The Angry Corrie 23: May-Jul 1995
Glen ponder (letters)
As to your pop group question of whether anyone can beat 10:10 for Portishead (TAC22, p15), it can be equalled by Big Country while Cyndi Lauper comes in at 11:11 and The Jackson Five manage a respectable 13:14.
Re the "Portishead Challenge", I can manage one 9:9 (German band Rheingold) and one 10:10 (Slough-based Mournblade). If you include solo musicians, then I can manage 12:12 with a fascinating character by the name of Holger Czukay, formerly with mega-influential German band Can. His credentials include an album entitled On the way to the peak of normal, a track on his album Radio-Wave Surfer called "Through the Freezing Snow", and living for three years in a shopping trolley just outside Hamburg. Sounds like some sort of TAC icon, doesn't he?!
Ed. - And I thought I was sad...
Surely Roy Turnbull (TAC21, p19) cannot be serious in suggesting The Cheviot be granted Corbett status? Has he ever been up it? We have enough boggy Corbetts of our own thank you, without importing this megabog to bag.
However, he does raise a very important principle. As Swansea, Cardiff and Wrexham - 5:7, 6:7 and 7:7 incidentally! - all play in the "Englished" League (anagram), then perhaps NoDowns should be considered the highest summit in Oilban?
PS - There is something lacking in your numerical notation scheme. Clearly Phil Babb is not the same as Desmond Tutu, yet both are 2:4. Similarly, while 3:9 adequately describes Wet Wet Wet, I feel it does not fully capture the fivewness of fellow popsters Bow Wow Wow. Some further research is required in this field.
PPS - Do you know of any cure for this kind of thing? I'm getting worse.
Ed. - There's a current Albion chess grandmaster named John Nunn - whose 2:5 finish includes a tremendous four n's out of five - whilst the chief Glasgow Rambler is the near-perfect Bobby Robb!
As the author of the National Trust for Scotland's booklet on Percy Unna (the Trust's mountaineering benefactor), and as one researching a book about Unna, might I congratulate Ian McConnell (TAC22, p18) on his trenchant analysis of the breaking of Unna's wishes in Glen Coe. It is only by a constant airing of these blemishes that the Trust will adhere to Unna's wishes that "natural" management prevail. (Ian has made one slip: it was Kintail, not Ben Lawers, that was Unna's personal gift although Unna money was used at Ben Lawers.)
The Unna issue is an ongoing debate, particularly with the Trust getting Mar Lodge. All of Unna's wishes have now been broken at the Trust's mountain properties. Every time an Unna rule has been broken, the mountain property has suffered. I know of no case where breaking an Unna rule has been beneficial.
Some blemishes - like giving an owner or neighbour the go-ahead to shoot deer for sport (not the cull) - have been kept from the membership. The latest such episode involved the Trust obtaining the West Affric estate. The selling owner is being allowed to shoot for a limited period as part of an advantageous selling price. Most people would accept that as a means to an end and because of the time limit. But this aspect of the deal was not in the Trust's press release, nor in the Trust's newsletter. Staff are slow - to put it mildly - to extol Unna's virtues, yet the perceptiveness of this generous man is being increasingly appreciated in wider circles. A so-called history of the Trust's mountains was sent by Trust HQ to the media in jubilee year. It didn't mention Unna once, a man whose gifts amount to over £1 million in modern money terms. This issue needs therapeutic publicity, and Ian McConnell and TAC are to be congratulated.
I should like to have the opportunity to reply to Ian McConnell's letter in TAC22. (I'll bet you never thought NTS staff read TAC - well, quite a few of us do.) First of all, let's get a few things straight:
Now to deal with the visitor centre and car park. Yes, I think that most people would accept that, in retrospect, this was a mistake. Hence the decision to move the visitor centre. However, we make no apology for trying to make some money from people who visit the Glen. Glencoe does not run itself free of charge - it costs, and any surplus made is used for the conservation of Glencoe. Incidentally, the only car park created by the Trust is the one at the visitor centre. None of the others were our doing. In fact we will shortly be examining the subject in conjunction with the roads authority, SNH and the local community in order to provide a solution which will meet the requirements of safety, landscape and, of course, those needing to park.
We also make no apology for our footpath work - other than to say that some of the older techniques would not be used today and will be replaced in due time. Our statutory duty is to conserve the area and this includes preventing further damage caused by people walking over the land. This has been greatly supported by SNH, SMT, the local enterprise company and many individuals. Of course we would rather not have to do this work, but we live in a real world. Incidentally, if you look, you can still see the damaged vegetation along the route people followed from the road to the river in the days of Murray's visit.
Now bridges. First of all, let's remember that there was already a bridge 100 yards upstream of today's bridges even in Unna's day, and the new bridges were provided at the request of local people who acted as the forerunner of the present day rescue team - remember that people have to live and work here 365 days a year. They did not request a sheep transporter, as in Glen Etive, and it was not regarded as a pathetic excuse (with all that implies about their efforts); the Trust took it as a serious request given that people had died unnecessarily.
And finally the Clachaig Flats. Gradually, over the years, the problem associated with the camping there became intolerable. The river was being used as a toilet, as was the wood behind the Clachaig. Each year we remove nearly 100 bags of rubbish from the site. This costs us both in time and extra fees charged by the local authority. People were stealing timber from An Torr as well as cutting down the alders below the hotel and trying to burn them green (people are also cutting down the Caledonian pines in Glen Etive for the same purpose), and the fires they do manage to light inevitably damage the flora which go to make up the SSSI. Over and above this, we received complaints from the local community, the local authority and, not least, the owners of the Clachaig Inn about the situation. There are also very real worries about how the emergency services might not be able to get down the road due to all the illegally parked cars on the road and verges. If mountaineers want to keep the Glen "primitive for all time", then I would suggest they camp where they will do no damage.
We all know why people camp at the Clachaig - it has little to do with high moral values about wilderness or not using official sites - it is principally because it is close to the Inn. Combined with this, the Trust has a stated policy of expanding the native woodland cover in the Glen, and the Clachaig Flats are one of a number of areas targeted for the re-establishment of woodland.
In closing, can I say that we always welcome informed debate on these issues, and I would urge anyone who feels strongly about this to contact us on the property or, even better, to join the NTS and make your point at the AGM or to your local member of the Trust Council.
Senior Ranger and Property Manager
About that letter from Ian McConnell in the last TAC. The other day I was talking to a guy when a dog crapped on the pavement nearby. "Look at that," said your man, "these pet dogs are useless buggers - just bags of shit." Which, of course, is exactly what we all are.
The fact that some of that which goes in must come out has caused big trouble since the beginning of time. Shit has spread diseases. For centuries it rained down on passers-by in the streets of rapidly-expanding towns, where disposal is still a massive problem.
Where you get people, you get shit; the more people, the more shit. And that is one reason why I have not camped on the Glen Coe flats for 20 years.
Who could have forecast, before the "new" road went in around 1938, that scores of thousands of vehicles would be hurtling through the glen only 30 years later?
Who could have forecast how important the tourist industry would become to previously-isolated communities?
Who could have forecast that the few hardy climbers and walkers who made long, cold bus trips to the glen would be replaced by vanloads of glee-clubs with hundreds of fancy tents?
To get to the nitty-gritty: let's say that 20000 campers a year use the floor of the glen. Let's say that 3000 will be able to hold on until they can relieve themselves at the Clachaig and the Kingshouse of a morning, and that a further 3000 will wait until they get on the hill.
Apart from the few who might be constipated, that would leave 14000 piles of crap around favoured camping areas (ie near water courses and not too far from the pub). This is obviously unacceptable.
Any rectifying measures that might be taken would infuriate one or more interested parties. Banning vehicles from stopping anywhere between the Black Mount and Ballachulish so that people would have to carry their
gear in would bankrupt hotels and be rejected by the Tourist Board; building little loos near said favoured camping areas would send folk like Ian McConnell into paroxysms of rage.
Last time I was in the States they were experimenting with solar loos - about 15ft high which had to be mounted by climbing four steps; OK in thick woodland, but would look pretty bizarre in the Coe.
Ian is right, of course, about that stupid bridge over the river, about the bloody signposts and about the Lawers centre, which should be removed. But I don't see any alternatives to official camping sites - although these should be free as they are in some parts of the States.
But the sad fact is that for 50 years I have watched many of my favourite places being destroyed by a wave of humanity and associated rubbish and crap. One can get a little tired of writing angry letters and articles; winning a few skirmishes while knowing that the war is being lost.
Every year, it seems, there is some new manifestation of human idiocy and ignorance, not the least of which is the menace of BIG PARTIES of up to 30 people... Laramie Loafers who will park 15 tents around bothies which they use as cookhouses, havens from midges or foul weather alternatives.
Result: shit is thick in the Gorms, especially near the Shelter Stone and the bothies at the Fords of Avon and Corrour. (What bothies? - Bothidian-fearing Ed.) Last summer I saw from afar, wringing my hands, about a dozen people ranging along the shore of Etchachan looking for somewhere to crap. They were still camped there two days later, so one can assume that one party had deposited 30 new piles of shit along what was, not so long ago, one of the world's purest stretches of water.
I fear the game's a bogey - worldwide. How many stories or TV documentaries on the environment have you read or seen recently that haven't ended with dreaded statements like, "But now, all this is threatened by mining / drilling / burning"? Does anyone really believe that events such as the Rio Summit are anything more than sops to public opinion?
As for the public, how many in the affluent nations are prepared to sacrifice even one luxury to support the causes to which they pay lip-service? The Third World is ruled out altogether. It has to exploit any resources to the full - to repay debts to the World Bank or IMF, which are, of course, controlled by the said affluent nations.
We Northern Europeans have to accept most of the blame for this state of affairs. It was largely our sort who pillaged and abused the potential paradise of what is now the United States and Canada.
The following was spoken many years ago by a Wintu holy woman in California. And things have got a lot worse since then:
"We don't chop down the trees. We only use dead wood. But the White people plow up the ground, pull down the trees, kill everything. The spirit of the land hates them. They saw up the trees. That hurts them. They blast rocks and scatter them on the ground. The rock says 'Don't. You are hurting me.' But the White people pay no attention. How can the spirit of the earth like the White man? Everywhere the White man has touched it, it is sore."
Isle of Seil
Following my letter to TAC22, I was specifically asked by the NTS to attend a meeting on Glencoe. In my letter I had queried the NTS "interpretation" and disregard of Percy Unna's rules for the Glen when he gifted them it. One would think that the meeting in Glencoe village (on 12th April) was to discuss similar issues. Wrong.
Various logistical problems were conspiring to keep me from the meeting, and I had doubts about whether I'd be able to attend. Overshadowing this, however, was a responsibility not only to myself but to my kids and anyone else hoping to discover what I discovered in Glencoe some fifteen years ago. Its management is an issue of enormous importance.
When me and big Jenny Davidson (see TAC8, p16 - Ed.), with my wife along as our bouncer, finally made it up to the Glen, our first sight was not the Aonach Eagach or Aonach Dubh's scary cliffs, but three new No Camping signs Clachaig landlord Mr Daynes has had his boy erect across from the pub. It was only right, I reasoned to myself, that we should encounter yet another insidious insult to our enjoyment of the Glen, having arrived to discuss the issue of access with the NTS.
After a few pints, we set off down the back road into the village, to find the hall very quiet with only fifteen minutes to go. Slowly, in dribs and drabs, the locals drifted in, and at five past eight the pleasant eco-friendly Gaia Architects opened the meeting. Two suited characters arrived ten minutes late and took their seats without introduction. They looked so out of place they could only have been NTS representatives, or Mormons - we were left to guess which.
Quickly the real mandate of the meeting became clear: it was for locals and we were all here to listen to how Gaia Architects are such wonderful guys, and how the new visitor centre would be such a success. Diplomatically, the old centre was almost-but-not-quite described as a mistake. The architects directed the meeting at the locals, presented the centre as a fait accompli, and simply indulged in a PR exercise, patronisingly asking for some input with no indication given to how much note would be paid, if any, to suggestions.
As it transpired, the locals' input was not to address issues about the site of the new centre - helpfully the NTS has already decided where it should be - nor the design, the Gaia boys having organised this. No, the locals were to decide if as much attention should be paid to the history of the Massacre as had been the case in the old centre. To accomplish this difficult task, we were asked to split ourselves into groups and perform a "SWOT" analysis with big sheets of paper and felt-tipped pens. I'm afraid this was too much for me, and the three of us left.
So in summary:
(a) I was invited under false pretences
(b) The meeting was hosted by Gaia Architects
(c) If there was any NTS representation it was conspicuously silent
(d) The meeting was for locals, and we were the only climber types there
(e) The issue of access and future management was not even raised
(f) Any local influence was going to be at best cosmetic
Now I'm a grown-up boy, have even used "SWOT" charts myself, and I'm also not so načve as to think the NTS shouldn't evolve to meet new challenges. But my experiences since writing in TAC22 confirm to me that there is indeed a lot of concern about the way in which the Glen is currently managed. The disregard of rules set by climbers who bought the Glen for the NTS will continue. And if the meeting I attended is anything to go by, the NTS couldn't give a flying fuck what the punters think.
So I for one am off to pastures new. The Glen will have to manage without me and Peter's profits will be down by a case or so of Arrol's 80/-.
NB - As a postscript, the Glencoe flats were occupied by the "summer" breed of climber. The result: one unconscious soul covered in vomit lying out overnight, smashed bottles, fires and torn-up pornography littering the place. I had forgotten the difference between winter and summer "climbers". So the NTS is probably right, and these people I'm trying to represent are inflicting the real Massacre of Glencoe.
Ed. - Anyone else got opinions on all this? Feel free to write in...
I have just finished browsing my way through Differences Between... No.9 in TAC21, where my attention was drawn to your references to Bruce Hornsby and the Range. (Blimey, a non-Glencoe letter! - Ed.) You may be interested to note that said Mr Hornsby has been spending some time playing with The Grateful Dead, after the demise of their previous keyboard player, Brent Mydland. If it is at all helpful to you in your quest for connections (as if Mydland was enough), then toy with this...
And finally, as further proof of uncanny happenings, some album cover art strangely reminiscent of a certain Mr M Munro, obviously sans Kendal Mint Cake.
Ed. - Dearg Arcia also played banjo in the early seventies' remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers - the movie in which Jeff Goldblum played the young Donald Sutherland whilst Sutherland himself played that bloke who gets off with Julie Christie in Don't Look Now.
According to an article in The Grauniad, a French environmental and mapping satellite has detected continental tides. Toulouse rises and falls by about 0.4m twice daily.
This is significant! If, by correctly reading tidetables for Loch Torridon, Loch Hourn and Loch Laxford/Inchard, you time your ascent of Beinn Dearg, Sgurr a'Choire-bheithe (or is it Sgor now?), or yon shale bing in Sutherland, you will be getting trans-teallachian Munros - akin to synthesizing elements 93-110.
Conversely, get it wrong and you can add Beinn Teallach to your (hopefully large) Corbett tally. Having been up it twice I expect I can claim it - I did "discover" the ruddy thing anyway! (For more on this, see p6...) As the tides move, could An Stuc swap with Meall Garbh, and then swap back again? (...and for more on this, see p7!) How will the Sic Munroist cope?
Could this mean that Scottish hillwalkers have to go through the same palaver as we do when we want to dangle off a Cornish cliffface and get up to catch the tide? At least we now know that Beinn a'Chlaidheimh, being 916m, is safe.
A further complication is that the OS sealevel factory at Newlyn also bobs up and down at a different rate to the sea (rock acting differently to water). So you need the aforementioned Cornish tidetables too.
As for Corbetts / Marilyns, what if the separation of the col moves independently of the summit? I don't want to think about it. There are however two neighbouring tops in Ardgour which will need careful scrutiny!
Ed. - A book about walking to Toulouse could be called Toulouse - Le Trek. And are normal tides a drop in the ocean? Richard also deserves credit for sustaining the sequence of triple-letter words in recent TACs, with cliffface following on from weeer and hillland.
While strolling through the woods below Bennachie on a beautiful day a few weeks ago, who should I meet but the Sic Munroist?! Shock! Horror! - he was walking hand-in-hand with a young lady by the name of Shonagh!
Apparently the meteoric race round the Munros has come to a stuttering standstill since he became besotted with her, and only two summits have been climbed this year, to bring the total up to 198. Instead of the round being completed early in 1996, it looks as if it will be well into the next century before he tops out on the Ben.
How the mighty have fallen!
PS - The SM was then spotted in Marshall's in Aberdeen, purchasing a pair of boots for the forementioned Shonagh. As he was also seen buying a new climbing rope a few weeks earlier, perhaps he is intending to pull her up the hills behind him?
I believe that a misguided acquaintance of mine has been spreading unfounded rumours concerning my abandoning of the mission to boldly ascend all the Munros in ascending order of height. These reports are completely unjustified, and number 200 (Geal Charn beside Loch Laggan) was ticked off on a beautiful spring day in early April.
Your concern over revision of the heights of the Munros causing me problems (TAC20-22) is also totally unfounded. I am going by the heights listed in the 1990 revision of Munro's Tables - which was current when this quest began - and, as I am making the rules, the Ordnance Survey can publish and be damned! Incidentally, if you think Sgurr Choinnich is north of the Fannaichs (TAC20, p2), I am surprised your navigation allowed you to walk the watershed. (Oops! - must-have-been-drunk-Ed.) Perhaps you used the Jimmie Macgregor mode of transport?
Somewhere in the Granite City