An uphill struggle, no.1 - "Right from the start you are walking on a very narrow ridge, and you know that any inattentiveness will be your downfall." Said by Vladimir Kramnik, chess world champion, about his upcoming (25/11/06-5/12/06) match against the stonkingly strong computer program Deep Fritz. See http://www.chesscenter.com/twic/twic.html
An uphill struggle, no.2 - "We have a mountain to climb, but we have the crampons on and when the case is over, we will be getting the ropes out." Said by Colin Fox, national convenor of the Scottish Socialist Party, during the hugely entertaining / crashingly tedious Tommy Sheridan libel trial. See the Scotsman, 21/7/06.
Also from the Scotsman, 13/7/06, comes this, from marine and petroleum geologist Ken Hitchen: "There's no difference between a mountain that is underwater or a mountain on the shore. If you wade into the sea up to your waist, you are still 6ft tall." Hitchen was arguing that Ben Nevis has been superseded as the UK's highest peak by Rosemary Bank (what a wimpish name for a mountain that is), a 1900m extinct underwater volcano to be found in the Rockall Trough northwest of Lewis.
"If I had my way," Hitchen went on, "I'd find a different way of defining the height of mountains." Such stridency suggests he should chip in to the various long-running hill-height debates in these pages, where "If I had my way..." is a fine way to put one's point across.
Speaking of Ben Nevis, TAC63 p2 reported that in 2004 Fort William-based railwayman and part-time fireman Charlie Anderson ("brave Charlie Anderson", as the Daily Record recently styled him) managed four ascents and descents of the Ben inside 24 hours. August 2005 saw him manage five ascents, and this year, starting at 6pm on Friday 4 August, the figure rose to six, Anderson completing the final descent with an hour to spare.
According to the Lochaber News, he was paced by fellow runners from Lochaber Athletic Club, while his checkpoints at the summit and at the Ben Nevis Inn at Achintee were monitored by fire brigade and Lochaber MRT colleagues. He had allowed four hours per section, but the actual split times were 2hr45, 3hr, 4hr, 3hr30, 4hr and 3hr30, "with a bit of rest and a change of running gear in between each trip". He was sick on the third leg but recovered well courtesy of "a couple of plates of lentil soup and three honey pieces" served up by his partner Shela (sic) Ryan.
Are seven circuits inside 24 hours possible for next year? Maybe not, given that Anderson would need to trim a couple of hours off the first six circuits to allow time for a seventh, and by the end would surely be knackered beyond the point of lentil-resuscitation. Having said that, six times up and down the Ben from Achintee (about 40m above sea level) involves a minimum 7800m of ascent and 72km distance by the path. This converts to around 27hr 30min using the standard metric version of Naismith's Rule - an hour for 5km and 30 minutes for 300m of ascent. Compare this with another remarkable endurance effort, the ten ascents/descents of Beinn na Caillich made by Alan Cope in 2000 (TAC47 p7, TAC62 p19). Cope took only 16hr 15min, even though it involved 7300m ascent and around 80km distance, for which Naismith would suggest 28hr 20min. Transferring Cope's speed to the Ben could lead to as many as ten traverses within 24 hours. And remember that Chris Upson managed 8900m of ascent and 112km on his 24 Marilyns in 24 hours effort in 2003 (TAC59 pp6-7). Maybe Messrs Anderson, Cope and Upson should form a supergroup and give it a go; after all, the first single-day round of the Welsh 3000ers fell, in 1919, to the considerable combined talents of Eustace Thomas, A W Wakefield and John Rooke Corbett.
TAC65 invited readers to visit the self-explanatory http://www.nakedmunrobagging.com/, and now there's a rival site on the go, the markedly more serious http://www.nakedmunros.com/ Lots of fleshy pics of Stuart ("I defy you to run naked across a field, a beach or a mountain, and not enjoy the experience") and Karla ("In an ideal world [...] you could strip naked whenever and wherever you want without a second thought.") Karla has an interesting take on outdoor photography - "Being naked amongst the Munros also appeals to my creative side [...] A nude body is a portable item of foreground interest that you never forget to bring with you!" The full-frontal of Stuart striding down Ciste Dhubh with two (or is it three?) poles is a candidate for Scottish hill picture of the year, and would surely boost sales figures were it to grace the cover of Trail or TGO. If nothing else, Stuart and Karla are brave people to try all this fleshy Munrobagging given what a year it's been for clegs. (Thanks to Dave Linton for spotting the site.)
Meanwhile, in a galaxy far, far away, Naked Rambler Steve Gough was recently sentenced to a further seven months in jail for his nude behaviour...
Back to impressive hill runs by people called Charlie. It's now over six years since Charlie Campbell completed a round of Munros in 48 days 12 hours, walking, running, cycling and swimming the entire way. (See TAC47 pp4-5.) This still stands as the fastest time, and no one appears to have had a serious go at beating it, despite Campbell himself being of the opinion that something close to 40 days might be possible given seamless support, ideal weather (he had it mainly wet, but this year and 2004 might have been too hot), and none of the injuries that plagued his own effort.
As to who might be in the frame for such an attempt, one name increasingly being mentioned is the remarkable Steven Fallon. Fallon holds the record for the highest number of Munro rounds - indeed on 16 July this year he climbed Sgurr nan Eag and thus completed his 13th round, which puts him three clear of the pursuing peloton (still headed by Stewart Logan, the first to reach ten rounds). But that's not the half of it. Fallon has latterly joined the Carnethy Hill Running Club and appears to be a natural at that game, too. This year he came sixth at the Maddy Moss in the Ochils, seventh in the Lomonds of Fife and fourth in the Glamaig race.
These are all fine performances, but it's the Glamaig effort that gives the best clue to future possibilities. This took place the day before Fallon finished his 13th Munro round, and on the morning of the race he ticked off Sgurr na Banachdich, Sgurr a'Ghreadaidh and Sgurr a'Mhadaidh, then turned his ankle at the start of the Glamaig descent - and still came in fourth. This rare combination of speed and stamina, combined with a considerable knowledge of the Munros, does suggest that if he could cajole the Carnethy crew into providing support, a shot at Campbell's record could be viable.
Fallon has already had one go at a fast continuous round, in 1995, when the record was the 51-day effort established by Rory Gibson and Andrew Johnston in 1992. "The target was around 45 days," he says, "but prior to the attempt I went out on the Bunnet Stane in Fife for a photoshoot, fell and damaged a knee." He picked off 84 Munros in 12 days, but had to pull out. For now he'll only admit to shorter ambitions - "I went out for a Ramsay Round recce in July, so I think that'll be on the cards next year" - but if anyone can duck under 48 days for the whole lot, surely Steven Fallon can.
Summer, predictably, is when most hill-list completions take place, and the latest news on Corbetteers (up to 304 at the time of writing), Grahamists (46) and Donaldists (123) can be found at http://bubl.ac.uk/org/tacit/completions/ Worthy of particular mention are Colin Crawford of Glasgow, who completed the Munro Tops and Murdos on Sgurr na Lapaich (the outlying Affric one) on 29 July, Corbetts and Grahams on Sgurr a' Choire-bheithe and Slat Bheinn on 2 August, and a second round of Donalds (becoming only the third person known to have done this, after the late Ken Andrew and Colin Donnelly) on Beninner on 5 August. Also busy with the multi-completion game was Roderick Manson of Blairgowrie, who completed Munrosandtops, Corbetts and Grahams in a coast-to-coast push from "the glutinous mudflats of the Dornoch Firth", 9pm on 16 June, to a "paddle in Little Loch Broom". The completion hills were Carn a'Choin Deirg (4:15am on 17 June), Carn Ban (8:30am) and Seana Bhraigh (12:45pm). Also noteworthy was the circuit of Driesh and Mayar by Lindsay Munro (of the excellent Pitlochry and Aberfeldy gear shops) on 14 September. Driesh was his 1000th Munro, Mayar his 1001st. His first and second Munros had been the same hills, in the same order, on 14 September 1986, exactly 20 years earlier. And 14 September was also his wife Janet's birthday. Neat.
Most sustained bagging feat of the year has surely been the surpassing, by Andrew Tibbetts of Stirling, of the previous highest total of new Marilyns climbed in a year. This had stood at 405, set by Ken Whyte of Fort William in 2000 (Whyte had also added 316 in 1999), but Tibbetts reached 405 on Caeliber Isaf on 9 September, beat the record next day on Mynydd-y-briw, and has his eyes set on a remarkable 518 (one-third of the full set of 1554 Marilyns) by the end of the year.
It's a game where you really only get one shot. Early-season failure due to injury or illness might allow a second attempt, but as the pool of unclimbed Marilyns shrinks, so the stakes become higher. Tibbetts' main push came, of course, during the long-daylight season. In a posting on the relative hills yahoogroup, he reported having ticked off almost 300 new hills in just under five months between Dumyat (31 March, no.68 for the year) and Meikle Balloch Hill (27 August, no.366). He also wondered if Meikle Balloch is any relation of the German midfielder recently signed by Abramovich FC.
Marilyns cropped up in question form in the University Challenge contest between Merton College Oxford and Manchester (28 August). The Marilyn-surrounded Mancunians might have been expected to have got this, but it was an Oxford chap named Wells who buzzed first, and his team duly went on to win by 245-150. It's just a shame the question didn't crop up a few weeks earlier, on 11 July, when the UC Professionals contest between the RSPB and the Imperial War Museum saw Stuart Benn (Munroist, Corbetteer, Grahamist; 833 Marilyns in the bag as of 2005 ) turn out for the birders. Benn proved to be their star striker, but they were gubbed 170-120.
TAC66 p2 bemoaned the absence of two things: the accident list in the SMC Journal, and the washed-out bridge on the South Loch Earn road at Edinample. The accident list remained awol when the 2006 journal was published, but the good news is that the bridge is back, as of mid-August. And a fine construction it is too, courtesy of Barrhead-based engineering firm George Leslie Ltd along with various local stonemasons and other craftsmen. See http://www.stirling.gov.uk/news?id=89588
It's not often that hills loom large in conspiracy theories (unless, that is, the grassy knoll counts as a hill - see TAC22 p10), but the musings of political blogger Shaphan at http://shaphan.typepad.com/blog/robin_cook/ include suspicions that what befell the former foreign secretary on Ben Stack on 6/8/05 wasn't an entirely natural tragedy. Shaphan's overall theory is too convoluted for its own good - eg it's reasonable to argue that Robin Cook was seen as a security risk given the inside-track nature of his journalism, but it's a tad less credible to cast Gaynor Regan (the second Mrs Cook) and Tracey Temple, John Prescott's lover, as MI5 plants. (Mick Tully on http://www.anagramgenius.com/ does however note that "Miss Tracey Temple" converts to both "MP's steamily erect" and "Pay me, Mr Testicles".)
But Shaphan raises the curious question of the mobile phones, something that has puzzled a few people ever since the story broke. Robin Cook is said to have texted both his son Chris and a political journalist from the summit, yet come the heart attack / fall a short while later, neither he nor his wife appeared to have a phone on them, and the chopper was called in by a conveniently passing walker. Should anyone know who this mystery walker was - a Grahambagger? - then TAC would be interested to hear more (but watch your back).
Also on the political front, recent additions to the list of Munroists include David Cameron (Munroist no.3345, completed 2005). He joins Michael Howard (no.1591, completed on Ben More Mull, May 1996), John Smith (no.170, also Ben More Mull, 23/5/78), Charles Kennedy (no.2002, one of the Ben Mores - probably Crianlarich, 26/9/98), and George Galloway (no.1390, Seana Bhraigh, 3/4/95). No sign yet of Anthony Blair, but - and how Shaphan will love this - Gordon Brown is no.1800, on Sgurr a'Mhaim, 21/6/97.
And finally, still on the subject of interesting names, thanks to Val Hamilton for spotting that the Head of Worldwide Public Affairs and Policy for healthcare multinational Pfizer is one Rich Bagger. There's a picture of him (wearing collar and tie rather than his customary sweaty Helly) at http://mediaroom.pfizer.com/index. php?s=company_bios&item=14
TAC 69 Index