The Angry Corrie 41: Apr-May 1999

TAC 41 Index

Stob Press

Lest people think that trig point bagging started as a consequence of TAC's persistent interest in the subject, read this, from pp20-21 of the 1990/1 Journal of the Midland Association of Mountaineers:

"Cheviot in Northumberland is a thoroughly muddy, boggy mountain situated in rolling country. A friend of ours found a girl in tears near the top - she collected trig point numbers and was afraid of the Cheviot bog around the summit - his binoculars solved the problem."

Barbara Jones, was that you up there, quaking in the mire all those years ago? (The quote is taken from "Hunting Country Tops", by Peter and Muriel Wild. Despite the title, with its fine typo, this is about collecting County Tops.)

TAC is always game for arcane conspiracy theories concerning the SMC, so it was interesting to note a passage from Simon Singh's best-selling number theory book Fermat's Last Theorem. On pp62-63 Singh explains the concept of "friendly numbers", pairs of integers where the divisors of one sum to the other, and vice versa. These are a rare breed, eg the second-lowest pair (discovered by Fermat himself) is 17296 and 18416, whilst the third pair (found, somehow, by Descartes) is 9363584 and 9437056. But the first pair, unearthed by the Pythagoreans, is 220 and 284. The maths works: the divisors of 220 are 1+2+4+5+10+11+20+22+44+55+110=284, whilst the divisors of 284 are 1+2+4+71+142=220. Singh goes on to argue that these numbers have been used throughout history as symbolic of friendliness, eg Jacob gave Esau 220 goats (as you do). And who can dispute that the most recent use of the idea comes in Munro's Tables? The 1997 Bearhop changes increased the number of Munros to 284, whilst the current SMC figure for Corbetts is 220. But of course the real figure for Corbetts, as all TAC readers know, is 219, since the twin summits of Sgurr a'Bhac Chaolais and Buidhe Bheinn are counted as separate Corbetts by the SMC when they should really only constitute one in terms of Corbett's stated criteria. Quite why the SMC chose to do this had seemed unclear, but now the reason is plain. They're just being friendly.

Now that Trail magazine appears to have adapted TAC's recent interest in matters eerie and spooky, it's time to push the envelope a little further, as ever. Tales of an bilingual talking ghost next time, but for now there's space merely to record that if you want to locate Everest in The Times Atlas of the World, Comprehensive Edition (1994), you'll find it on Plate 30 ... in grid square K2.

And whilst on the subject of pushing the envelope, Graham Illing reports having recently dived in the Red Sea to a depth of 38.3m. And come April he's off to Cho Oyu where he hopes to stretch his overall depth/height spread to an impressive 8191.3m

Graham Benny has more information on the Vrackie goats (TACs passim) which shoves the earliest known date back considerably. He writes: "I remember seeing a couple of goats, including a white one, away over on the steep slope below the summit on my first visit. This was on 27/11/88, and I came close enough to be sure they were not sheep. (That's more information than we need to know - Ed.) That they appeared not to resent or be alarmed by our presence might indicate that they were recently liberated from a domestic herd. I'm not sure if this is a valid assumption however, since the attitudes of feral goats to humans seem to vary. The Galloway ones used to be very shy until they discovered easy food at the tourist car parks, even to the extent of sticking their horny heads in car windows in search of sandwiches. In contrast the Wester Ross ones are no more approachable than normal deer."

Roger Richard has also been taking an interest in sheep: "While reading the recent TAC including Murdo with his sheep (which one would that be? - Ed.), I was reminded of a passage in Seven Years in Tibet, by Heinrich Harrer: "Every boatman was followed by a sheep with a pack on its back. The sheep, as well-trained as a dog, needed no lead and when its master took to the water again it would jump into the boat by itself."

From horny-headed to Hörnli-headed. Following Ronald Turnbull's mini-listing of Matterhorns in TAC40, the damn things have started cropping up every- where. Colin Adams of Newport Pagnell kindly sent in a copy of his The Mountain Walker's Guide to Wales (Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, 1990 but due to be revised later this year), and this gives Cribyn, in the Brecon Beacons, as another Welsh Matterhorn to go with Cnicht. And a century earlier, the first volume of the Scottish Mountaineering Club Journal includes references to Ben Stack as "a mountain which when seen from the west resembles on a small scale the Matterhorn" (p78), while Beinn Dubhchraig (!), "bore quite a strong resemblance to the Matterhorn" (p247). Then came the startling discovery of a Matterhorn bigger than the Matterhorn itself. Chris Bonington's 1982 book Kongur, China's Elusive Summit, pp45-46, describes the peak that Bonington labels the Gez Matterhorn: "...if you allowed your eyes to escape the starkness of the valley bottom, beyond and above soared a snow peak unlike any we had seen from a distance. This was a fairytale peak, a veritable Matterhorn, slender, shapely and pointed, with far-flung ridges reaching up into the skies ... It had no name, was probably only around 5,750 metres in height, but higher peaks behind it were hidden and it dominated the valley."

TAC 41 Index