Guess the ridge: "...it's still a shock when we see it rising before us, a wild Mohican of rock curving up to the summit. The climb is far from easy, and when the wind picks up I understand the memorials dotted along the ridge to those who have fallen from this precipitous blade...". Some jaggy arête in the Alps or on Skye perhaps (where the In Pinn and An Stac would fit the wild Mohican description very nicely)? One of the more knife-like Scottish mainland ridges - the Forcan, the Lancet, the Devil's? Or maybe, just about, Sharp Edge on Blencathra? No, none of these. It's Striding Edge, about as unMohicanesque a ridge as you could imagine, given that it lies below the level of the adjoining hilltops rather than protruding above them. And the writer providing this understated and meticulously accurate description? Owen Sheers, in the Guardian travel section, 21 May 2005.
From bad descriptions to bad maps. Or bad map covers, to be precise. Sometime soon TAC will publish its analysis of the photographs adorning OS maps, and a strong frontrunner for the worst of the lot has recently emerged - the very sheet on which TAC Towers has its grid reference. For a long time Landranger 57, Stirling and the Trossachs, carried a curiously dull picture of some midge-infested forest, with no hint that fine hills such as Stuc a'Chroin and Ben Ledi or fine buildings such as Doune Castle and Cambuskenneth Abbey lurked nearby on its 40x40km grid. The new edition, by contrast, carries a full-frontal close-up of the William Wallace statue located outside the visitor centre at the Wallace Monument. Nothing wrong there, surely - cultural heritage and all that? Well yes, except that the statue - by sculptor Tom Church - is widely regarded as naff beyond belief, portraying as it does not the great Wallace but the somewhat less great Mel Gibson in the Braveheart role. (That's two mentions of Braveheart this TAC - see page four. No more until 2009 at least - Ed.)
Church's statue is quite possibly the single most laughable object open to public scrutiny anywhere on Landranger 57. So awful is the representation of Gibson/Wallace with his sword and shield that it has to be shut inside a metal cage at night for fear of vandalism by historical literalists and cultural zealots. And beneath Gibson/Wallace's feet, carved into the plinth, is the word FREEDOM, in massive letters. Thus every sunset sees the locking away of a statue of a Hollywood-based Australian so concerned for Scotland that he filmed his blockbuster in tax-amenable Ireland. Freedom indeed. There's an irony there, somewhere.
Anyway, you now don't need to travel to Stirling to see this glorious masterpiece; just pop down to your local bookshop and look at the front of the map instead.
Far more enjoyable and worthy of the public's gaze is the Naked Munrobagging website, http://www.nakedmunrobagging.com/ - well worth a look. And while on the subject of outdoor nudity (to which TAC keeps returning with alarming regularity), news of Steve Gough, the Naked Rambler himself. As forecast (TAC64 p2), he is about to embark on a new nude adventure. But rather than attempting a naked round of Munros (how the Landranger 57 midges would have loved that), or an in-the-scud scramble along some wild Mohican of rock, he's going to repeat his Land's End to John o' Groats route, this time with a companion if he can find one (ideally female, so that all tastes are catered for). The walk starts on 16 June, and will doubtless again prove entertaining, especially when the happy couple arrive among the liberal-minded denizens of Evanton. But it's still a tad disappointing, as if Highway 61 Revisited had been followed by Highway 62 rather than Blonde on Blonde.
Martin Likeman is a man on the ball. "As I was innocently perusing page 10 of TAC64," he writes, "I was shocked when my gaze alighted on a name that by long tradition is not meant to appear." Indeed. The name in question is Carn Mor Dearg, a hill which, as established in the 2001-2 festive quiz (see TAC53 p11, question 6g), was the highest Munro never mentioned in TAC. Fair cop. Martin goes on to ask, quite reasonably, which Munro now has the honour of being the highest unmentioned. Well, it appears to be the 1177m highpoint of the Grey Corries, known in some circles as SCC, some 43m lower than the hill formerly known as CMD. But just how long will it take before this one also slips through the net? Be assured we'll try to keep it out.
Ann Dunn, a sports and leisure officer in Elgin (as opposed to An Dun, a Corbett above the Gaick) contrived to leave "a very expensive new pair of vari-focal specs" on top of Mam Sodhail on 2 May. She's been back, but they've gone. If anyone found them, please contact TAC.
And so to the forthcoming nva art-in-the-outdoors extravaganza about to begin (from 1 August) in Trotternish. The Storr - Unfolding Landscape is to be "A night transformation of one of Europe's greatest geological sites." For ticket details see http://www.nva.org.uk/, and the gig or whatever it is will be reviewed next time. (nva are the people who put on The Path in Glen Lyon in 2000.) Sounds good. But what's this, lurking in the small print of the Storr blurb? - "The walk will take up to 2.5 hrs and is at times arduous and steep (reaching 1500 feet). Be appropriately clad. The weather can change rapidly (carry full winter hill walking gear, good boots essential)." Now OK, it's an event starting at midnight, and the walk to the Storr pinnacles will indeed seem "arduous" for the visiting thesps. But "full winter hill walking gear"? On Skye, in August and September, for a walk that goes no higher than 1500ft? Are they serious? Is the paying public likely to be turned away for failing to arrive equipped with axe and crampons? Or does nva have a Scottish Arts Council-sponsored stash of ironmongery to loan out on the night? Could prove interesting.
TAC 65 Index