good old days of Herr Schmitt (departed "sans regret": whose regret?), even the SMC dared to suggest taking a mountain bike along the forest road south of the River Dessarry. But lo and behold, on 30/4/98, I came across a new gate with a new sign stating (after the welcoming phrases): "No cars and mountain bikes past this point". Now that's progressive indeed.

To make matters slightly complicated, shortly after this gate you find three different estates. Do they all ban bicycles? Moreover, a few through-routes are rights-of-way, and the position of a bicycle on a right-of-way is "not clear". Or does Scots Law make a difference between a push- bike and a mountain bike?

The estate might argue that the knobbly tyres of a mountain bike could do untold damage to the fragile paths further on in Glen Dessarry. They might be right. But when I took my bicycle anyway (having decided on the spot that it could pose as a hybrid bike because it had a rear pannier fitted), I noticed, past A'Chuil, oozing black tyretracks from a quad-bike, apparently used for feeding the deer of the estate. The estate has chosen a marvellous feeding spot: in full view of upper Glen Dessarry! Modern deer management: feed 'em in winter, shoot 'em in autumn!

And finally: could we please have an exact definition of what constitutes a mountain bike? You see, I climbed Sgurr na h-Aide that day, but I still have to climb Carn Mor, and it could be useful to know whether I should take my city bike, my racing bike, my recumbent bike, or a slightly modified mountain bike.


Johan de Jong
The Netherlands

PS - Cona Glen Estate makes it very clear: "No cycles of any kind". What about a pony and trap?

Dear TAC,

Richard Webb's report (TAC37, p7) of a dearth of Keep Out notices on Swinside should not be greeted with too much euphoria. A cycle ride round the hill this afternoon revealed that two of the five gates still have a Private sign in situ. The others are padlocked or securely bound with wire. Of course they can be climbed, and the fence on the east side is in such poor condition that it can be penetrated almost anywhere. There has been much felling on the hill recently, and the summit can now be reached without tree-bashing and with little need to wallow through tick-infested bracken. If much more clearance takes place, non-Marilyn-baggers may start looking at this hill and wanting to climb it.

We have accumulated a fair amount of evidence of an historic tradition of access. A 1902 guidebook describes the ascent as a delightful stroll from Keswick. An old map, reproduced in a recent book, shows Swinside summit as one of the seven "stations" which Victorian tourists would visit to admire the view; and a very fine view it is. However, we have no particular desire to organise a campaign for access. It is pleasant to have one Lakeland fell which does not have a beaten path to the top.


Ann and Rowland Bowker

Dear TAC,

In his cutting response to my TAC35 note about Milk Hill et al, Alan Blanco (TAC37, p15) let slip that Nine Barrow Down (or Godlingstone Hill) in Dorset, 199m, might well qualify as a Marilyn. I recently visited the hill and its col which is at Harman's Cross Station on the Swanage Railway. There is indeed a cutting there, with a depth of six or seven metres. In my view, the pre-railway col had a height of 53m, but the current col is 47m; and, on Alan's basis - which I readily accept as the "official" one - Nine Barrow Down should be promoted. (I do not think that these estimated heights are likely to be more than a metre or so away from the true values.)

While in the region, I also visited Swyre Head (OS195 at SY933785), a SubMarilyn listed as 203m high with a drop of 145m. The map height is, I am sure, that at the trig point. But 100 metres to the south (934784) there is a tumulus whose base is higher than "ground level height at the pillar", and which is at least 4m high. It is quite possible that the summit of Swyre Head is 208m, which would elevate this hill, too, to full Marilyn status.

I do not yet think that the evidence is sufficiently strong to justify the formal promotion of Swyre Head. Further investigation is clearly needed. But any aspiring Marilynist who visits Nine Barrow Down would be well advised to go to Swyre Head (it's a fine walk and viewpoint) too - just in case!


David Purchase
Stoke Bishop

Dear TAC,

I would take issue with Alan Blanco and his contesting (TAC37, p14) that the opposite of a mast on a hill top is a mineshaft at a col. Not so, the opposite would surely be a mineshaft in a depression. A col, being a saddle point, is betwixt and between, with its associate conditions being, say, a dam filling it in (or causing it to be submerged), or a cutting gouging it out. Whilst one can perhaps (or perhaps not) dismiss a bridge, just as one would dismiss a tunnel, as affecting the elevation of a col, one can hardly deny the very solid addition of a dam or a landfill, nor the very apparent carving out of a quarry or road.

Now, with regard to Loch Ericht as a case in point of a submerged former col, there is surely no need to quibble over "mean loch level". Once one has recognised the fact that the old col is no longer viable (and let's face it, a reservoir is a fairly drastic and presumably long-term alteration), the new col must be one of the dam heads (not counting the seasonal flooding-over of some reservoirs). This runs true for any col lost to damnation.

As it happens, this former col has barely been lost. Note from Landranger 42 (always sounds like a member of a covert outdoors police force to me) that a 360m contour line runs merrily either side of Loch Ericht. At the loch's northern end, the 350m contour doesn't even come close, it doubles back on the northern side of Dalwhinnie, just reaching NN639849 -ie, the now submerged col must have been between 350m and 360m, perhaps a mere couple of metres below the current dam wall, also between 350m and 360m.

Could in fact the old col have been at this location too?


Alun-Peter Fisher

Dear TAC,

Your idea for a list of the most popular first Munros (TAC37, p12) sounds tick-tastic! As part of my PE/maths degree at Birmingham Uni, I had the option to do mountaineering (tough choice, eh?), and so spent a week in Glen Muick. Broad Cairn became my first Munro, although I had no idea what one was. Oh to be innocent once more!

However, I think a more interesting "start list" would be for people's first Marilyn. Not only would this spread the load a bit, but it also gives me a golden cagoule of an opportunity to mention ... Butser Hill. Yes siree, my first Marilyn (again done in sweet innocence) was the towering emerald of the South Downs, Hampshire's finest peak, and a great viewpoint for the Isle of Wight and all lands furth of Petersfield. So bonnie is it that you can almost pretend that the huge radio tower on the top is some ancient cairn. Yet what mention does this noble tick get in TAC? None! Even the report of a "Bagging ship" in Portsmouth Harbour (TAC33, p12) refers to nearby Chanctonbury Hill and Brighstone Down, even though beautiful Butser is much closer to Pompey. What is this - a conspiracy or a genuine oversight? I think we should be told!


Mike Jacobs

Ed. - Ah, but ... Butser appears in glorious Technicolor (well, yellow) in the back-cover blurb for Blanco's English Marilyns TACit Table, one of only twelve summits (out of 178) so honoured. Thanks to the twelve or more readers who have thus far told of their first Munros - more detail on this next issue, along with the next instalment of error-corrections for Munro's Tables.

Dear TAC,

I recently revisited Ben Lomond after an absence of nearly thirty years. It was a fine day and the path was teeming with people. I took advantage of the crowds to conduct a little survey. 80% of the females who were accompanied by males were not carrying a pack of any sort.

What could this mean? That chivalry is not yet dead? That Scottish male hillgoers have unfulfilled ambitions to be Sherpas? That the feminists have finally found a use for us?

Perhaps your readers can provide an explanation.


Andrew Fraser

Dear Sir,

May I take this opportunity of expressing my thanks to Messrs Harmston, Benn, and Tyler (TAC37, p16), for their answers to my question about salinity? Their lucid explanations have been most helpful to my understanding. I should have realised that it's a matter of different densities, but the simple truth is that I didn't think about that because I didn't pay attention at school. It's a bit like hearing the answers on a quiz show: we're all brilliant then, aren't we?

I must take issue with "Stefan Akkak" over his boorish onslaught on your august organ. It is most unfair of him to attack you in this way. It is downright foolhardy of him to attack me, because I know who he really is and where he lives. On Yes. He shows his ignorance by use of the phrase "Celtic fringes". You, Sir, are well aware that any fringe material I may have had has long since gone to the great hairbrush in the sky.

It is no good him seeking to hide behind a pseudonym, because he has been unmasked. I would not normally stoop to name him, but I owe it to the world to do so. He is none other than that Alan Partridge, and if he ever dares step outside Norwich, he'll get it. And all the Nikwax in the world won't make it less painful.

Yours aye,

Mick Furey

PS - Next question: is there any way of calculating the distance of a bank of cumulus cloud? I have a formula (d = 11/2h, where d is miles, h is feet) for calculating the distance to the horizon from any point above sea level. Simple trig ought to work for cloud, if the angle can be measured. How to combine the two is the problem. Seems a lot more interesting than contour rings on saddles (won't use that damnable French word "col").

Ed. - If Alan Blanco went halfway along, say, the Beinn a'Chaorainn ridge in search of a missing contour ring, and then retreated, he would be Alan Partridge.

Dear Editor,

I am writing on behalf of the KWOOL (Keep Walkers Off Our Land) Campaign. We were delighted to see the piece by Hugh Tooby in your magazine (TAC37, p9), which usually promotes very stupid ideas about unrestricted access to private land. We earnestly hope that your readers will take note of Mr Tooby's wise words. Much of our trouble is caused by arrogant walkers who feel that they have a right to climb a hill just because it appears in some silly list. This, as Mr Tooby points out, leads to congestion, erosion, and access battles. Let us hope that walkers will choose the path of freedom and select routes in those few areas where they will cause no problems to landowners. Preferably they should restrict their walking to land belonging to the National Trust or to the Forestry Commission who inexplicably welcome walkers. We do hope that you will publish many more such sensible articles.

Yours etc,

Sir J Arthur Toadhole

TAC 38 Index