Thank goodness the issue of mountain memorials has been raised (TAC66 p14). I am amongst those who remove memorials wherever possible. I put them in my rucksack (the plaques, not the occasional animal corpses or bones) and deposit them in the most convenient skip on my journey home. I intend to continue removing anything that imposes inappropriate materials on a wild landscape, just as I would a crisp poke or any other detritus.
The year before last I came across a cairn near Laggan built with stone and cement and the ubiquitous plastic plaque with gold-embossed lettering that required a second trip with the appropriate tools to dismantle, because I too thought it was a special place. It gives me enormous pleasure to practice such acts of kindness on our landscape.
Max McCance, Collessie
Re mountain memorials. I'm reliably informed that a pile of congealed ash was recently found next to the summit cairn on An Teallach. The scattering of ashes in the hills is one thing; to leave them in a neat pile where dozens of Munrobaggers will munch their sandwiches is quite another.
Andy Beaton, Dingwall
Ed. - Having recently attended an ashes-scattering for the first time, what struck me and several others present was the sheer quantity of the stuff. Perhaps my thinking had been skewed by the tiny urn containing the cricket Ashes (even though I knew this contained simply the remains of a bail), but I'd anticipated something no larger than a large coffee jar, whereas it was actually flour-jar size (and the deceased had been slim and of average height). The other striking thing - echoing Andy Beaton's letter - is how ashes have the capacity to hang around in unseemly fashion. The ones I helped to distribute went in a strongly flowing stream, which seemed an excellent idea as they immediately rejoined the natural flow of things (although who knows what flavour was added to water supplies downstream). But the few ashes that spilled on the bank just stayed put, and the thought of a large pile sat there like a mini-bing - or, conversely, swirling in the wind into ears and ears - didn't seem good.
My brother recently felt the need to commemorate the life of our gran who resided in Atholl Crescent in Edinburgh for many years. Fortunately he's not a hillwalker, so Arthur's Seat was spared. A well-organised Edinburgh Council facilitated the locating of a bench in the gardens adjacent, complete with appropriate plaque and maintenance arrangements. At some cost to my brother and relatives, of course.
In recognising the felt need of a growing number to commemorate lost loved ones, and in recognising the felt need of a growing number to keep our hills and mountains clear of extraneous materials, one did wonder if Edinburgh had the answer. If public bodies had useful small projects awaiting commemorative sponsorship, could both needs be met? A stile here, a bridge there, a rights of way signpost somewhere else?
I'm not suggesting a park bench every three miles up the West Highland Way (useful as that might be for blister treatment or a good night's sleep). I am suggesting we spare the editor the purchase of a pick-axe and a hi-ho hike up the Pap of Glencoe to tackle a baby's dummy set in concrete.
How about something useful at a lower level? Though it may cost a penny or two more than a short-lived brass plaque on Ben A'an.
Eric Young, Dumbarton
Ed. - Opposed as I am to summit clutter, a lower-level installation - particularly if it's a useful bench or a stile - seems entirely reasonable. My own rule of thumb would be that, in hill country, it shouldn't be within 1000ft of the top; below that, a different set of guidelines apply. Come the time, should someone feel moved to commemorate me, a tree in a park or glen would do nicely. It would offer shade from sun and shelter from rain, birds would sing and nest in it, cats would climb it, and the dogs of the world would be welcome to pee against it. (There's - er - heaps of stuff about ashes and memorials on the MCofS site, http://www.mountaineering-scotland.org.uk/ - see the News and Pitch-in sections.)
Re Mick Furey's piece (TAC66 p7): you definitely get a crystal-clear view of Ben Lomond from Uddingston. My wife used to live on the Main St, next to the Pir Palace Indian restaurant (recommended), and the Ben stands proud to the left of Dumgoyne, to the right of the Kilpatricks. At sunset, especially in winter, it can be spectacular. But you can't see anything to the north of Ben Lomond because they're hidden by the Campsies. From further uphill, at Chateauherault, you can see over the Campsies to Ben More and Stob Binnein, the Arrochar Alps, Ben Vorlich and Stuc a'Chroin and so on, but no further than that.
On the BBC weather map (TAC66 pp6-7), I think it's much worse since they reduced the tilt. Beforehand it was very obviously tilted and distorted, so viewers would know that it wasn't a true representation. But now it's not so obvious that it's tilted at all, and viewers could well think that Scotland actually is that small.
On memorials, I recently passed the Bill Stuart cairn on Lochnagar for the first time, and it got me wondering whether the hill-ness of the remembered person has any bearing. Tom Patey mentions Bill's passing in "Cairngorm Commentary" in the SMCJ in, I think, 1962, reproduced in One Man's Mountains. He died doing Parallel B Gully a year after Patey's first ascent and seems to have been one of the early Aberdeen crowd. Does this not make his memorial more acceptable than one for, say, me?
Finally, on charity walks (TAC66 p20), I worked in the Milton Hotel in Fort William in the summer of 1997. Most weekends a company which organised charity walks would take up most of the hotel and its sister hotel the Alexandria for about 400 walkers doing Ben Nevis. It was money and jobs for the town, and I always thought that at least it kept them off every other hill in the country. I know that moves were made to encourage them to spread the load on to other hills, but why should we spoil other hills? At least "proper" hillwalkers know to avoid Ben Nevis in summer. But generally I couldn't agree with Andrew Fraser more.
Gordon Struth, Linlithgow
There you go again, Hewitt, with your sneering English way. Why do you always interrupt your correspondents? We can't do it to you, so you're very rude to do it so much. And why do you have to keep sticking your beak into everything that's written to you as if you're the fountain of all knowledge about hills? The guy from Uddingston was quite sincere about being able to see Ben Nevis from there, and I've no reason to doubt him.
As I said, I was surprised when he told me but he assured me it was so. But you have to sneer, don't you; have to put in your twopennorth. Well listen, mate; if you're so sure that it can't be possible to see the Ben from there, then disprove it. Find the eight-figure coordinates of both, then use the sine rule to calculate distance and bearing. Lay out the bearing on a small-scale map and see if it works. The horizon from the Ben is 81 miles, the map distance to Uddingston is around 75 miles, and so you wouldn't have to be very high for a line of sight. Go on, clever (Derbyshire) clogs; prove your man wrong!
On a different note; I saw that business with the Old Man of Storr son et lumière on some BBC programme recently (TAC66 pp4-5). It looked fun, and everyone interviewed seemed to enjoy it. One thing that puzzled me, though, was that everybody wore their lamps on their heads. Just because it's a headtorch doesn't mean you have to wear it there. It's one thing if you're using two trekking poles, or scrambling, but walking along a made path? Years of underground experience (here's where Hewitt puts in a snide reference to "moles", or something) taught me that holding a lamp in your hand means that any irregularity casts a shadow. That way, you can really see what's in front of you; if you wear it on your head, you just cast a pool of light and need to keep looking down. So, when you can, use your headtorch just as you'd use any other kind of torch. I promise you won't stub your toes nearly as often. Unless your feet are as big as Hewitt's, that is.
I bought a wee LED headtorch from Lidl that has a crocodile clip; you can uncouple it from the headband and clip it to a belt or similar. It's not very bright, no beam either, so I wouldn't use it as a #1 light. I toyed with the idea of lashing a couple of Mini Maglites to my poles with double-sided velcro, but they kept swivelling round. So that was another brilliant idea down the pan.
Mick Furey, Maltby
Re Nevis/Lomond/Uddingston, Jonathan de Ferranti of Viewfinder Panoramas (http://www.viewfinderpanoramas.org/) writes...
I didn't know there were 1000m-high tenements in Uddingston. Even from that height you only see the west ridge of Ben Nevis; the summit is hidden behind Cruach Ardrain. From ground level the view towards Ben Nevis extends no further than the Campsie Fells. But there is a great view of Ben Lomond, so that looks to be what the guy actually sees. If people want to turn Ben Lomond into Ben Nevis, or starlings into eagles, I suppose that I would say let them wallow in their blissful ignorance.
A few years ago I was trying to work up a jokey piece for TAC about the degradation of friendliness/comradeship the further south you walk. So, as Mick Furey says, Scotland walkers are great; Lakes OK; I've never walked the Peak except for the Dovedale motorway; Snowdonia not so good; Brecons, beginnings of suspicion; North Downs, a glare for a hello; South Downs, the sense that you must be an illegal immigrant.
I guess this is for two reasons. First, the levels of security local walkers feel where they live - though I can't help thinking that the further south the more who couldn't survive in a supermarket without supervision, and who therefore lack that shared appreciation of the involvement (I hesitate to say danger) that the hills require. Perhaps this comes with experience, which would be the second reason. A few weeks ago on Beinn Narnain we passed several young couples who were clearly early on in their walking, and our greetings were ignored, while the older walkers were, as usual, chatty (relatively, of course). If I'm honest, I was just as taciturn when I began, and that wasn't until I was 40.
Damn, does that mean the whole thing's a bloody club?!
Grahaeme Barrasford Young, Glenfinnan
Few things give us pedants greater pleasure than the opportunity to correct an error in someone else's pedantic correction. So I am delighted to be able to point out that Findlay Swinton (TAC66 p18) is incorrect in claiming that Ben Stack (NC269423) is some 600 metres south of Sabhal Beag (NC373429). It is true that 429 minus 423 equals 6, and so Ben Stack is shown on OS Landranger 9 some 12mm further from the top of the map than Sabhal Beag is, but this is not at all the same thing. North and south are measured by latitude, and in this part of the world the orientation of the grid differs quite noticeably from true north. In fact Ben Stack is actually about 1km south of Sabhal Beag, which still means, of course, that Sabhal Beag and not Ben Stack is the most northerly Graham.
TAC readers with long memories (most of them, judging by the letters' page) may recall that a similar problem arose some years ago when it was suggested that Ganu Mor of Foinaven (NC315507) was over 3000 feet and thus replaced Ben Hope (NC477501) as the most northerly Munro. However the same grid-to-true correction is necessary, and Ben Hope is actually about 100-200 metres north of Foinaven (and also over 3000ft).
Paul Prescott, Kilmahog
Findlay Swinton is of course right about Ben Stack being south of Sabhal Beag but his estimate of 600 metres, clearly taken from the gridrefs, is not accurate, as these refer to grid north rather than true north. I estimate the difference at 1100 metres. This is the same issue as that overlooked by those who argue that Foinaven is north of Ben Hope (see my letter in TAC35).
Yours more pedantically,
Ken Stewart, Coatbridge
Last year I visited Kintail, including a God-I'm-older-and-heavier-than-I-thought traverse of the Five Sisters. But which are the Five? No doubts about Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe, Sgurr na Carnach, Sgurr Fhuaran and Sgurr nan Saighead, but which is the fifth? The SMC guidebook and Butterfield say it's the uninspiring bouldery lump known as Sgurr na Moraich, while a new range of walking guides (A5 size, can't remember the publisher) says it's Sgurr nan Spainteach. Can't be both, at least in this universe.
Secondly, this may be an impossible question, but perhaps some geographico-mathematically minded reader will know the answer. From the top of which Scottish hill should you be able to see the sun for the longest time above the horizon on 2-3 July? It's not just an idle question - I'm taking some pupils on such a quest this summer and am trying to get my research in place.
If the criteria for length of time above the horizon are a combination of northness, westness and height above sea level (assuming - rightly? - an uninterrupted view northwest) then I imagine the main contenders must be either Ben Nevis, Carn Eige (Affric), Beinn Dearg (Inverlael), Ben More Assynt, Ben Hope or Clisham.
Any help much appreciated.
Ath na h-Oir, Surrey
PS - One curiosity. While staying at the Shiel Bridge campsite, I left my boots to air outside my tent and went for a shower. When I returned, ten minutes later, one of the boots had definitively disappeared. Only one other person on site - a dormobile owner who said he saw no one near the tent. Surely the gulls can't be that strong in Kintail?
The geographico-mathematically minded Grant Hutchison writes:
Longitude has no effect on the length of the day: move due west, and you'll simply delay sunrise by exactly the same length of time as you delay sunset. But increasing your north latitude, in summer months, will always get you a longer day, with an earlier sunrise and a later sunset. Increasing your height similarly lengthens the day at both ends. A sea-level horizon is the final prerequisite: horizon clutter in the direction of sunrise or sunset will clip minutes off the day.
So our hill has to meet the following criteria: northerly, high, and with sea horizons to the northwest and north-east. If we confine ourselves to mainland Scotland, Ben Hope looks good, with the day lasting over 18 hours 40 minutes on 2 July. But local sunset on that day is on a bearing of 324° true, which involves a bit of clutter out towards Cape Wrath, which might lose us a couple of minutes. This puts the nearby Corbetts Cranstackie and Beinn Spionnaidh in the frame, both with day lengths of over 18 hours 38 minutes. Cranstackie has marginally the longer day, theoretically, but its sunrise, on 36° true, looks like it will be behind the bulk of Spionnaidh. Spionnaidh itself, on the other hand, will see the sun rise and set over open ocean.
So for me, it seems too close to call: Hope or Spionnaidh.
Re lost property, Perkin Warbeck adds:
After a 2/1/06 ascent of Ben Donich, I plunged my gold-coloured Leki three-piece poles into a snow bank. This was in the first parking bay off the B828 a couple of hundred metres after the Rest and Be Thankful (NN228069). Forgot them. Went back at first light next day: gone. If you don't want the TAC heavy boys round, please return them.
Ed. - Re the Five Sisters question, I've always assumed it's Sgurr na Moraich, and that Sgurr nan Spainteach is the fifth sister only in the sense that Irvine Butterfield is the fifth Beatle.
On Friday 7 October we walked from Inverie to Glenfinnan. On Saturday, having left Sourlies bothy, we attempted to climb Sgurr na Ciche from the pass at the head of Glen Dessary. Just beneath the Feadan na Ciche we were "politely" asked to go down by Sir Patrick Grant and his stalkers. When we asked for an alternative route he rejected it outright and would tolerate no one on the hill for the two months of his stag-shooting period. He stated that there were leaflets and signposts on his estate. However none were seen and the signpost entering the glen from the west was blank from the wind and rain. We went down unsure of our legal position. Taking a keen interest in his signage, it was clear that Sir Patrick has no interest in assisting walkers; the stiles were in a dangerous condition and the path to Glen Pean bothy destroyed by argocats. Several signs about avoiding Highland bulls were also present.
Having lived and worked in the West Highlands with many similar estates, I was surprised by his attitude and this was the first occasion that I have come across this behaviour. Reading up on the access situation it strikes me that we had a right of access and could have taken an alternative route. Could you confirm the legal situation so I can waste my time and write to Sir Patrick? Nice old chap.
Ed. - Indeed it would appear that you were perfectly within your rights to go an alternative way - whereas the bold Sir Patrick was perfectly within his wrongs in trying to stop you. In terms of legal clarification, Alex Sutherland is probably the contact - he's senior access officer for Highland Council (TAC66 p15).
It was good to see the list of Access Officers in TAC66. I was pleased to read that James Cassidy (pp16-17) has found his local officer efficient. Let us hope they all are. Unfortunately negotiation can often be a slow process. In the Lake District several public footpaths have been blocked since before I came to live here 17 years ago. Negotiation, and police and court action, have achieved very little, even though walkers have on several occasions been threatened with physical violence.And how long did we endure that locked fortified gate in Glen Etive?
Rowland Bowker, Portinscale
With regard to the highest tally to complete a round of Munros (TAC66 pp10-11), any idea who has the highest number of counters to get to 600 Marilyns? For example, there are the seven deleted from the original list. Then Milk Hill and Abberley Hill, which were in for a bit before being booted out. Also Baystones has been in, out and then in again. The four hills replaced by nearby summits could also come into this mix.
This gives 14 hills that could give a "counter" total of 614. Of course you could always add to this figure putting in the 16 confirmed summit relocations. This raises the potential to 630. Obviously this figure depends on the times that different hills were added, deleted or moved.
Yours, Kev Palmer, Leicester
Ed. - Baystones (or Wansfell as some would have it) wouldn't qualify as an additional counter as it was in at the start and is in again at present, but the others do seem to be in the frame.
In reply to Andrew McCloy (TAC66 p18), the Ordnance Survey have not lost the plot entirely and are correct on one point he mentions. On the new Outdoor Leisure map of the Peak District, Three Shire Heads, not Three Shires Head, is certainly the right name.
The meeting-point, south of Buxton, of Cheshire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire, is a delightful spot. I checked the "Heads" line with two eminent local historians when I was a young reporter in Cheshire more than half a century ago.
Tom Waghorn, Manchester
Last autumn my 13-year-old son Declan and I were walking up Glen Ey to climb An Socach when, lo and behold, we espied a domesticated-looking black rabbit, running happily around the other side of the burn with the wild rabbits. It was definitely tamer than the others, and stood out like a lump of coal in a bag of diamonds - how it hadn't been spotted by an eagle we don't know - maybe the eagles were a wee bit freaked out by it. Has anyone else seen it?
Whether the rabbit has escaped from somewhere we don't know, but this is unlikely, bearing in mind the remoteness of the area - or maybe someone "let it go free". It looked well and happy, so long may it survive!
Ed. - Re oddly located animals, the campus loch at Stirling University is home to a variety of swans, ducks and herons (which eat the ducklings). There is also an exotic and entertaining Chinese swan-goose, unloaded from a car one evening a couple of years ago by a woman who then drove away. It's relentlessly noisy, so presumably the sleep-deprived owner ran out of tolerance and let it go. It has a potential mate at Strathclyde Park, if only it knew.
TAC 67 Index