The Angry Corrie 60: Jan-Feb 2004

Stob Press

Pop news. Spotted by Bruce Smith, an Evening News write-up of October's MTV awards. Dido - "I've never been to Edinburgh before - I didn't realise it was so beautiful. I love that whole mountain in the middle of the city thing."

The December issue of Trail included an 11-page article suggesting locations for walkers if they were part of "a growing minority prepared to admit you don't like snow". Reasonable idea - by no means everyone relishes the white stuff. Except that the three locations were the Lairig Ghru, Stac Pollaidh and the Great Gable girdle.

image from TAC60

The Lairig was an ultra-strange choice in that, while writer Piers Pickard did indeed walk the great pass when it was below the snowline, his article made little effort (well, none, really) to stress that it isn't always going to be that way. "Even the worst winter weather can't spoil today's route," he writes. "There will be no deep snow. No paranoia about my ability to assess avalanche risk." Hmm. The nearest he came to issuing a cautionary word was when suggesting that "the lichen-covered, slippery-when-wet boulder chokes of the top" constituted "the only treacherous part of the route". Er, what about the frequent gales (the Trail party walked from Dee to Spey, the least weather-friendly direction), the drifts likely to ensnare walkers in the central section, and the avalanches surging into the pass from the massive slopes above? There was brief mention of the blizzard-prompted demise of the "sozzled" tailors, but only in a sidebar by Pickard's Glenmore Lodge guide Julia Tregaskis.

The piece was always likely to prompt protest, but the extent of this - Radio 4's Today programme, Ceefax, the BBC website, a half-page in the 28 November Scotsman, etc - was less expected. John Allen, leader of the Cairngorm MRT, described the piece as "absolute nonsense" and "completely irresponsible". The highest-profile complaint came from Chris Bonington, who criticised Trail while noting that it was "normally excellent". Elsewhere in that same issue, Trail featured a "Christmas speech" interview with the self-same "king of the hills". No wonder he was embarrassed. Trail editor Guy Procter, meanwhile, claimed that the three routes were designed to be "challenging, but where the use of crampons and ice-axe was not the sine qua non."

Nude news. Steve Gough (see TAC59, p2) is again care of the Scottish prison system. His bail-breaking case was heard on 7 November at Dingwall, and after a delay for reports Sheriff Alexander Pollock sentenced him to three months imprisonment on 28 November. Time already served, however, meant a release that same day, and he shouted "Cromarty Bridge!" as he was driven away in an unmarked van.

The bridge is indeed where he went, but after only brief progress next day some resident of Evanton made a complaint. (They can hardly claim to have been shocked - it's not like Gough's walk is new news.) So back to the slammer he went, this time being remanded until 7 January.

While all this was happening, Gough dropped TAC a line (on 10 November), and seemed in surprisingly good spirits. "My conditions aren't quite as stark [sic] as your cover drawing depicts," he wrote. "The mouse gets a bigger ration of cheese."

"Adversity," he added, "strengthens one's resolve", and he ended with: "Perhaps it has to be this way. Change is difficult and threatening, because often it means having to face the fears in ourselves. Let's hope Scotland can be brave."

And sensible: some exit strategy is needed by the authorities. Gough himself is now even less likely than ever to abandon his walk, and anyway why should he? Gumption from the local procurator fiscal would help, eg telling complainants to stop wasting police time and taxpayers' money. But perhaps there are deeper pressures underlying all this, with those in power unwilling to be seen to give ground no matter how sensible and pragmatic this might be.

So he'll be inside over the festive season, and TAC wishes him well - he's paying dearly for sticking to his principles. Were there a Walker of the Year award, he would surely win. Should anyone wish to send him a Christmas card, Steve Gough, aka the naked rambler, c/o Inverness Prison worked fine in terms of getting TAC59 to him.

Late Christmas gift options. Gordon Jarvie's poetry collection, Time's Traverse, is published by HarperCroft (ISBN 0 95335 302 8), price 8.95. Many of the poems are hill-related and a review will appear in these pages before too long. Ralph Storer's The Rumpy Pumpy Quiz Book (sample question: Place the following activities in the order in which they are most likely to give you a heart attack - a Hillwalking, b Sexual intercourse, c Waking up) is published by Metro (ISBN 1 84358 077 2), price 6.99.

TAC 60 Index