Babies and big hills, not sure that they go together. Seen on 9 August, at the Bad Step halfway along the Tarmachan ridge (on the downslope from Meall Garbh to the col before Beinn nan Eachan), what appeared at first glance to be a family: mother, father and boy aged around ten being taught basic ropework by being belayed down the Step (a gravelly groove through tilted slabs, not a pleasant place).
On closer inspection, the makeup of the group turned out to be as follows: father teaching son the ropes (fair enough - the father clearly knew what he was doing), and an unrelated woman with a small baby on her back in a papoose. Yikes. Turned out that the woman had just happened along while the father was preparing to belay his son, and she and the backpack-baby were duly lowered down before heading out from the col to the quarry track. Asked later whether she had realised before setting off that the ridge included an awkward and exposed descent, she said no - and she looked a mixture of sheepish and shaken.
What on earth was she thinking of? OK, the weather was good, but this particular Bad Step has always been a dodgy place and is getting worse year-on-year - the local MRT is believed to regard it as an (adult) fatality waiting to happen. And quite aside from the dubious overall decision-making by the mother, there were also questions as to her navigational ability: the Step is completely avoidable, with an easy path taking a natural line down the shoulder just to the north. Quite why the old path ever evolved via the Step isn't clear.
In the end nothing disastrous happened: no one fell, no eight-month-old head was banged, everyone got home safely for their tea. But it was alarming to witness, and the potential consequences didn't bear thinking about. What might have happened had the mother not had the huge slice of luck of arriving at the Step just as someone was there with a rope?
Another Bad Step - again puzzling because it's easily avoidable - is that on Crinkle Crags, styled by Wainwright as "the most difficult obstacle met on any of the regular walkers' paths in Lakeland". Which is really just an excuse to mention that long-time TAC reader Kevin Borman has produced a wallchart showing all 214 Wainwrights - it's along the lines of the various Munro wallcharts that have appeared over the years. If you want one for Christmas (and remember that 2007 has been the centenary of AW's birth), send £4.50 to Kevin Borman, 125 Mulehouse Road, Sheffield S10 1TD. <end_covert_advert>
Wainwright's centenary has prompted at least two rounds of the 214 fells to mark the occasion. Portinscale-based Ann Bowker started with Carrock Fell on 1/1/07 and finished on Starling Dodd 9/9/07 - see http://www.keswick.u-net.com/70909.htm
Peter Smith lives markedly further from the fells, at Whitworth near Rochdale, but he too managed a centenary round, adding the 30 extra summits in the Fell and Rock Climbing Club's guidebook The Lakeland Fells for good measure. It has been the Fell and Rock's centenary, too - the meeting to discuss formation of the club was held in November 1906 at the Sun Hotel in Coniston. Smith therefore started his round on 10/11/06, with Low Pike, High Pike and Dove Crag (the latter being the first fell that AW drew for his guidebooks) and completed with Helm Crag, the last of his 214+30 fells, at exactly 2:44pm on 20/10/07. Congratulations to both. Wainwright would surely have been pleased. (Well, maybe.)
Would Wainwright work as the name of a band? In an article in the Guardian, 29 September, Wainwright is listed as one of 105 names considered - and rejected - by Huddersfield poet Simon Armitage and Craig Smith for their band, before they finally settled on The Scaremongers. Band-naming is a notoriously tricky business, but Wainwright does seem to be one of the better ones in the Armitage-Smith list: better, at least, than Two-Man Kayak, Liquorice Crowbar, Pseudo-Tribal Self-Aggrandisement and The Singing Electricians. (Air Sea Rescue, Bradford Park Avenue, Dibner and The Even Stevens are rather good rejects, however.) Wainwright might even be better than The Scaremongers. Was The Wainwrights ever considered? Maybe the risk of it seeming like a Martha-and-Rufus tribute band would have been too great. And would any other hill lists or suchlike make good band names - The Absolute Sub-Murdos, perhaps? The Cartographic Pedants? Asperger Falcon? The Anal Retentives? Crumley and the Baggers?
The Scaremongers have released a double-A-side single: Nodding Dog, and You Can Do Nothing Wrong (In My Eyes). The latter is, in TAC's editorial opinion, both catchy and good. Sample lyric: But like Humberside is Yorkshire still / And Lancashire is over the hill / And loneliness is Gaping Gill / We never fought and we never will.
To hear both songs, go to http://www.simonarmitage.com/
Back north of the border, news of an interesting achievement comes from Jim Waterton, occasional letter-writer to this parish. An early August day on the Lawers ridge saw him climb his 746th Munro: impressive in itself, made more so given that he's no.746 in the list of Munroists. (He completed on An Caisteal - a rare finishing hill - on 16/5/90.) It's impossible to say quite how many other Munroists have managed the Waterton Conjunction (WC), given the passage of time and the vagueness of many people's overall Munro tallies. But it does look likely to be pretty unusual, especially if defined in terms of someone bringing their tally up level with their existing Munro number. On that basis, anyone on the list from no.276 downwards isn't in the frame, as although they will all have climbed at least 276 Munros (276 being the lowest number of Munros since the Tables were first published), their total will have reached the WC ahead of allocation of their number. No.277 is Ewan Douglas of Paisley Hillwalking Club, who completed on Bidean nam Bian, 4/7/82. If Douglas's round didn't include any repeats and if he climbed no Munros between completion and being given his number, then his next Munro would have qualified him for the WC. It's highly unlikely however that he completed with no repeats, and the same is true for almost all Munroists, so it seems reasonable to estimate the bottom WC entry-point as no.300 in the list.
Chances are that a good proportion of Munroists 300- 500 will be WC people, as climbing 500 Munros is fairly common among Munroists. Clearly certain people have managed it, eg Robin Howie is no.555 and has completed nine rounds. (Stewart Logan, however, appears not to qualify, despite being no.327 and having completed ten rounds. "I can state with reasonable certainty," he writes, "that when I finished on Ben More in June 1981 I had clocked up 378 Munros as per the 1997 Tables. I had, therefore, in your parlance 94 spares. I would hazard a guess that the spares would not have been much different in 1981." Which means he appears to already have climbed markedly more than 327 Munros when the number was allocated by the SMC - hence no WC for him, if a strict line is taken.)
Provided they haven't climbed a lot of repeats early in proceedings, any double Munroist with a number between 300 and 552 (276x2, disregarding the Beinn Teallach promotion in the mid-1980s) will have managed the WC. Likewise anyone with three rounds and a number no higher than 828. But by Munroist no.828, things are surely starting to thin out dramatically: not many people climb 828 Munros. Very few people above no.1000 in the list will have made it to the WC, and almost none - not yet at least - above 2000 (allocated to Rati Chiba, completed 22/8/98). Given that no.4000 is almost upon us, the WC is going to be a very rare achievement in the future. There will come a point when it will to all intents be out of reach for new Munroists, unless they spend almost their entire life traipsing up and down Tom Buidhe and the like.
As to how many have managed it already, might 350-400 be a valid estimate? The bold Mr McNeish, to give him his due, is likely to arrive at the WC shortly if he hasn't done so already: he's closing in on a third completion, and his Munroist number is 913. The Ed, by contrast, has no chance: although he has passed 1000 Munros, he is Munroist no.3907, which would mean having to live into his late 80s while clocking up a steady 70 Munros per year. And, frankly, he's got better things to do.
Also on the subject of Munroist numbers, go to the SMC's online list of Munroists, http://www.smc.org.uk/Munros/Compleatists.php?T=2, and you'll see that the list is subdivided into 100-name sections. Choose the 3901-4000 section, click on the Filter button, and you get the most recent additions. Fair enough - a useful resource. But the sections extend as far as 10000. Choose the 9901-10000 section, again click on Filter, and this appears: 9999 Jim Willsher Munros 1997 Tops 1997 Furth 1997. What is to be made of that? Willsher is the man who scored a remarkable 96% in the 1998/99 TAC Christmas quiz; is he now somehow staking a claim for a classy Munroist number several decades ahead of time? Can anybody book a number like this? Maybe the SMC should start selling the more notable ones, like personalised number plates.
Away from the Munros, congratulations to Stuart Benn: he completed both Corbett Tops and Graham Tops on 1/10/07 with the Cuillin pair of Sgurr an Fheadain (a 688m GT) and Sgurr a'Bhasteir (an 898m CT). "I think the first GT/CT I did specifically," he says, "was Carn nam Bain-tighearna [a 634m GT on Landranger 35 at NH847253, above the Slochd] on 10/10/98, though I'd done about a thousand 2000ft-plus tops by then". Until the end of the year 2000 his main priorities were helping his mother to finish her Munros (as you do; she completed on Slioch, 13/10/00), and finishing his own Grahams (Suilven, 5/11/00). "The main impetus since then has been [Corbett/Graham] tops, so the last 900 or so took me about seven years - a long haul but I've really enjoyed it." Benn is the fourth person known to have completed the CTs (after James Gordon, Bert Barnett and Andrew Allum), and the third to have completed the GTs (after Gordon and Allum).
Benn also reports having found a red Sigg bottle beside the trig on the Glen Brittle An Cruachan on 30 September: "empty but perfectly OK". It's not the most climbed of hills, so if anyone thinks the bottle is theirs, contact TAC. Similarly, get in touch if you lost binoculars on Beinn Mheadhoin in Morvern in early September (found by James Lamb). Oh, and while on the subject of lost/found, thanks are due to Mr W Gilligan of Glasgow City cleansing department - just along the road from Clydeside Press, where TAC is printed. One day in July, staggering back to the TACmobile under a pile of boxes containing TAC71, the Ed fumbled in his pockets for a minute or more before realising that there was a distinct absence of car keys. It was siling down with rain, too (it was summer, after all), so suddenly there was a problem. Except that inside the car, on the dashboard, could be seen a note from the good Mr Gilligan saying that the keys had been spotted in the car door, handed in, and were along at the department. Who says that all sense of civic duty has gone? And this in the allegedly notorious east end of Glasgow, too. Much appreciated.
The aforementioned An Cruachan is 435m, and another 400m hill, Dumyat (visible from the helicopter pad atop TAC Towers - see TAC71 p20), saw a remarkable pre-dawn ascent on 1/8/07 by boy scouts and leaders to mark the centenary of the scouting movement. Bert Mackenzie, Assistant Area Commissioner (General Duties) Forth Valley Scouts (and Munroist no.3611 in his spare time) writes:
"2:50am. Scout leaders awake in the 1st Stirlingshire Scout Hall. Four cubs and about 20 scouts have been sound asleep for past two hours. Wake them at about 3:15am. First course of breakfast and off to the Sheriffmuir for 4am. Cars from Dunblane with a larger group have already set off since they have more cubs (8-10 yrs) and expect to be slower. With 11 campers from 5th Mount Gerald Group already at the summit, it seems we have 99 on the hill. Surprise, surprise, at 5am on the summit of Dumyat, a stranger appears out of the mist. 'I used to be a scout and read about the sunrise ceremony on the web, so as I had nothing better to do, thought I would come up.' Unbelievably, we had 100 on the hill on Scouting's 100th birthday! Warm, humid and damp mist for last 50m - it cleared by the time we dropped to the stile at the fence. No sign of a sunrise at 5:17am, but truth be told it would have risen behind Ben Cleuch at this time of year and would not have been seen until about an hour later. Some Explorer Scouts camping on the Gargunnocks would have seen a genuine sunrise in better weather.
"Return to the Stirling Scout Hall: fry-up breakfast, change into uniform as the rain started and along to the castle esplanade for 8am. Local police, monitoring the CCTV, radio Scottish Heritage security: 'Is there a demonstration? Do you need assistance?' About 300 members and supporters are led by Sandy Jack sounding a kudo horn in the same manner as when Baden-Powell opened his first Scout Camp on Brownsea Island at 8am on 1 August 1907. Everyone repeated the Scout Promise. Then a few short speeches and singing of 'Happy Birthday' and the Scout version of 'Singing in the Rain'."
(Also on Dumyat, congratulations to Alex King of Ochil Hill Runners: 12 October saw him complete 100 ascents for the seventh year in a row. What's more, next day he finished his Munros on Beinn na Lap.)
Something appears to be amiss at the Naked Munros website, http://www.nakedmunros.com/ (see TAC69 p19). Rather than the traditional and popular set of in-the-scud pics of the lovely Stuart and Karla on various Munros, what you get just now is this: "Due to excessive media interest we have decided to temporarily close down the page until further notice. We would like to thank everyone who has supported us in our endeavours and have appreciated our reasons for doing it. We look forward to seeing you all again at some point in the future." Disaster. The fanbase is bereft. Come back soon, please.
TAC 72 Index