The Angry Corrie 52: Dec 2001 - Feb 2002
Long ago, when residing on the Plain, I use to spend a Jan/Feb week north of the border with my sometime walking and climbing partner, the Incredible Bullshitting Man (IBM to his friends, if he had had any). In 1990 we found ourselves camped in Glen Torridon, where, with due consideration to the weather, we decided to visit Maol Chean-dearg from Coulags. Our plan was to climb from the east, up what appeared to be a broad gully, as described in one of IBM's ancient tomes - Poucher, I suspect - and then to drop off south. The gully looked uninviting, however: full of deep, soft snow. The aforementioned manuscript had warned of avalanche risk.
When IBM said "I have another idea", we should have headed for home. His plan was to cross the Bealach na Lice and approach from the north. The slopes above Loch an Eion gradually became steeper and craggy, forcing us east. By now the weather was deteriorating, with the cloudbase dropping and snow falling.
We found ourselves in a narrow gully which appeared to breach the crags, so set off up. I suspect this is where Val Hamilton (TAC35, p16) found herself: Hidden Gully, 300m, Grade II. As we neared the top it became steeper and the snow harder, so I decided that a second ice tool would be prudent. I stepped on to a ledge to remove my rucksack and suddenly, out of the mist and snow, the cross appeared. It was upright but I do not recall details of its base (probably covered in snow); nor do I recall an inscription. There was, suffice to say, no cross on the summit.
Ed. - First mention of that damn thing for a while. Incidentally, has anyone yet come across any ghostly goats on Ben Vrackie?
Your magazine is nothing but a stream of vituperative prejudice against Munrobaggers, deerstalking landowners, the English and midgies. I was about to say "KEEP IT UP!", but feel you are being grossly unfair on the midgie, which does not deserve to be stigmatised alongside those other, far nastier nuisances to Scots walkers. Below are five reasons why the much maligned midgie is less worthy of your abuse than its fellow pests.
Keith R Potter
ex-Alloa, now in exile in Geneva - Alp-baggers eat your hearts out
Ed. - One of the big divisions in the world is between those who say midges and those who say midgies. Any theories on this? It's a bit like the old Munrobagging / Munrobashing split, which seemed six / half-a-dozen when I started climbing hills before bagging pretty much took over.
I am always pleased to find a reference to Invercauld in your excellent magazine. We learn from our mistakes and I can often rely on your alert readership to keep us on our toes. Unfortunately, Andrew Hyams (TAC51, p19) has got it wrong. The track he refers to, to the west of Culardoch, has been there for many many years. Originally it would have been a drover's road. The military used it during World War II to take anti-aircraft guns on to the top of Ben Avon. Observant readers will have spotted the abandoned gun carriage to the south of the summit. (A candidate for the highest Scottish weaponry - see pp14-15 - Ed.) Before the war the estate had a V8 Pilot motor car, which I understand used to happily trundle up and down this track.
An unsolved mystery of a headless body found in 1938 in the Big Essie culminated in the police taking the body off the hill using the track. A retired stalker who used to live as a child at Corndavon Lodge assured me that this had been a vehicle track as long as he could remember. The recent maintenance work, following damage caused to the road by unusually heavy rain, may give the impression that this is a newly created road.
I have in a previous edition of TAC elaborated on the economic importance of these vehicle tracks to the local rural economy. It is important to strike a balance. The forthcoming Cairngorms National Park will undoubtedly introduce the controls that Mr Hyams is seeking. Those of us who live and work in these areas will be working hard to ensure that this remains a rewarding place to live and work as well as a magnificent place to visit. If Mr Hyams cares to call at the estate office when he is next visiting Braemar I would be happy to elaborate on this discussion.
I also note the comments with regard to the Upper Deeside Access Trust and in particular the car parking arrangements at Glen Muick. I am a great supporter of the work that UDAT has carried out in the short time it has been around. Some of the very popular paths around Braemar have been transformed with their hard work. The car park at Glen Muick has undoubtedly been bursting at the seams on busy summer days with car parking on the roadside up to a mile back. I believe that UDAT was created partly to tackle the Glen Muick honey-pot problem and many hours of public consultation were undertaken before the plans were finally agreed. I imagine that Adam Watson contributed his thoughts to the consultation process. (Hmm - it seems he would have done had he been asked - more on this next time - Ed.) At the time I thought they had gone completely over the top with the level of consultation, but, reading Adam's comments (TAC51, p17), he would presumably disagree. I was told that parking was free after 6pm, so I took the kids for a very enjoyable walk one evening a few months ago.
Factor, Invercauld Estates
Not all your readers can enthuse about the work of the NTS on Mar Lodge Estate. (See TAC51, p2.) They may be trying to "reinstate" the Beinn a'Bhuird track, but to what? We must remember that it took nature some 40 years to reinstate it to what we had before the NTS started work. Their efforts are likely to just create another scar that will take years to heal. Surely the best thing was to leave nature to complete its work on the track which had become much less obtrusive in recent years due to reduced use and a gradual settling-down of the extreme erosion suffered in its early years.
I believe the NTS is experimenting with our environment with a distinct lack of common sense and practical thought. No marks for them from this direction!
Pool of Muckhart
Enjoyed the latest TAC. Initially, I thought your Cameron McNeish piece (TAC51, pp8-11) was overdoing it a bit. Visions of Talmud scholars splitting the proverbial hairs. But you don't have locks in the right place and, as I read it, I felt what you did was in the interest of - let's call it moral hygiene.
McNeish's clenched-teeth request to strike him off your mailing list was put exactly in the right place, at the bottom of p19. I was screaming with laughter - wonderful uitsmijter, as we say in Dutch (lit: chucker-out, bouncer - used for a spectacular punchline, final opera chorus, etc.)
Your McNeish piece was interesting and reminds me of when he was editor of Footloose in the 1980s. He had a series entitled "Around the Munros" which was rather similar to a series done by Climber and Rambler some years earlier called "Round the Munros", with pieces by Hamish Brown. In Footloose the pieces were by Gordon McGregor. Having never heard of this person either before or since, I reckon it was a McNeish pen-name. All the photos illustrating the pieces were attributed to McNeish. The text in some cases was remarkably similar to that of the Climber and Rambler pieces.
The article on McNeish's Corbett Almanac was fascinating. I have the 1994 edition and agree wholeheartedly with your comments / conclusions. There's not much to add, but as a general observation, McNeish seems to get his distances correct but sometimes makes major height errors, which may or may not reflect faulty cribbing from the SMC.
The major ones are:
Sgorr Dubh / Sgurr an Lochain Uaine
Cranstackie / Beinn Spionnaidh
Ben Donich / The Brack
Also, on Buidhe Bheinn, McNeish duly directs the walker to the cairned 879m point overlooking Kinloch Hourn, whereas the proper (uncairned) 885m summit is 1km NE - obvious onsite and from a careful perusal of Landranger 33.
I am another who was convinced that TCA was an SMC-approved publication because the routes are so similar. I took it to be the pocket version, rather like Irvine Butterfield's useful pictureless version of The High Mountains. I bought TCA to keep in the car in case I ever had a few hours to spare on a journey or if the weather kept me off the big hills. It is also useful for the estate phone numbers for stalking information.
Knayton, near Thirsk
Amusing comments about Cameron McNeish. Although negative reports on him in TAC have the slightest touch of sour grapes (but in a good, Private Eye kind of way) he certainly comes across, on TV and in print, as a humourless, vacuous, dogmatic, self-important man who needs his bubble severely pricked.
We would like to propose that the free copy of TAC which had previously been sent to Cameron McNiche-Market (Editor-Indian-Chief of TGO) be instead sent to us here at Lochnagar Leisure in Ballater.
The Lochnagar Leisure staff (and self-styled "Guardians of The Angry Corrie") would be more than happy to accommodate your generosity, and would not so rudely throw it back in your face in a vain attempt to hide our limited Corbeteering status.
In return for this complimentary copy we promise not to use the proceeds of its sale to swell our respective bank accounts (nor indeed our Hot Chocolate fund), but instead would donate the 50p to a deserving cause or two - Braemar MRT and Aberdeen MRT - in equally small measure!
Lindsay, Gordon and Lewis
Lochnagar Leisure, Ballater
Ed. - Excellent. It's a done deal. Incidentally, a charity shop near here has a bin of ancient Hot Chocolate LPs at a very TACish 50p each.
After reading "At risk of repetition" in TAC51, I found this interesting comparison:
Dr Robert Aitken (1975, SMC Journal, p354, paragraph 3, sentences 2-3): "But the hard core of the Club was composed of Alpinists - often abroad in the critical months of stalking, and doing most of their Scottish climbing in winter and spring. And most were Glaswegian, with easy access by rail to hills noted more for their rocks and roughness than their qualities as deer forest; almost without exception, the great right of way cases were fought in the eastern Highlands."
Dr Robert A Lambert (2001, Contested mountains, Cambridge, p37, paragraph 3, sentences 2-3): "At its heart the SMC was composed of Alpinists, who were often away in Europe when the Highland stalking season saw the closure of access to the hills. Additionally, the SMC membership was rooted in Edinburgh and Glasgow and much of the climbing was done to the west where deer forests did not prevail; almost without exception the most heated public rights of way battles occurred in the eastern Highlands."
The slight change to "deer forests did not prevail" commits an error that was not in Aitken. Far from deer forests not prevailing in the west, of course they have long dominated land use there more than in the east!