The Angry Corrie 71: Jul-Sep 2007

Munro madness... frenzy

What's the highest number of Munros and Tops to be pictured on the cover of a novel? Deadly Code, by Lin Anderson and published by Luath (who also publish Ian R Mitchell among others) has Sgurrs Sgumain, Alasdair, Thearlaich and the In Pinn for sure, plus what could well be the summits of Sgurr Mhic Choinnich and Sgurr a'Ghreadaidh South Top. If so, then that's three Munros plus three Tops. "The past meets the future with deadly consequences," says the back-cover blurb.

image from source document

Speaking of pinnacles, the Lairig Ghru appears to have acquired one. The 2 June Walks supplement in the Guardian included this, on p56: "The Lairig Ghru is the most well-known high-level pass in Scotland. It cuts through the Cairngorm Plateau, allowing you to bask in the peaks towering on both sides. The pinnacle provides magnificent views of Scotland's second highest peak...".

The Guardian is often quirky when it comes to Scottish geography. Faslane has been located on the east coast, Grangemouth on the Tay, and - in the week before the Lairig pinnacle was announced - the Corrections and Clarifications column included this: "An editing error caused us to locate the Isle of Rum in Aberdeenshire."

All this innery-pinnery links to the broader question of what climbers and walkers ought to do for a hill to count as properly climbed. This is a matter of considerable debate and few fixed certainties, but the majority view - maybe even the consensus - would appear to be that either (a) some kind of physical contact ought to be made with the top-knot (a slap with a hand will do), and/or (b) the person's eyeline should be above the highest natural ground. Obviously there's no law enforcing this (not yet at least: Gordon Brown's great clunking fist might change that in due course), and some would say that it doesn't really matter; but, from a bagging point of view, if someone doesn't get to the top of the hill then they really shouldn't be writing a tick in the book that evening.

The In Pinn is a prime site for dodgy dealing in this regard, as it's conceivable that there are one or two listed Munroists who have merely looked at the Pinn from the cairn on Sgurr Dearg, have gone no nearer, yet have still counted the thing as ticked - which would be rather shameful if so. What is certain is that some people manage the climb up the Pinnacle but then - whether through forgetfulness, fear or general not-bothered-ness - abseil off the end-block without having bobbed up to at least get their head level with the top of Skye's second-highest summit. The Ed has seen this happen: when a corporate TAC ascent was made in 2004 (leader Kevin Sutton; hangers-on the Ed, Perkin Warbeck and Chris Tyler), we were tailgated by a commercial guide who was lucky not to receive a sharp back-heel to the teeth from the Tyler boot, so close behind did he insist on following. The guide had three clients (at whom he whistled as if they were dogs - but that's another story), and all four abbed off the west end without going anywhere near the two summit blocks - they scrambled through on the next ledge down. The guide will have been up there many times and is unlikely to be bothered about the niceties of topping-out, but the clients (who would have paid good money, after all) almost certainly counted the hill as ticked, even though they didn't get to within maybe five metres of the highpoint - and an awkward, airy five metres at that.

Mention of Robin Howie's ninth Munro completion means there ought to be a brief update of the list (see TAC55 p7) of those known to be at the top end of the Munro-round game. Steven Fallon is currently on 13 rounds (Sgurr nan Eag, 16 July 2006), Stewart Logan remains on ten (a landmark which he was the first to reach, on Schiehallion on the last day of 1999), while Howie's ninth finish came on 4 May 2007 on Carn a'Choire Bhoidheach aka the White Mounth. The redoubtable Dave "Heavy" Whalley, stalwart of Kinloss MRT, reached the seven-round mark with Ben More Mull on 15 May 2005. James Gordon isn't far away from the same status, and TAC would be interested to hear of anyone else who inhabits such stratospheric regions.

Note that these are the people with the most complete Munro rounds, not the most Munro ascents. Quite who leads that list is harder to answer, but Richard Wood of Cannich, Ian Douglas of Glasgow and a bloke from Bishopton are all over 6000.

Most notable Munro completion of late, however, was surely that by Murray Elder, a Labour peer in the House of Lords, who finished the job on Beinn Sgritheall on 9 June 2007. Elder thus became the third parliamentarian to complete a round, following Chris Smith (1989) and Alan Haworth (2001). But the main reason to note Elder's success is that he had a heart transplant in 1988.

Also on the Munros, Kate Duff asks that mention be made of Father Jim Byers, priest at St Charles' church in Paisley and an insulin-dependent diabetic, who appears to have become the first man of the cloth to complete a second round. The repeat finish came on Beinn Chabhair, 12 August 2006, 20 years to the day since his first finish on Schiehallion. Presumably not many hills were climbed on the Sabbath.

Dave Broadhead writes from the SMC to say that he has taken over from Dave Kirk as the clerk of the Munro lists - the person to whom Munroists should write if they want to be allocated a number and appear on the published list. Kirk had done the job for six years and followed in the footsteps of Chris Huntley, Bill Brooker, Bill Donaldson and Eric Maxwell of the Grampian Club - who started researching the people-list following his own completion in 1957. (Maxwell really should be named and credited in Munro's Tables - it's a bad omission as things stand. Until he handed over the reins when the list of Munroists hit 100, it was very much his piece of work, yet now his name is almost forgotten. In 1966, aged 74, he became the second person - after Philip Tranter - to complete two rounds of Munros, and the first to complete two rounds of Tops.)

Dave Broadhead's address is Cul Mor, Drynie Park North, Muir of Ord, Ross-shire IV6 7RP (posted letters are much better than emails for the archives), and is the one for anybody who wishes to register a completion (Munros, Munro Tops, Furth), or to amend an existing entry. Details and round-highlights are welcome, but note that if confirmation is required then please send him a SAE, A4-size if a completion certificate is required.

Back to Steve Perry - the only person to complete continuous Munro rounds both summer and winter. Late July this year will see him attempt ten huge set-piece walks in ten days, to raise funds for Marie Curie Cancer Care. The ten days are: Welsh 3000ers, Derwent watershed, English 3000ers, Yorkshire Three Peaks, Lyke Wake, Glencoe horseshoe, Mamores, Nevis-CMD-Aonachs-Grey Corries, Cairngorm 4000ers and Cuillin ridge. The longest day in terms of distance is the Lakes 3000ers, 77km, while the longest in terms of ascent is the Welsh 3000ers, 3650m. The shortest distance is the Cuillin, 12km, while the least ascent is the Three Peaks, 1400m. The whole thing adds up to 425km and around 26000m of ascent. It's fairly safe to say that Perry won't be doing the Cuillin ridge in a Tresidder-type time come Day 10.

Meanwhile, on the Marilyn front, Ken Butcher of Dundee has become the first person to tick off 1550 of the 1554 hills. There had been a five-strong pack of baggers bottlenecked on 1549 (Rob Woodall, Ken Whyte, Ann Bowker, Don Smithies and Butcher himself), all with the same five decidedly awkward St Kilda summits to visit (Mullach an Eilein on Boreray, Cnoc Glas on Soay, Bioda Mor on Dun, plus Stac an Armin and Stac Lee). But Butcher found his way to the top of Boreray in May, and so sneaks ahead in one of the world's slower races. There's still no real sign of anyone reaching 1554, but plans are known to be afoot, and afloat, for the autumn.

Also on St Kilda, the French rope-loving dance company Retouramont have recently been performing St Kilda - A European Opera out on the archipelago (an impressive event, but one that asks questions of the access-controlling authorities: peak-baggers and recreational climbers remain frowned upon all year round, whereas dancers in thongs and things are allowed on at the height of the bird-breeding season). Malcolm Maclean, co-creative director of the project, had this to say on the BBC Scotland website: "The images are absolutely stunning. This mist and cloud patterns [sic] are something out of Tolkien and are presumably due to global warming." Eh? It forms a matching pair with the quote by the head of Glenmore Lodge about "new types of snow and ice" due to climate change - see TAC70 p12.

The Graham Tops is one of the more obscure hill lists on the go, but chief compiler Alan Blanco has found another bump, taking the known total to 1001. Using a Suunto altimeter with one-metre intervals, he visited Druim Fada above Loch Hourn in settled conditions in mid-June and came away "98% confident" that the 615m or 614m bump at NG876079 had a drop of 32m and thus qualified for the list.

McNeishwatch. He is expanding his empire into the Ponds, and is scheduled to deliver this year's Wainwright Memorial Lecture at Rheged near Penrith (see The blurb for this includes a quote from McNeish's own website,, where his talks are said to "include advice on isolation, stress relief, creating a personal haven and the necessity of scheduling quality time for planning, visualisation and self-improvement." Rock'n'roll!

Simon Hoggart, in his Guardian column on 9 June, reported a New Yorker magazine story where the leader in the race for the US Democratic presidential nomination was asked why her first name was spelt Hillary rather than the more common Hilary. She was, said she, named after Hillary of Everest - which is a nice story, apart from having a hole in it. Edmund Hillary's name only became widely known in 1953, whereas Hillary Rodham Clinton was born on 26 October 1947. Hoggart comments: "Many will see this as more proof of her duplicity. I think it's more that she fell for a family myth or joke." (This has echoes of Tony Blair's "claim" to have sat at the Gallowgate end of St James' Park and watched Jackie Milburn play football for Newcastle United, at a time when TB was a toddler living in Australia - a story now regarded as apocryphal.)

Speaking of football, shocking news from Fifa: it has banned international matches from being played at more than 2500m above sea level. This is ostensibly due to "concerns over players' health and possible distortion of competition", but surely, in truth, it's a blatant example of altitude prejudice, a particularly unpleasant form of heightism. Of course the ruling doesn't affect pancake-flat countries such as Belgium, the Netherlands or the Plain of Albion, but it has reportedly been "greeted with dismay" in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Colombia, where internationals are played at 2800m (Quito), 3400m (Cuzco), 3600m (La Paz) and 2640m (Bogota) respectively. The ruling has been prompted by a game earlier this year between Bolivian club side Real Potosi and Flamengo of Brazil. The Real Potosi ground is at almost 4000m and several Flamengo players needed oxygen after making mazy dribbles down the wing.

Seasoned TAC readers will recall that the 1998 World Cup saw exhaustive analysis of the prowess of various footballing nations set against the altitude of their highest mountain. (TAC37 pp3-6.) This proved beyond any smidgeon of doubt that football and landform were inextricably linked, with higher countries producing classier versions of the beautiful game than did the dull lowlands. So Fifa's ruling looks likely to reduce the number of silky skills on display.

Also on football, when Scotland played the Faeroe Islands on 6 June, a Radio Scotland pundit was heard to describe the Svangaskard stadium in Toftir as "the most fearsome clifftop in world football".

image from source document

And finally, reverting to TAC's favoured sport of cricket, veteran West Indian commentator Tony Cozier was blithely reading out letters during the lunch-break on the last day of the Chester-le-Street test match when he fell for this: "One listener says he is trying to introduce cricket to Mexico, but is finding it hard as it's very mountainous and there are no flat areas at all. That's from a Mr Juan Carr."

TAC 71 Index