TAC 40 Index
A couple of recent outings have set me wondering about visitors to summits who are not natives of the summit's country. Take the Ben in mid-June - admittedly on a day when most self-respecting Scots were tuning their larynxes for the important Norway game in the Coupe du Monde. There must have been two or three hundred on the hill that day, 80% of whom were non-UK Europeans. Big numbers of Dutch and Germans with their curious two T-shirt routines on the summit: off with the sweat, on with the dry. Who needs wicking?
Then, a couple of weeks later in the land of the Toblerone and the Cuckoo Clock, it was as if Mount Fuji had been relocated. On the trek up to the Hörnlihütte on the Matterhorn there must have been ten Japanese for one of every other nationality. They even influence the naming of locomotives on the local Brig-Visp-Zermatt railway. Those "spotted" included The Dom, Taschhorn, and Mount Fuji - with nary a Ben Cleuch in sight. Maybe if the funny-coloured railway is ever draped across the northern Gorms, it will have trains named after the Dutch and German high points. And how many Nepalese climb the big E, as a percentage of summiteers? Maybe someone in TACstatland can list the top ten hills with xenophilia. Perhaps that should read "zenofhillier".
Moving on to our canine friends, there is a history of famous hill types taking their dogs on the hill - Brown, Allen, and Perrin spring to mind. We've heard loads lately of the feats of human megabaggers, but what of the four-legged ones? Who/what is the champion bagger amongst them?
This thought occurred when I was impressed to see a large dog scampering off the summit of the Breithorn, without a care whilst its human companions, suitably roped and cramponed, proceeded with caution. Was the dog a "4000er" bagger? Is there a dog with a set of Munros, and did s/he climb the In Pinn free? (Both of Hamish Brown's dogs went round the Munros, albeit rucksacked up the Pinn. On 6/5/90 I chatted on Carn Bhinnein with a woman whose dog had been round all Munros bar the Cuillin, where its paws tended to wear through. Back to Brown, there's a dog-shoved-up-a-gully story in his Mountain Walk. Overall, though, I'm still an adherent of dog-use as proposed back in TAC8, p12. - Ed.)
Maybe these two themes could be combined - dogs climbing foreign hills - though I fear the quarantine laws conspire against this.
Gary Westwood, Sheffield
I would like to add two comments to Peter Drummond, re his interesting note on a Bumpiness Index (TAC39, p15).
I have a copy of an award winning paper, where a member of the Rucksack Club, Ken Pearson, gave a lecture to the Instutite of Mechanical Engineers on the late 1950s on the subject of rolling completely flat sheet steel. He came up with a method of quantifying the "lack of flatness" and invented a unit, the "Mon", inspired by the same famous lady as gave her name to Alan Dawson's infamous collection of hills.
While attempting to list and visit all points in England and Wales with an individual 600 metre contour (some 994 points) I came across grid square SH8922 on OS125. This is the peaty top of Graig Ty-nant, 3km west of the Aran ridge. Eight 610m contour rings are drawn on the 2cm map; however they represent a challenge, as they turn out to be near vertical 4-5m high walls guarding substantial peat mesas.
Gordon Adshead, Wilmslow
There are 22 tops in NN0427 on OS50 overlooking the Pass of Brander. Top that...
Jon Metcalf, Inverurie
Dare we accuse cartographically pedantic TAC of a silly mistake? More tops than in square NM617013? We've got more than eleven bumps in our garden - they're called molehills!
Anyway, couldn't resist the challenge to find a 1km square to beat Knapdale. Not difficult! Our first thought was OS77 where we have been recently. The wild area east of Merrick disappointed despite a re- collection of millions of hummocks. They must just not be high enough to show on the map. However, NX6773, in the foothills of the notorious Mochrum Fell, has 19 tops. Once again this was easily beaten in the Western Isles. NB4016 on OS14 has 24 tops (and nine lochans). Can anyone beat that?
Ann and Rowland Bowker, Portinscale
Interesting that the word "clapotis" turned up in TAC39. It would have been a new word on us but we'd heard it for the first time the previous evening on Wilderness Walks (the Reay Forest one). As for peaky squares, NN4833 on OS51 has 13 entirely in that square, NO0056 (on OS52) has 12, whilst NO0351 has 11 entirely in and one shared. A 1km square centred on NO039511 would encompass something like 18 tops.
Stuart Benn / Barbara Brodie
Ed. - Rarely has there been such a response as to Pete Drummond's article. Lewis-based Tony Payne repeated the Bowkers' suggestion of NB4016 ("a useful opening bid"), and so, curiously, the three top Marilyn-baggers currently share top spot (height). More bumps in TAC41.
Following on from Grant Hutchison's piece on Norway and the curvature of the Earth (TAC39, pp4-5), where is the first place in Scotland that will see the sun rise in the Millennium? Is it Peterhead, or somewhere like Mormond Hill? Worldwide, does the day start at Wallis Island in the Pacific, or on top of the rather higher Big Diomede Island in the Bering Strait?
Phil Harmston, Carmunnock
What is this fascination so many Scottish / Scotland-based baggers have
with road maps? (They profit the soul - Ed.) I have no idea, but a possible explanation to the OS189 mystery (TAC39, p14) has for many months been
evident on the OS website, attached to Explorer 138, Dover, Folkestone, and Hythe: "Please note that, owing to a legal dispute, this map has temporarily
been withdrawn from sale."
Alun-Peter Fisher, Egham
My friend and I climbed one of the "new Munros", Spidean Coire nan Clach, on 7th July this year. This was not shown clearly on OS19 or OS25, but is shown on the Torridon Outdoor Leisure Sheet.
On checking Munro's Tables, the height of Spidean is given as 993m, not the 972m trig as Cameron McNeish states in his new updated Almanac and Munros books. (To be fair, both books do imply that the trig is the summit, but The Munros now gives 993m, whereas the Almanac still has 972m; the new OS25 shows the 993m point - Ed.) I wrote to the "Wilderness Walker" in the TGO. Needless to say, my letter did not get a reply thanking me for pointing out his error. Possibly the advert for the definitive Munros Almanac being on the page preceding the letters section meant that the chances of my letter being published were less than zero.
I hope that you will point out this to your readers. It would be a great pity for anyone to miss this excellent rocky top a short distance away from the trig point. Now is the time for the "Wilderness Walker" to come clean.
Eddie Meek, Glasgow
I was pleased to see in TAC39 (p8) that Loch Eil Estate used helpful signs on the hill this season advising hillwalkers of their stalking plans. At Invercauld, we have been improving our communication system with walkers, firstly with site and date-specific notices, as shown below. The keeper only erects the notice on a specific route when he is stalking in that area and writes the date on, so that the visitor knows that the stalking party is in front of him. We also have a Hillphone in the Cairnwell area to provide an accurate daily message detailing stalking plans for the day, so that the walker can make his plans. All walkers that we have met who have used the service were encourag-ing with their comments.
At Invercauld we welcome responsible walkers and cyclists. If any readers have comments on our signs, or on other access related matters, I would be delighted to hear from them. Elsewhere, the "Lairds in Cagoules" (Sunday Times, 1/11/98) who own Mar Lodge have really upset the locals with their anti- bicycling notices! I really enjoyed the cover of TAC36 which we have adopted as our emblem.
J S Blackett, Factor, Invercauld Estates
(TAC36 shirts now available - see p13 - Ed. )
Coronation Street (TAC39, p14). For many years, dating back to the sixties, my Black Country relatives have affectionately called the series "Corra", which is how it is pronounced. No-one says "Corrie-nation", so I claim logic on my relatives' side against the tabloids.
Loch Ericht (TAC39, p18). We do have old maps of all lines in the Railtrack archives, and I'll try and have a look at the one for the Dalwhinnie area. But having been an underfunded nationalised industry for so long, the technology is very low, ie maps in cabinets in Glasgow rather than anything on-line. Nor am I very hopeful that contour lines will be shown, as the line's construction predates, I believe, the OS's arrival in the area. But we'll see. Meanwhile, my own opinion is that the natural col lies under the surface of the loch very close to its NE end. I base this on two observations: that there would be no point in damming the NE end were this not so; and that I think I saw it exposed in the summer of 1996 when I cycled to Culra.
Alan Blanco argues in TAC37 (pp14-15) that "If it looks like a hill, and it feels like a hill, then it's a hill." Fair enough. It would be absurd to require a post-superquarry Roineabhal to be bagged by jumping a few hundred feet in the air. Once it's gone, it's gone. But not necessarily so for lochs, and particularly not for Loch Ericht! To quote Alan: "As far as I'm concerned, the same argument applies as to hills. In this case the natural col has gone, flooded out. It now looks like a loch, it's big and wet and deep, so it's a loch. (The mean water level is 359m, so the absolute drop from Macdui is 950m.)"
There are at least two errors of logic in this. Firstly, the mean water level. Inland lochs, particularly doubly dammed ones, do not vary in level like sea lochs. Sea lochs vary with the tide, driven by astronomical forces. The level can be predicted accurately in advance, and the mean level calculated by simple integration (or by averaging high and low tides, which is near enough). Not so inland lochs. The future levels of even undammed lochs are impossible to predict, since they are a function of the chaotic processes which underlie the weather. Dammed lochs have the added complication of human intervention through operation of the dam(s). The future mean level is unknowable. The past mean level over a defined historic period is knowable in principle, but I'm dammed (sorry!) sure no-one has measured it. So what is the "mean level" to which Alan refers? It is, presumably, taken from the map, and is, in fact, the planned operational or maximum level. Rather a different thing!
Secondly, the natural col hasn't "gone, flooded out". It is merely (sometimes) submerged. Not only would demolition of the dam automatically restore it, nature will often do the job for us in times of low rainfall. The summer of 1996 was one such time, when I saw the col restored. There have probably been similar occasions in both 1997 and 1998, judging by the lowish reservoirs I've seen in other parts of Scotland.
So we are left with the uncomfortable (but interesting) fact that the surface of Loch Ericht varies quite a lot, in a way inherently unpredictable. It follows that the drop from Ben Macdui varies too, and is not a nice neat 950m as claimed.
Which all goes to show that Bruce Smith was more right than perhaps he thought when he wrote in TAC39 that "a relative hill is a temporal concept." It's simply that the relevant time range isn't a month to a millennium, it's day to day (or less) depending on the weather.
All the best,
Paul Prescott, Kilmahog
I saw a guy on TV recently, demonstrating the use of a CD as a signalling device for hillwalkers. You turn it towards the sun, sight through the centre hole, and thus attract attention.
What a wonderful idea! What a novel use for the SMC's new CD-ROM! No walker should be without one! Of course, I shan't need one; I find that my make-up mirror is quite adequate as it has a higher reflectivity factor.
TAC 40 Index