TAC 46 Index
Mike Tyson in Aviemore - not.
Brother TAC readers will be re- assured to hear that rumours of my forthcoming fight in Scotland being held in Coire Cas have been greatly exaggerated. Man, there is no way I am going to visit that scum-awful wart of a nightmare place. Watch my lips: no 'kin way.
It is certainly true that Blamish Swine, the chairman of the DeadEnd Rail Company, approached Frank Warren with a lucrative package to bring world-class boxing to his beleaguered resort. But I ken that his company is in bigger sheep-shit than Hampden - and anyway I am not interested in his payment in a Heelan Lassies clause. I am a re- formed Muslim and not into that stuff any more.
My main man - Jimmy the Gael - tells me to snub the geezer and give him a bloody nose, so that's just what I'm gonna do. Glasgow's miles better anyway and power to the elbow of all those who come to see me fight instead of buying into Blamish's "pack 'em in 'n' rip 'em off 'n' stuff the corrie" type style.
Yo listen to me. Don't boycott me, boycott Aviemore.
Julie's Joint, The Strip
Las Vegas, USA
In TAC43 (p11) it was stated that "Car culture is far removed from the freedom of the hills". I totally agree. So why, a few lines further down, do I read Donald Shiach's complaint about limited car access to Strathfarrar? And the kind people of Lawers berated for objecting when motorists park willy-nilly in their village? Why does the prime argument against the Cairn Gorm funicular seem to be the fact that hillwalkers may no longer be able to drive halfway up the hill and actually have to use their feet for a change? (Surely that's not the prime argument? - Ed.)
Then in TAC44 (p2), Paul Mc-Monagle reports a "lovely day, icy roads". What have road conditions got to do with hills? I go to the hills to escape the many unpleasant facets of modern society, car culture being one of them. Unfortunately it seems that my fellow hillwalkers prefer to bring their cars along with them. Personally, I blame it all on the Youth Hostels Association for allowing people to drive to hostels. Perhaps that's why so many people think they can also drive to bothies. The sooner private vehicles are banned (for non-residents) north of Gleann Mor, the better.
PS - It's all well and good having a list of people who have reached the summits of 600+ Marilyns, but let's now see a list of people who have done so without the use of private motorised transport. Oh, what a surprise, there aren't any.
Ed. - The late Willie Docharty quite possibly topped 600 Marilyns, and he couldn't drive. And I'm not exactly Jeremy Clarkson, but while it seems fair to ask what cars have to do with hills, it could equally well be asked what not having a car has to do with hills, too. At risk of sounding like Mr Moderation, surely it takes all sorts?
Regarding the sale of the Black Cuillin, I offer seven reasons why the range should become a superquarry:
1 - Just as the gabbro gives notable grip to vibram, so it would work with motor tyres.
2 - Munroists have great difficulty in completing their rounds due to features such as the In Pinn. With its removal the exercise would become a straight hillwalking exercise, open to all.
3 - High mountains attract rain if they face into the prevailing wind. If the Cuillin were removed, Skye would receive a great deal less rain, which would surely benefit local tourism.
4 - The Bible says: "Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill made low". By removing these mountains we are fulfilling the Lord's will.
5 - A superquarry processing 9000 hectares of top-quality rock would provide local employment for centuries.
6 -By removing the steepest and roughest mountains in Britain, acci-dents would be minimised since Skye would become as flat as East Anglia.
7 - The new flat site would be ideal for a major airport. Tourists and locals would thus be able to avoid the tolls on the Skye bridge.
I am sure that readers will realise these points represent the views of the silent majority and will not stand in the way of progress.
With reference to the letter from Rob Woodall (TAC45, p16), it's good to read that others find interest in the hills aside from (or alongside) summit bagging. Wildlife-watching is an aspect that more and more people seem to be turning to. On a recent dash around the Ennerdale flank of Pillar on the way to the Rock, I came across a group of young lads studying a dog violet among the scree, while also trying to find a picture of it in a battered old field guide. Having asked them if they'd found anything interesting, and being faced with a bank of embarrassed faces, their enthusiasm shone through when they discovered that I too spent at least part of each day on the hill enjoying the wildlife that abounds in the locality. Similar things seem to happen more and more frequently as everyone who enjoys the outdoors appears to be making an effort to embrace the whole mountain scene, rather than simply tagging along with the summit-fever heroes.
A word of warning, though. While submitting records of wildlife to the relevant recorder is generally to be encouraged, sometimes I fear that doing so may actually discourage that particular species from prospering further. As an example, a migratory white-tailed eagle was recently spotted by a keen birder on a large estate in east Yorkshire, and in good faith this information was duly passed to the county bird recorder. The bird hung around for quite a while until people-pressure became too much for it to bear. Then, before the eyes of its largest audience to date, with over 100 cars blocking the quiet lane through the estate, it decided that enough was enough, spread its wings and moved on to quieter pastures new. Not a particularly good example, given that it was a migratory bird anyway, but I think you will see my point.
Is it a good idea to pass on the detailed whereabouts of a rare colony of alpine plant, or that of a nest of a rare wader, as is suggested? The recorders do indeed pass on all collated information for the general advancement of scientific knowledge of the range of the species concerned, and this work is vital, but I cannot help but think that this knowledge must be gained at some cost.
While I do submit occasional records to the relevant committee, I urge those intending to do so in the future, particularly with rare species, to give due consideration to the consequences of passing on information to the wrong people. We like to think that we are a nation of animal- lovers, but let us not forget that the taking of birds' eggs, for example, is still big business in this country, especially in more remote regions where such a crime can easily go un-detected.
By all means enjoy the flora and fauna of our hill regions, and do let the county recorder know if you happen to see anything unusual, but please let it stop there. No need to publicly let the cat out of the bag. (Especially if it's a rare cat - Ed.)
And finally, while Rob is quite right that for most people the obvious place to look for dotterel is above the 3000ft contour, it should be remem- bered that this is when they are on their breeding grounds and should on no account be disturbed. To do so is strictly illegal. Better instead to pay a visit to one of the many lowland migration points where the birds pass through every year on their way to or from these higher places.
Best wishes and all,
Ed. - But from what seems to be implied here, the problem appears to be that recorders are passing on sightings to other people. Surely this doesn't generally happen? - otherwise they'd be little more than tick-it touts.
With reference to Richie Evans (TAC45, p18), I'm afraid Mr Evans is quite right, and certainly doesn't deserve a ticking off from the editor on my behalf.
Many things I may be, but "world-class" hill walker is not one of them. Much as I wish I were, I am not fit to lick the sturdy boots of the likes of Hamish Brown, or indeed Tom Weir (who most people don't realise was an amazing, courageous and innovative climber in his youth).
Yes, I'm keen, but most of the time I stumble about the hills with no bloody idea where I am, leave too late, forget to pack my lunch and, when faced with an exposed rock climb, respond by making unpleasant little whimpering noises at the back of my throat that drive companions insane with irritation.
Not only that, life is so damn com-plicated and full of responsibilities now, that if you ever see me up a hill at all, it's probably my birthday treat.
Leave Mr Evans alone. He wasn't being rude. Just accurate. (Well, apart from the pasty-faced punkette bit, for which he can fuck right off.)
In response to my letter in TAC44, you published two letters, one from Simon Blackett and the other from Rowland Bowker (TAC45, p17). Mr Bowker adopts my attitude of re-stricting his access to the Highland hills between mid August and mid September. During that period, I restrict my visits to areas with no or more limited restriction periods; otherwise, I seek consent first. As Mr Blackett points out in his letter, my confrontation above Glen Isla took place on 20 November, well into the hind culling season.
My district guides all date from the mid-seventies and contain a section headed "Proprietary and Sporting Rights". The statement therein clearly indicates that consent should be obtained to go into deer forests "from about the beginning of August to the middle of October". However, I must admit that I have just noticed a significant change in my 1997 copy of Munro's Tables. In a section at the back, headed "The Climber and the Mountain Environment", it states that "...the deer stalking season is from 1st July to 20th October, when stag shooting ends. Hinds may continue to be culled until 15th February [...] During these seasons, therefore, special care should be taken to consult the local landowner, factor or keeper before taking to the hills."
The SMC is therefore promoting a policy of obtaining consent over a period of seven-and-a-half months in the year. I hope that you are all doing what is expected of you!
Rowland Bowker writes about access to Beinn a'Chrulaiste; I can add more information.
Sue (my wife), and I set out to climb this hill on 20/9/98 by the guidance of the SMC's Corbetts, leaving our car at Kingshouse and walking north. At the right-angle of the road (at NN250540), where the estate road to Black Corries Lodge goes off east, we found the pillar of which Rowland writes (attractively crafted in breeze-block). The pillar carried a notice published by Jarrold and the Ordnance Survey which relates to a route in their jointly published book Fort William and Glencoe Walks - the editions of 1992, 1994 and 1996. The notice apparently withdraws the route as suggested in the book and offers a low level alternative. (There is a similar notice near the Glen Lyon gate - Jarrold seem to back down fairly swiftly in the face of landowner sabre-rattling - Ed.)
The important sentence of the notice is the first which stated in its original form reads: "Jarrold Pub- lishing and the Ordnance Survey regret to inform walkers intending to follow the above route that access is not allowed to the hill and that part of this walk is therefore not possible."
Interestingly, the words "not allowed", while still legible, have been taped over. Their removal seems to be "official" (and not the work of a playful passer-by), as the tape has been applied beneath the plastic cover which is screwed down and silicon-sealed. Of course without those words the sentence is meaningless and the alternative route not necessary. That in fact would then apply to the whole structure!
Naturally we walked our route, meeting on the summit two others who had come up from Altnafeadh clutching the offending publication. You can imagine the joy with which we revealed the enormity of their crime!
Trevor J Littlewood
A correction: in his TAC45 letter, Rowland Bowker noted that he had only twice been asked to turn back in over 50 years of climbing Scottish hills, including once "in the 1980s on Ben Vrackie". Alastair Fergusson, the walker-friendly owner of Ben Vrackie, wrote querying this, and Rowland then realised he had muddled his V-Corbetts. "I must apologise for my mistake," he writes. "The access problem was not on Ben Vrackie but on Ben Vuirich a few miles to the north-east. I hope not too many readers have been approaching Ben Vrackie under cover of darkness and dressed in camouflage as a result of this error." Apologies to Mr Fergusson for any embarrassment: he assures readers that walkers are always welcome on Ben Vrackie.
He also passed on sad news of the Ben Vrackie goats (TACs passim). "Both have had to be put down," he reports, "as old age caught up with them. In recent years they had spent the winter in Baledmund woods and the rest of the year on the hill. The white one was found wandering round Baledmund House and the owners contacted the local vet, who put it down. It was terribly lean and had eaten rhododendrons. The brown one was found later in the same area by someone from the SSPCA, but it had to be put down the next day. Both goats were castrated billy goats about 12 years old. Their purpose was to eat the weeds up at Shinagag, the hill farm near Loch Moraig. They escaped and spent the rest of their lives on our ground, ie until January this year.
Bryan Cromwell (TAC45, pp4-5), in his story of a near-death experience under the wheels of a timber truck, asks me to take note that his walking pole was useful for banging on the side of the vehicle. I can accept this wholeheartedly - I just wonder how useful it is on other occasions. I'm damned if I'll lug the things around with me just on the off-chance I see something that needs whacking.
But I'm sure he'll be pleased to read the following story. One fine day, I had come down off Meall Tairneachan and was walking back along the quarry road. Nice au- tumnal afternoon, lovely views of Schiehallion, whistle whistle, happy happy, not a thought in my head - you know the feeling. Then, just where the track swings around below Meall Damh, I came across this humongous red truck with about twelve man-high wheels - stopped by the side of the road with its engine running. As I got closer, I could hear the tinny rabbiting of the radio dangling from the rear- view mirror - some commentator getting overenthusiastic about a sporting event. And I could see the driver slumped over the steering wheel, head resting on forearms.
So I stood there in the afternoon stillness, next to this big thrumming truck, wondering what I should do. I couldn't just amble on - the guy might be dying in there. So I stepped up on the footplate and chapped gently on the driver's window. No response. Harder. Still no response. I turned the handle of the door and swung it open, to be met with the 100-decibel radio. "Hello?" I shouted. No response. Louder: "Are you OK?" Nothing. So I reached out and gently gripped his wrist, feeling for a pulse.
At this point he erupted out of his seat shouting "Jesusfuckjesusfuck-jesusfuck" and clutching his chest. And I teleported backwards about 20 feet to sprawl in the gravel with a heart rate rather higher than is strictly healthy in one of my increasingly mature years. Meanwhile, he carried on with the chest-clutching, started to hyperventilate, and went a remarkable slate-grey colour. So once I'd established that I didn't have angina myself, I tottered over and got him to lie flat across the front seats.
After a while he began to feel better, and the jesusfuck rate fell to an almost acceptable level. Turned out he'd been taking a wee post- prandial nap (yeah, at three in the afternoon, that'll be right). He was also extremely deaf, what with having been a quarry-worker all his life. So that's how I, an unarmed walker, came close to killing a mon- ster truck driver. There's a symmetry there that I hope will appeal to Bryan.
TAC 46 Index