The Angry Corrie 42: Jul-Aug 1999

TAC 42 Index

Meall Beag mailbag

Dear TAC,

I have seen the letter re the Lady Di scrawl in the bronze on top of the Radnor Forest (see TAC41, p17). I cannot be sure of this, memory being what it is, but I am sure it pre-dates September 1997, which makes it even more unpleasant. Still it could have been worse, like painted on a dam in the Black Mountains.

There is something very strange on top of Beinn Tart a'Mhill, near the new mast. There is a fenced grave, the stone now barely legible, but the surname is clear: "____ Dawson". So there is a Dawson buried on top of a Marilyn - well, only 100 metres from the trig.

It turns out that it was Rod Dawson, a farmer and conservationist on Islay. He was in at the start of the Islay Wildlife Trust but sadly died very young, aged around 31. It seems fitting that he is buried on his highest summit. (The Rinns consider themselves apart from the rest of the island and are geologically very bizarre.)

I have only found one hilltop grave (modern era, not tumuli, oo-er) and its occupant is a Dawson. Weird.


Richard Webb


Alan Blanco replies:

Be afraid Richard Webb, be very afraid. You have stumbled upon further evidence of matters which some would rather remain buried. I am only prepared to tell you some of what I know.

Rod Dawson is a distant relative who met a premature death while researching the early history of hill bagging. Just as anthropologists now believe that the whole human race is descended from one African woman about five millions years old ("Eve"), so Rod Dawson believed that all baggers are a distinct subspecies, descended from a common ancestor ("Marilyn") about 2500 years ago. This controversial theory argues that Marilyn bagging predates Munro bagging by 2400 years and should therefore be regarded as the one true faith. It is not clear exactly what happened to Dawson, but as a heretic who challenged the established order, he knew his life was in danger.

He had uncovered evidence to show that Marilyn bagging was first brought to Scotland by Lana Colban, who landed on the island of Iona in the year 449 AD and was the first person to climb a Scottish hill - the evocatively named "Dun 1" on Iona. It is easy to laugh now at the early believers, but it seems they genuinely thought 100 metres was enough for a proper hill. Over the past 1551 years the faith has been suppressed and forgotten but has remained part of the collective unconscious. The past ten years have seen some reawakening, as those genetically disposed to bagging discover their true identity, but this process has only just begun.

Much knowledge has been lost over the years and is slowly being rediscovered. For example, it is believed that anagrams and puns formed an important part of the early rituals, a tradition which continues to this day. The significance of the grave being on Beinn Tart a'Mhill is that this an anagram of "Inter AB in Hall/Mt", which is one of many prophecies to be found in the names of Marilyns.

Baggers who wish to research further anagrams should be aware of the fundamentalist wings of other faiths (notably Munroism and Nuttallism) before making any prominent announcements. You have been andrew.

Dear Sir,

Upon reading the latest issue of TAC, I was startled to learn that the SMC's dastardly scheme has at last been rumbled (TAC41, p14). Yes, the total number of Munros has been carefully manipulated to ensure that friendly number status was achieved with the Corbett tally. I clearly failed to take cognisance of the number of pure mathematicians who might pore over these matters. With this level of intellectual horsepower on the case, I doubt if it will be much longer before the truth comes out surrounding the changes made to the Donalds.


Derek Bearhop


"Steam-driven precision altimeter" owner

PS - Mystified by your continuing failure to grasp the concept of summits being of equal height; much easier to accept than "half-hills".

PPS - Perturbed further by the rumour that TAC is compiling a list of Corbetteers - a sure-fire way to encourage the myopes. Don't compound your misjudgement with the Donalds; leave the hills for those who want to be there, not in a list.

Ed. - Strange - presumably this is a different Derek Bearhop from Derek Bearhop Munroist 259 who edits Munro's Tables and publishes a list of Munroists.

Corbett booklet, with Corbetteer info, now available - see page 14.

Dear TAC,

Marilyns by train. Which station can be used to climb the largest number of Marilyns? First and second places are easy to guess: Tyndrum Upper and Lower. But which one is third? And which Marilyn is closest to a railway line? And which Munro?


John Burnett


Dear TAC,

Re the TAC40-41 correspondence on gowl (as in Craig of Gowal etc). Hillwalkers in southern Scotland will know of the name Windy Gowl - indeed there are three, one near Carlops on the edge of the Pentlands, one near the border in Liddesdale, and one between the two peaks of Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh. The one I know best is the first, a narrow flat-bottomed glacial meltwater channel with odd little knolls in the middle of it. My Compact Scots National Dictionary says that amongst gowl's meanings is "a deep hollow between hills". This may come from another meaning of gowl as a noun given as "the throat, jaws", or from the meaning "any of the natural clefts of the body: the fork, perineal region of man or animal" (a meaning clearly derived from Gaelic gobhal, forked, as in Beinn Ghobhlach near Ullapool), and a meaning which can also include the female pudenda.

According to the CSND, the verb to gowl can mean to howl or to scowl - bit of rhyming there! - and the howl can refer to the wind's noise. These meanings can become nouns too, so the Windy Gowl could mean the windy howling wind. More likely it is the windy cleft or fork. Not much sexual innuendo there. However my article in the Scottish Mountaineering Club Journal 1997, p276, gives more examples of testicles and penises in mountain names of Iceland and Ireland. I also understand that Irish placename Ballypitmave literally means the place/farm at Maeve's pudenda, and there are English potholes called Wife's Hole.

David Craig's Landmarks tells of Californian hills with Hopi names translating as buttocks and testicles. Earthy lot, these peasant peoples.


Peter Drummond


Dear TAC,

The matter of "Gowl/Gabhal" set me wondering about Coire Gabhail in Glen Coe. I've seen that translated as "capture/seizure", but since most old Gaelic placenames are usually physical descriptions, could it really mean "the other thing"? I can't vouch for the Gaelic but gabhail is the plural of the Irish gabhal, which means you-know-what. It certainly fits the corrie as a topographical reference. Or is it just another typographical error by the OS?


Mick Furey


Dear TAC,

I was shocked by the letter (TAC40, p18) from Gary Westwood in which he referred to the "funny-coloured railway" to Zermatt. Quite apart from the fact that I remember the colour as postmanpat red, the railway is part adhesion and part rack.

There can be no argument about this; it is not a matter of opinion. On the contrary, it is a matter of a pinion.

Yours faithfully,

Barry Winston


Dear TAC,

Ken Crocket (TAC41, p7) felt I was "slightly unfair" when I flagged up a problem with video crashes in my review of the SMC's Munros CD- ROM (TAC40, p6), and he asked me to try reinstalling a couple of times and then to report back.

Well, Ken was pretty busy when he was fielding my beta-test and review comments, so he can be forgiven for forgetting the multiple reinstallations I carried out (both with the beta and with the reviewer's copy), in an effort to track down the source of the video crashes for him. I also tried reinstallation under various screen settings and video drivers, but without success. This was all done off my own helpful bat, in the absence of any suggestions from the software studio. But I did spot that the problem lay with QuickTime, and took care to point that out in the review. In fact, I fed back immediately to Ken and his programmers, in the hope that a quick fix might be found before TAC went to press. (Only fair, I thought.)

Ken also seems to be unaware that Perkin Warbeck was experiencing video crashes identical to mine. Again, he can be forgiven - while Warb did mention recurrent crashes in his review (TAC40, p8), he didn't specifically state that they were video-related.

So I'm sorry Ken thinks I was unfair. But I had a serious problem I couldn't fix, the software house couldn't fix, and which was shared by my co-reviewer - I'd have been doing a pretty poor job if I hadn't mentioned it.


Grant Hutchison


Dear TAC,

Last week I was walking on the ridge which runs from the Spittal of Glenshee to Glas Maol when my eye was caught by a bulldozed track on the other side of the glen, snaking up the hillside from the shooting lodge at Rhiedorrach, along the line of the footpath shown on OS43. The track appears to have been made recently as there are still piles of loose earth on either side and I cannot remember it having been there when I visited this area in previous years. The ugly scar on the hillside is visible for miles.

Subsequently I contacted Perth and Kinross Council to ask if planning permission existed for the construction of this road. I was told that as the road does not lie inside a designated National Scenic Area under the General Permitted Development Order of 1992 (Class 18), no planning permission is required. There is not even an obligation for the landowner to inform the council of their intentions, provided the road is for "agricultural purposes". Apparently roads built for stalking are included in this definition.

It astounds me that, even at this late date, over most of the land area of the Highlands a landowner may perfectly legally bulldoze a road anywhere they wish. Planning law is woefully inadequate as it stands; anyone who cares about Scottish upland scenery must campaign for such indiscriminate road building to be outlawed. It is to be hoped that the new Scottish Parliament, whose responsibility this now is, will take up the challenge.

Incidentally, the landowner in this case (according to Andy Wightman's Who Owns Scotland?) is Invercauld Estates.

Yours sincerely,

David Squires

Chipping Norton

Ed. - This particular loophole often has a load of 4x4s driven through it. At the west end of Alva there is a hellish monstrosity of a metal barn, built some years ago. This apparently sneaked in on the grounds of "agricultural purposes", yet is large enough to house a couple of stealth bombers and a rave simultaneously. In two years of living in the village I have yet to see a single tractor or cow anywhere near the place.

Dear TAC,

Weird hill experiences: I was up Meall Horn on 17/5/97, at 7:30am, and on the summit was a band of snow with huge cat-like paw-prints, no human prints about at all. And on Ben Lui, 13/4/86 there was lots of snow and clag and we were sitting on the summit with another party eating chicken drumsticks. One of the guys threw a chicken leg bone away and out of the total whiteness a raven flew in, picked up the drumstick and flew away. Very scary.

Oh, and on Andrew Dempster's Grahams book and the old hat about the pizza (see TAC39, pp18-19), on page 232 it looks like he carries a passing place about with him.


Peter Shaw


Dear TAC,

The letters from Bryan Cromwell and Dave Shotton in TAC41 commenting on allegedly supernatural happenings in the hills are of absorbing interest. I wrote a book called Magic Mountains (Mainstream, 1996), and as well as including material about Celtic supernatural legends linked to the hills it included personal testimonies from modern outdoor people about ghostly or psychic incidents in the mountain world.

After the book was published I received several letters from mountaineers and hillwalkers giving fresh information about such happenings. This book, which still sells well and which, on the whole, was well reviewed, will be updated at some stage. I would be very glad to receive further information of such incidents. Anyone who cares to write to me should include the following:

Yours sincerely,

Rennie McOwan

Toffee Towers
7 Williamfield Avenue
Stirling FH7 9AH

Ed. - Hey, less of the "allegedly supernatural" - I believe all these folk! (See also page 12.)

Dear TAC,

Having recently had a most enjoyable day on Rogan's Seat in the Northern Pennines, reputedly the most boring hill in Britain, I thought I could propose a better candidate, namely Black Mountain. This Marilyn is the highest point on the Welsh/English border and even has a range of hills named after it. A glance at the map is not so promising, however. The hill isn't even named and the Ordnance Survey wisely decide to locate three nearby trig points well away from the summit. I made my approach from the south along the peat trough (aka Offa's Dyke path) and managed to walk straight over the summit in clear weather without realising it. There wasn't even a decent cairn to be seen. The views were hardly stupendous. The Brecon Beacons are largely obscured by Waun Fach, and the only other hills visible are far away - the Shropshire and Malvern hills. Unfortunately, I have to report that the return route over Black Hill was quite delightful, so I'm sure someone can come up with an even more boring hill.


John Owen


Ed. - There's a lot to be said for Windlestraw Law from the north, and Hail Storm Hill from anywhere.

Dear TAC,

Four of us visited Birks Fell recently - it was my final Sweat (now called Hewitts - Ed Dave Sweat). The ridge from High Green Field Knott (602m) to Firth Fell (607m) must be the flattest in the country and the whereabouts of its high point remains a mystery to me. The 1989 1:50000 gives a 610m height at 9185E 7635N, which agrees very closely with Bridge's position from 1973. The 1995 1:25000 shows a spot height of 608m at 9163E 7639N about 200 metres from the old top which agrees closely with the Nuttalls' book. This latter height has led Birks Fell to be demoted due to the 609m spot height near Sugar Loaf on Horse Head Moor. The Nuttalls claim to have proved that the Sugar Loaf spot is the highest but, short of doing a precise levelling run between the two, or using a geodimeter, I cannot believe that they can be accurate to a metre over such a long distance of 2.5km.

However, when standing on the highest peat hag in the vicinity of the 608m spot height on Birks Fell, it is clear that you are not on the summit. The highest point on Birks Fell is clearly on the other side of the wall where it always used to be! We checked this using a clinometer which indicated at least a degree rise when held at eye level - I had a Cambridge geology graduate and a geology PhD with me so I think they can tell which way things are falling. This would indicate a rise of about two metres over 100 metres in distance, putting the top at 610m plus, assuming we were standing on the 608m spot height.

I am quite keen to find another 610m/ 2000ft top in Yorkshire so would appreciate any input Alan Blanco might be able to provide as to why the top has been demoted. He has a height of 608m at SD918763 in The Relative Hills of Britain at the wall between the other two points listed above, although the 1997 TACit Table drops this in favour of the 609m Horse Head point. An expedition with a surveyor, a civil engineer and a level has been mooted! How can we get hold of the OS exact heights for the trig points at Firth Fell and Horse Head? They may be disused, I suppose, but the old figures would probably be accurate enough and a run from one to the other would verify the heights of points in between.

Wherever the top is, we visited it on a full traverse from High Green Field Knott to Firth Fell, followed by a pleasant evening in the pub in Buckden. To complete a circle in time, the day after climbing my last Sweat, I re-climbed my first one - Great Whernside above Kettlewell. An excellent weekend!


Chris Watson


Dear TAC,

In TAC41, Iain Cameron reports finding a car battery on a trig point and this reminded me of 26 July 1990 when I was on Stob Ghabhar. I climbed the hill as part of a good sized party and we were amused to find that the summit cairn supported a bus stop! You know the sort of thing: a five-foot steel pole attached to a small square sign with the logo of a bus company featured. We waited half an hour or more but unfortunately no bus arrived to take us back to Victoria Bridge.

Seriously, how did this piece of scrap metal get to the top of Stob Ghabhar? And, equally baffling, how did it disappear (friends tell me it is not there any longer)?


John Abbott


PS - Please can someone confirm this sighting? - my wife is convinced I am going mad.

Ed. - You might be mad anyway. I am.

Dear TAC,

Andrew Dempster's guide on the Grahams makes much of the access difficulties created by the Alladale Estate to climb Carn a'Choin Deirg. I recently climbed CaCD without any difficulty and thought TAC readers would be interested in a line of least resistance. Start at Croick church (20/NH454914), follow the track up to a suspension bridge at 431935 and then weave round the various deer fences up to the ridge which can be followed round to the summit. The one deer fence that has to be climbed is easily crossed near the summit of Carn a'Ghorm Loch at substantial post which has some rungs attached to it.

There were no hostile signs and indeed whilst walking up the track up Strath Cuileannach we saw an estate worker who raised no objection to our presence. The walk will take three to four hours. With the time saved from the Dempster walk (6-8 hours) it is worth visiting Croick church to observe the window which has engravings by the poor souls who were "cleared" from glen. The recent scenes on our TV screens each evening of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo makes this a very moving experience.


Graham Illing


Dear TAC,

Peak baggers might be interested to know that there is a "listed" hill harder than the In Pinn in England. Recently while climbing some of the hills on Dartmoor listed in Michael Dewey's 500m tops we made the attempt on Great Links Tor, 586m, SX551868 on OS191. The trig point itself presented no difficulty but towering above was an immense tor reaching some 10 metres above ground level. After two circuits of it we could see no route up within our capabilities. We concluded that our advancing years were the problem and retreated. Later, in the visitor centre, we consulted a rock climbing guidebook where we were pleased to see it listed with several routes, the easiest of which was VS!


Rowland and Ann Bowker


Dear TAC,

Regular readers may recall the War of Mitchell's Beard, an often heated metaphysical discourse on the existence or non-existence of hair on author Ian Mitchell's chin (see TAC30, p11 and TAC31, p16). A new development has however been noted - Mr Mitchell has now shaved off his beard. Readers of Mr Mitchell's new mega biblion, Scotland's Mountains Before the Mountaineers (well worth a tenner, by the way) will see, if they turn to the back cover, a colour photograph of a beardless author wearing a 70s tanktop in a design modelled on TV interference.

Curiouser still is the fact that Mr Mitchell's most amusing book, Mountain Days and Bothy Nights, has recently been re-issued with a new cover. For the first time, the book features a photograph of the author, who is pictured as quite quite beardless.

Methinks Mr Mitchell doth protest too much. Obviously stung by criticism, he has now gone to inordinate lengths to prove the Beard Faction wrong; or could it be that Mitchell's beard has been removed Trotsky- like from the photograph? I think we should be told.

As TAC's resident pseudo-intellectual (stop trying to muscle in on the rest of us - Ed.), I was interested to read Grant Hutchison's comments on Wagner CDs and Carl Sagan's obiter dictum on the mons veneris (TAC41, pp18-19). I wholeheartedly endorse Grant's use of Barenboim's Ring as a signalling device: a much better idea than listening to it. Barenboim lacks the soul to conduct Wagner, and whenever I think of him, I am unpleasantly reminded of his Bayreuth production, which was notable only for its breathtaking insolence. Go for James Levine instead. (Or Sidney Devine - Ed.)

That aside, it is an amusing coincidence that Wagner's Tannhauser is partly set on the Venusberg, which is, of course, German for mons veneris.

Yours for art,

Gordon Smith

Kilmarnock an der Fenwick Wasser

Dear TAC,

Firstly, re Alan Blanco's new Marilyn Hall of Fame newsletter, Marhofn (see page 14), was the idea for this hatched in that fine Austrian moun- tain village, Mayrhofen?

Secondly, there is a well known tradition in artistic circles of the creation of artworks from "found" objects. Sculptor Tony Cragg is an exponent as is musician David Byrne with his "found sounds" appearing on the influential My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. Perhaps less well known is the tradition of finding objects related to hills just climbed. Imagine my surprise when descending "telecoms paraphernalia bedecked" Great Dun Fell, with its giant golf ball dome, that I should find a regulation sized white dimpled thing in a nearby hedge.

Continuing this theme I was next out on Sugar Loaf in Southern Lesser Albion. You might find this a bit tenuous, but what was a discarded Slimfast container doing by the side of the path on this calorific hill?

Maybe other Keep Britain Tidy types have found litter which is somehow related to the hill they've just climbed? It's a thought. No sign yet though of a chocolate Baden-Powell on my local Marilyn, Kinder Scout.


Gary Westwood


Ed. - That's odd, since I once had a similar kind of experience just west of Langholm, on Cockplay Hill.

Dear TAC,

Re TAC41, p17, can I have the address of Tom Orr's golfing brother's German lady friend? (I hope it's a lady.) She sounds like a suitable walking companion.


Nick Anderson


Ed. - Aye okay, I'll pass it on when I've finished with it.

TAC 42 Index