In Cherie Blair’s memoirs, Speaking For Myself, the wife of the former prime minister writes that she and Tony had “a mortgage the size of Mount Snowdon” on their £3.6m house in London’s Connaught Square. “That was very scary,” she continues. “Whatever happened, we had to meet the monthly payment and it was down to me. Because no one else was going to meet it, were they?” Clearly TAC had to ask a few people the obvious question: If you have had a mortgage, to which hill might it be compared?
Colin Wells (ace climbing journalist) — I’ve never had a mortgage, but if I did, given the current credit crunch and the fact that I am resident in the Peak District national park, it would undoubtedly be more Lose Hill than Win Hill. Or, even more likely, it would resemble a bottomless cave rather than a hill, such as Disappointment Pot.
Bill Cook (Kingussie-based Munroist 4003 and golf-club-wielding chess-player) — In comparison to the Blair’s our mortgage is less than 1% of theirs, so the equivalent hill would be our garden shed. As for a proper hill, the equivalent of the drumlin above Sauchiehall St in Glasgow.
Alan Blanco (Marilyns inventor) — Mortgage: An anagram of Gormgate, that notorious scandal involving a woman hiding in a snowhole in the Cairngorms for three days before being miraculously found and paid large sums of cash by the Daily Mail for exclusive coverage of her implausible story, much to the bemusement and suspicion of the local rescue team (see TAC25).
Robin Howie (ninefold Munroist, Scotsman columnist and soon to wed…) — After a divorce settlement and the conclusion of legal matters I ended up with not one but two mortgages, so I would have called them Ben More and Ben Law(y)ers.
…Margaret Cook (horseriding haematologist, journalist and occasional hillwalker) — For me the mortgage could be compared to Beinn Fhionnlaidh (Appin), because it went on and on and the end never came in sight.
Perkin Warbeck (TAC legend) — My mortgage is currently like Albion’s Plain because it is zero metres above sea level (said he, smugly). However, before I retire it may become necessary to take on another in order to provide a roseate retirement for my nearest and dearest. I would hope it would be of the order of Conic Hill.
Charlie Campbell (Munros in 48½ days bloke) — Since I’ve had mortgages running concurrently for the last two years on two flats, my mortgage mountain has to be twin-peaked. Probably An Teallach is just right. A mortgage can be a beautiful thing, but scary at the same time. You put in the hard slog, pay your dues and climb one financial peak, but getting to the other can be a penniless journey. If the grey clouds of a bear market roll in, then you could disappear into the monetary depths of Loch Toll an Lochain, and if the Fiscal Forge doesn’t smash you then you might just enjoy the view from Lord Berkeley’s Seat — a mortgage-free horizon and another Munro in your money belt.
Dave MacLeod (E11 climber) — My first mortgage (for a delightful one-bedroom flat in Dumbarton) was something of an Aonach Eagach. Break yourself at full pelt to put money in the bank with a fast ascent to start with, and if you still have anything left the remainder is a relaxed stroll enjoying the fine situations without the burden of further uphill struggles. The problem, of course, with having freedom to look around is that you’re constantly catching an inviting view of the estate next door, the attractive but even more uphill Bidean range.
Ronald Turnbull (scrambler, bivvyer and Donalds record-holder) — It would have to be Gummer’s How (321m) or possibly Hill of the Wangie (319m) — that being the altitude of the disused shepherd’s house in the Carsphairn hills that we purchased in 1978 for a sum that today would get you a second-hand campervan. Paid for out of two minor legacies and the proceeds of a summer’s temping in low-altitude London, it was the lower rung of a two-step ladder that has kept us off the financial uphill soggypath mistyhill trudge that’s a normal mortgage. An even better comparison might be Plymoor Hill at Huntspill in Somerset, which at 2ft high doesn’t actually exist.
Alan Blanco (again) — Mortgage: A word that used to give me a creepy shuddery feeling, after I had left school and was drifting aimlessly through various office jobs, along with Security, Career, Suit, Normal, Duty and Rice Pudding. I equated a mortgage with a life sentence of drudgery and routine, and I was far too restless and penniless and girl-friendless to want that. So I managed to postpone the proper job until I was 28, and three years later the mortgage dutifully followed. This was just before my first hillwalking trip to Scotland. After days of rain and mist we set off for the Alasdair stone shoot in the gloom and ended up on top of Sgurr Mhic Choinnich, though we only found that out after asking a disdainful rope-festooned figure who appeared out of thick air. Our ascent had been via the An Stac screes: a few steps forward then sliding back almost as far, and seeming to go on for ever. Very much like a repayment mortgage in fact.
I remember with dismay looking at our first annual mortgage statement, when after paying off a steep £300 every month, the total outstanding had only gone down by about £300 in a year (15% interest rates in those days). Yes, we still had a mountain to climb. But at least we were making discernible progress in the right direction. Knowing almost nothing about mortgages, I had felt instinctively that the repayment model was the one to go for, and the memory of those shudders meant that I opted for a ten-year mortgage instead of the more common 25 years. Which worked out fine in the end, just like Sgurr Mhic Choinnich, where we somehow found Collie’s Ledge and did make it along to Sgurr Alasdair.
Steve Perry (Munros-in-winter completer) — If theirs was Snowdon, mine wouldn’t have amounted to the front door of the cafe.