"Tick" Needell reports on strange goings on
in and around Tallinn:
After a successful ascent of the Latvian high point, 311m Gaizina Kalns in the Central Vidzeme Upland, the Scottish High Point Bagging Expedition moved north to Estonia, where 318m Suur Munamägi was our next target. Really these are scarcely hills at all, bolstering the argument that the Baltic States ought never to have been allowed in the High Point Tables after the breakup of the old Soviet Union, but forced instead to go through their own qualifying competition. Certainly these two countries - plus Lithuania, Belarus and even further-flung minnows such as Moldova, San Marino, Luxembourg and the Pope's summer residence at Castel Gandolfo - don't boast a single Munro between them. Little empirical support here for those claiming "there are no pushovers in world bagging any more".
Nevertheless, to the Haanja so-called Upland we travelled, to a national "summit" even lower than the high point of Gloucestershire for goodness sake. These things still need ticked off though, there's a job of work to be done, the points have to end up in the bag; and so routecards were completed, detailing our party's intention to set off at 6.45pm local time as had been requested by the local authorities.
At this point, however, it was discovered that our Estonian hosts had failed to provide even the most rudimentary safety equipment. Accustomed as we are to regular benightments up Agag's Groove back home, the very least we expected was a set of halogen Petzl headlamps. But no, all that was on offer were some pathetic pencil torches from the Kohtla-Järve Kwik Save, along with a box of Brøcks sparklers - hardly good enough for yomping back down some bloody permafrost in the "Land of Eternal Night". This left us little option. With the original set-off time now clearly both useless and dangerous, we appealed to the local landowner, Freidrich Fifassonn of Gantein-Beinn Estates, to be allowed an earlier start. This was granted, and we left three hours earlier than announced, in broad daylight. Sadly our hosts took umbrage at the torch dispute, and failed to show up. Yet the standard preparations were rigorously observed all the same: sandwiches were packed, steaming flasks filled, boots tightly laced, compasses checked, the estate contacted in case a moose stalk was underway. But after all that, rather than bother to properly climb such a pathetic little hillock, we merely wandered a few metres up the tussocky hillside and called it a day. After all, we reckoned, that counted as much as if we'd gone the whole way - no-one seriously doubted that we would have easily made it with something to spare, so why bother?
The only trouble now may come in getting the "ascent" formally ratified back at Hill Bagging HQ. This may take up to a month, but will hopefully result in three ticks being allowed for the price of one as it were, such that the Expedition will now no longer need to visit such giants of the world game as Malta and the Faeroe Islands. There is also a strong possibility that Estonia will now be banned from future competitions, as indeed they were from the Hanseatic League in days gone by.
Their fate was of no concern to us however - nor was the irony of relations between our two countries having reached something of a low point. Of far greater concern are the likely problems with our tricky next fixture, as to reach the 2119m Icelandic High Point Hvannadalshnúkur, the party will have to cross the temperamental and enigmatic Vatnajökull.