The Angry Corrie 59: Oct-Dec 2003

Letter You

Dear TAC,

Do readers have any information about the monument marked on Landranger 50 at NN302473 in the Blackmount area about 1km west of the A82? I walked up to the site last year and discovered a beautifully built and well-maintained cairn in a superb situation overlooking Rannoch Moor. A metal plaque has the following poignant inscription:

In memory of
Ronald Harvey
Who died Dec 1 1962
Aged 26
We cast his ashes to roam
In the winds over these hills
Which he knew and loved so much
We leave him to travel alone
The paths we trekked together
He shall be with us when we return
The roar of the stag
The cry of the bird
The sigh of the wind
Shall be his constant companions
His passing
Has been the sunset of our friendship

I would also be interested to learn of monuments or structures erected on hilltops to celebrate the new millennium. The only one I am aware of is on Dirrington Little Law on the southern edge of the Lammermuirs (67/687531) and is known as the Millennium Cross. This was organised by churches in the surrounding area and the 4m-high cross was airlifted into position by helicopter. Around 250 people, including a brass ensemble, attended a dedication service at the 363m summit on 11 June 2000.


Walter Baxter, Galashiels

Dear TAC,

On 30/12/01 we tried to climb Carn Dearg and Carn Sgulain from Newtonmore. The snow was so deep and powdery that it took us three hours to get from the roadhead to Dalballoch. So we gave up and turned back. We were back in May 2002 to finish off the Knoydart Munros, and on the way we stopped in Newtonmore to have another go at Carn Dearg and Carn Sgulain. No problem this time, but we passed the iron object illustrated below, which was just off the path in Gleann Lochain, a mile or so from Loch Dubh. I wrote down the exact grid reference from the GPS, but I've lost it (the grid ref that is - not the GPS).

The mystery object was made of iron, about 10ft long, two foot six inches high and about 12 inches wide. I wondered if it was a sledge of some sort for transporting pipes or logs, but it was too tall and narrow - it would topple over. Does anyone have any idea what it is?


Nigel Thackrah, New Mills

image from TAC59

Dear TAC,

On a warm weekend in June I was on Arran and took the ferry to the Holy Island from Lamlash. The path is fairly well signed although in places through the heather the erosion indicates that it needs some urgent maintenance or even rerouting.

My reason for writing however is that just beyond the summit on the east side, among the heather, I found a 20cm-diameter approximately 750g orange float. How did it get there?


Andrew Nelson, Lanark

PS - Regarding it as litter in that situation, I carried it all the way back down and offered it to the ferryman who accepted it with thanks.

Ed. - Also re objects found on hills, Don Smithies has been in touch to say he came across an exposed Agfa film beside the trig point on Breac-Bheinn, a 462m Marilyn on the north side of the lesser-known of the Strathcarrons, at NH499950 on Landranger 20. Don comments that Breac-Bheinn is such an obscure hill that it's only likely to be climbed by committed Marilynbaggers - hence a mention in these pages might well prove fruitful. So if you lost a film on this hill on Saturday 19 July this year, contact TAC by the usual means (see p2) and we'll sort things out.

Dear TAC,

I have another data point to add to the Foinaven debate raised by Richard Webb in TAC58 (p6). My wife and I climbed this hill early in August shortly after reading Richard's article, so we paid particular attention to the relative heights of the two cairns. I have to say I tend to agree with Richard's observation: from a visual examination - the westernmost cairn does look to be a metre or two higher than the easternmost ("914m") one. My wife's altimeter watch was called into action to add a more scientific dimension to the exercise. It gives readings rounded to 5m, and it rounded to 910m at the western cairn but 905m at the eastern one. The exact values are not significant - the watch had been reading a few metres low with respect to the Landranger map at other spot heights along the Foinaven ridge. The real point of note is that it supported the view that the western cairn is the higher of the two.

By the way, whatever its status, Foinaven is indeed a fine hill - although the slippy quartzite along the ridge is not for the faint-hearted.


Rob Pearson, Dalgety Bay

Dear TAC,

Might I interest anyone in my alternative method of hillwalking? I call it "not-bagging" and it combines physical fitness and willpower with a great deal of fun. Here's the procedure. Pick a Scottish mountain over 3000ft and set off for the top, avoiding any paths. This usually takes an hour or two. Once you start nearing the summit, on no account approach it, but instead stop 20 feet before the ubiquitous cairn. Now - and this is the best bit - turn around and go down, or continue and repeat the procedure on subsequent hills. On most hills you can deviate around the top on a contour. The pleasure of not-doing is sublime. Of the 284 Munros, I've managed not to do over 140 to date! Repeating favourite hills is a particular pleasure. For example, I haven't done Buachaille Etive Mor seven times, and it gets better each time. The beauty of this method of hillwalking is that when you haven't done all the 3000ers, you don't get a wee badge!


Max McCance, Fife

Ed. - Possibly the pioneer of this type of hill activity was the Revd A E Robertson, who famously didn't bag Ben Wyvis in August 1891.

Dear TAC,

I seem to have touched a raw nerve in my gentle chiding of John Donohoe's lack of enthusiasm to support the Reclaimers on his "local hill", Dumgoyne, after the FMD fiasco (TAC58, p19). I presume his comment - "had already bagged the wee hill and got the tick" - was tongue-in-cheek as Dumgoyne is such a fine, handy wee hill it is worthy of multiple visits - not all by the same route, either! I was surprised that he did not support the reclaiming of the hill as a personal cause even if it was not official MCofS policy. I'm still of the opinion that the Reclaimers' actions were not only justified (and legal), but essential to speed the process of regaining access to huge areas of hills.

As for the erosion scar problem on Dumgoyne, I do have a few suggestions on how to slow down its spread. As with other popular hills there is no hope in reducing the numbers of walkers - we should actually be altruistic and encourage more people to enjoy the hills. However, we should also be encouraging walkers to find other routes than the "standard" guidebook route. Unfortunately on Dumgoyne the restricted access tends to force people on to the main route from the distillery in preference to the approaches from Cantywheery bridge, over Dumfoyne or from the Earl's Seat escarpment. This whole western end of the Campsies has very poor access from the roadside all the way from Fintry to Clachan of Campsie. There are only three easy access points on this 14-mile sector:

1 - via the pipe track by well-hidden roads behind the shops in Killearn

2 - from the track beside the Dumgoyne distillery

3 - again by the pipe track, from the war memorial in Blanefield

The last of these approaches has a colourful history, with tales of let-down car tyres and broken windscreens and wing mirrors as residents defended the "Private Road" status even though it was built and maintained by Glasgow's taxpaying public.

I've used the track past High Lettre farm near Killearn a few times but have been shouted at even though the track skirts the edge of what is probably now deemed to be the farm "curtilage". I know of people who have been turned back here - fortunately I've been running past the farm each time. I know a fellow hillrunner who has been chased downhill by the shepherd at Ballagan even though it was not near lambing time and he did not have a canine companion.

All along this sector are roadside walls with little or no opportunity to park and there are no chinks in the back-garden armour between the Slackdhu escarpment and the road through Blanefield/Strathblane (perhaps a path beside the bowling green could be negotiated). How incongruous that the hillside which gave its name to the Creag Dhu should be so restricted in access. (And that so few people seem to be bothered - Ed.)

image from TAC59

So what I'm suggesting is a process of education to inform the general public that there are other ways to Dumgoyne and to the rest of the Campsies, and to persuade Sir Erchie's tenant farmers that allowing access to responsible walkers will not lead to an invasion of privacy or damage to their "property".

Perhaps, John, if you have any influence in your local community or still have some clout at the MCofS, you might be the very person to kick off this education process. I don't expect the Scottish executive will launch a fully funded educational campaign when the Land Access Bill becomes law.


Graham Benny, Glasgow

Dear TAC,

A printed sign with the name Moray Council at the bottom was still on show at the Cabrach in Banffshire in early August 2003, telling folk to keep out because of foot and mouth! It's just west of the kirk at Cabrach, west of the bridge carrying a public road over the River Deveron, where a private road breaks off to the left (also a right of way across to Strath Don). The landowner and keepers there are reputed to dislike public access, and one keeper has confronted a walker there recently beside Cabrach Lodge. They also have a bad reputation for illegal acts with poison and other methods for killing protected birds of prey. Model land stewards!


Adam Watson, Crathes

Dear TAC,

Ann Bowker and Alan Blanco's scathing pieces about St Kilda in TAC58 (pp10-11) are written with the absolute conviction that only those with minimal experience are capable of possessing. It is as if they had just watched Don Bradman get out for nought in his last Test innings and instantly concluded that he must have been a rubbish batsman.

Although the outer islands impressed them, the general tone of the writing is carping and negative. Both writers have made their irritation about the NTS's access policy plain in previous TACs and it reads to me like they went there seeking fault and were going to find it come what may.

Even on their wee evening tour of Hirta there is plenty of interest that they either did not see or thought unworthy of a mention - the cleits, the view out to Boreray and the stacks, the improbable shape of Dun across Village Bay, the fulmars floating on the breeze. As for the lack of "spectacular views of the highest cliffs in Britain", they would have got them had they made the minor diversion of following the cliff-top right round rather than going straight up. But there isn't a word of it from either of them. Instead, Ann found it bland, disappointing, "an anticlimax". Alan seemed more interested in trying to prove the ridiculous concept that the post-evacuation infrastructure somehow equates to Hirta in general. Either way, neither appeared to enjoy it too much. Perhaps they might have formed a different opinion had the weather allowed a longer stay, but somehow I doubt it. Regrettably, the views they express seem to be symptomatic of a state of mind rather than a reflection of time available.

Would Ann be more willing to return if she knew that she could get up any or all of her five remaining Marilyns? Does Alan feel that the place is such a dump that he will never go back? I have a fair idea of what the answers would be. To me, the pieces suggest a certain approach to the hills - the tick is everything and the experience seems to be a distant second. Get round your needed hills as quick as you can, no need to return once its been bagged, "uninteresting" hills are to be endured as if you are being forced to go there as some sort of punishment, no place is too grim to visit if there is a tick involved. To take these attitudes to any hill is bad enough but to Kilda it is criminal.

TAC58 poses the question on the cover: "St Kilda - the last wild sanctuary or a bit of a dump?" It is neither, but don't take my word for it - go and see for yourself. Take an open mind and the eyes to see beyond its obvious imperfections and you will find a truly superb place. But treat it as just another stop on the bagging merry-go-round and you will get precisely the experience that you deserve.


Stuart Benn, Culloden

Dear TAC,

Re Mick Furey's query about the effects of atmospheric refraction on intervisibility (TAC58, p18) - there's a surveyors' rule of thumb that says refraction apparently reduces the curvature of the Earth's surface by a sixth, which is equivalent to increasing its radius by 20%. So when you're figuring horizon distances, you can take the Earth's radius as 7654km, rather than 6378km.

Most of the horizon-distance formulae you find in books already take refraction into account, however, and Mick's calculations are perhaps already refraction-corrected. I reckon Sawel and Bidean are 239km apart (plus or minus a kilometre, since my position for Sawel is only to the nearest minute of arc), but their combined horizon distances come to only 102+133 = 235km. The difference is so small, though, that a wee bit of a temperature inversion on a winter's day could probably do the trick and pull Sawel into view.

But Binevenagh, up there on the Derry coast, is much closer to Bidean - just 203km by my reckoning. And its horizon certainly does overlap with Bidean's, with a combined distance of 77+133 = 210km. So there's at least one Derry hill you should be able to glimpse from Bidean ... assuming the Paps of Jura aren't in the way, which they look suspiciously close to being.


Grant Hutchison, Dundee

Dear TAC,

Mick Furey asks: can you see the Sperrins from Bidean? Presumably he was too young to catch Guy Barlow's "On the possibility of seeing the Cuillin from Cairngorms" in the May 1956 SMC Journal. Actually, I missed it myself at the time, as I was busy bagging my first Marilyn (Pike of Blisco, since you ask). Barlow gives a simple formula for refraction: "Assuming refraction as 1/6 earth's curvature, a value which [James] Parker considered suitable for Scotland, the refraction can be merged into curvature by simply regarding the earth's radius as 1/5 greater than its actual value." Big R is accordingly increased from 3957 miles to 4748 miles.

Distance to sea horizon from a hill is given by d = &tick;(2Rh). Increasing R by 1/5th will increase d by 1/10 because of the square root. Converting to metric (and accordingly possibly getting this bit wrong), the unadjusted formula for distance to a sea horizon is d = &tick;12.7h (d in km, h in metres) and the adjusted formula is d = &tick;15.3h

The distance to a sea horizon from Sperrin (height 683m) increases from 93km to 102km; the distance to a sea horizon from Bidean (height 1150m) increases from 121km to 133km. I don't know what Mick's helpful OS man gave for the distance between the two hills, but a ruler and atlas gives me 240km. Now 93 + 121 = 214, so a straight line from Sawel to Bidean passes inside the ocean. (Sorry, I should have added 2m to Bidean for the observer's eye; and because this marginal 2m makes more difference when added to the smaller mountain, it is slightly easier to view Bidean from Sawel. But actually it only adds 100 metres to the distance viewed.)

OK. With the larger Earth radius to allow for refraction, the horizon distances become Sawel 102km, Bidean 133km, which add to 235km. Given air 25% more refractive than is usual for Scotland (consult a meteorologist), the extra 5km should come from somewhere. Bingo.

Unbingo. The mutual sea horizon turns out to be just south of Port Ellen on Islay. The land to the NNE rises into some nice 400m Marilyns, and, unless the Great Circle swerves off the atlas line by more than I consider plausible, no Sawel from Bidean.


Ronald Turnbull

Thornhill, Dumfriesshire

Dear TAC,

Re Badger Bill's letter in TAC57:

Saturday 27 October 2001 was an interesting and memorable day for me in more ways than expected. I had been invited by a former Education Inspectorate colleague, Dr William Maxwell, to join an ascent of Sgor na h-Ulaidh in Glen Coe. Bill had already climbed all the other Munro summits and their subsidiary tops in Scotland, and the other 3000ft peaks of the British Isles. His ascent of th peak of the treasure and its outlying top, Stob an Fhuarain, would thus be unlike the other completions I had experienced.

I parked in Glen Coe (Landranger 41/118565) at 9:30am. I was a bit early and the weather was showery, so I decided to amble (at senior-citizen pace!) up to the farm buildings at Gleann-leac-na-muidhe and let the rest of the party, which included several youngsters, catch up. At the farm a man was busy doing maintenance work on a barn; the attendant sheepdog seemed alert to the danger of a stranger and was a bit threatening as I hurried through the gates.

Thereafter, with the rest of Bill's party of family and friends, the glen was followed and then came the arduous climb up grass slopes towards the outlying Top. The showers eased by midday and lunch was taken high on the steep slopes. Over Stob an Fhuarain and then to the mid-afternoon celebrations atop Sgor na h-Ulaidh. I had only one plastic cup of Cava wine.

The weather was still unsettled as I set off on the descent ahead of the main party, and unusually for me these days I stayed in front, often on my own. The glen "path" was reached just after 5pm, and it was approaching 5:45pm and the light was beginning to fail as I passed a plantation on my right and entered an area of rough pasture with many rushes some 300 metres before the farm. The grid reference was 41/108548, at about the 150m contour line.

Suddenly I was aware of an animal about 50 metres ahead and slightly to the right, running from one clump of rushes to another in a stalking manner and coming towards me. My immediate thought was of the sheepdog seen at the farm in the morning. I hesitated and stopped walking; the animal came on until it was only 15-20 metres away, by which time I could see that it had a longer tail than a sheepdog and was moving in a bounding fashion. My memory banks were now fully engaged and dismissed all Scottish montane fauna experienced in almost 50 years. The animal was suddenly aware of my presence, and froze. It was predominantly black and bounded across the track ahead of me; two or three leaps and it was into an area of rocky ground on the banks of the Allt na Muidhe. It was slightly larger than a border collie, had a tail longer than its body, and when it moved quickly it was definitely cat-like. Was it a big cat? Yes, I believe it was.

At university I graduated with an honours degree in zoology and throughout my professional life retained a keen interest in all aspects of biological science. Extensive foreign travel has enabled me to observe wildlife in many ecosystems. I am certain in my own mind that this animal was not a Scottish wildcat. I had seen a big cat, but was it a panther? I did not have time to get the camera out of my rucksack, but had plenty to mull over as I walked down to my car. It was certainly a completion experience that I will never forget.


John W Burdin, Monifieth

Dear TAC,

Sometime in 1956 or 1957, four friends of mine (all in their late teens or early twenties) stole a massive canvas banner which had been tied around the top of the palatial public toilets (now closed) at Anniesland Cross in Glasgow. The banner advertised a Glasgow health committee's mass tuberculosis X-ray campaign. The four were keen rock climbers and transported the banner to the Arrochar Alps. (Ahem, the so-called Arrochar Alps - see TAC12, pp8-9 - Ed.) There they climbed the Cobbler's Central Peak and tied the banner around the summit pillar. There was a strong wind blowing that day and the youths received a good buffeting by both the wind and the banner itself.

Some days later a young climber was killed when he fell from the North Peak. A reporter walked up to the summit to report on the accident and was astonished to see the TB campaign banner fluttering in the breeze. The result was that the banner incident appeared (with a photograph) in the Evening Times and the Glasgow Herald.

No one seems to know what became of the banner. Has any TAC reader ever come across it? One of the participants in the escapade believes it may have ended up in Martin's Doss, wherever that is. Or it may be serving as a carpet high up in the Arrochar caves.

I am writing a book with the working title Children of Knightswood, and, since all four pranksters hailed from that district of Glasgow, a detailed account of the incident will be incorporated in the book. It would be interesting to know what became of the banner.

Yours, Bryan Cromwell, East Kilbride

Ed. - Please keep TAC in the loop if passing info to Bryan direct, as it's an interesting story. Sounds like the thing that Ian R Mitchell or one of his cronies ought to know about.

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