TAC 44 Index
Geoff Boycott in Aviemore.
The article in TAC43 about the Cairn Gorm funicular. Hard hitting, but not hard enough.
Let's look at this thing and attack the opposition where it is going to cause them most damage. We can hurt them now, but their unwanted white elephant isn't going to make them any money for another two years at least. By then the local economy could be in ruins.
So, boycott everything and everyone that has anything to do with supporting or constructing the funicular. The Aviemore Chamber of Commerce is behind the thing, so don't buy anything from Aviemore. Not even from the gear shops. Certainly not petrol or accommodation.
Many walkers and climbers go skiing in winter. That may be news to Iain Robertson of Highlands and Islands Enterprise if he ever reads this. Boycott the Cairngorm Chair-lift Company. Their lift workers must be the most miserable in Scotland anyway, so ski elsewhere and enjoy a bit of banter with the lifties, instead of suffering the CCC Temple of Doom.
Hamish Swan is the CCC chairman and chairing is something he must like doing, because that is what he does for the Belhaven Brewery. If you want to give him a bloody nose for screwing up our mountain, then boycott his poxy beers.
The Bank of Scotland also deserves its share of the blame for this fine mess. The CCC has its bank account with Peter Burt's empire and the bank has had ample oppor-tunity to influence a decision to follow a more sensible option on Cairn Gorm. Surely it is now time for all of us with a passion for the Scottish mountains to tell the bank where to insert its plastic cards.
If any other TAC readers know of any other ways of getting at these people and hitting them in the wallet, then I am sure their suggestions would be worthy of printing.
Jimmy the Gael
War on HIE, Shelterstone Bunker
Behind Enemy Lines
While perusing the Sunday Times on 31 October (yes, I know I shouldn't have anything to do with Murdoch's rags but I happened to see this particular issue), I came across a piece about the funding of the Countryside Alliance. It mentioned a list of those who are bankrolling this disparate cluster of rapscallions.
The name that made me sit up and take notice was "Paul Van Vlissengen [I thought it was Vlissingen but there you go, either it's my memory or sloppy journalism], of one of Holland's richest families."
Naive of me, I guess, but as this is obviously the same Paul van Vlissingen who owns the Letterewe Estate and was party to the drawing up of the Letterewe Accord, I assumed he was on "our" side, as far as that's possible for an absentee (and foreign) owner of a large Scottish estate.
Silly of me, obviously. But that's how you make lots of money in the first place, isn't it? - batting for both sides.
Ed. - Aye, and this same Letterewe Estate which likes to be seen as so upfront positive towards walkers (and they certainly have put in some quality work on their path network) appears to be less nicey-nicey when it comes to other outdoor enthusiasts. In the past few months there have been reports of a keeper on Letterewe instigating a very unpleasant confrontation with some experienced canoeists, and a mountain biker encountering problems. Less accord there, for sure.
Much to chew on in TAC43. Firstly and most importantly, humble apologies to Calum MacRoberts (p16) for the duff information he received from the Invercauld Estate Office in August. We will try harder next year and take a leaf out of Glenlivet's book: "If you see a load of Land Rovers and folk with flags, avoid them". We have three Hillphones going on the Estate in the stalking season, which I hope people find helpful. Grouse shooting and deer stalking are very important economic activities in this area and we try and keep the disturbance to walkers to a minimum.
We will keep an eye out for Kevin Donkin's lost pole. I notice at least one of our keepers with a walking pole he definitely did not pay for! I lost a nice green tweed hat in the Slugain area in September and if anyone finds it, I would love it back (a bottle of Lochnagar to the finder).
On the subject on the dreaded mobile phone masts (p5), there is an obvious conflict of interests. Many of us now use mobile phones and find them very useful when out and about. In addition the Mountain Rescue Team's job is much easier if the walker in difficulty or his or her mate has a phone. For the system to work, the masts must be up high, where they are difficult to conceal. The Orange mast south of Braemar and the one on Mount Blair look dreadful, we would all agree. The site for the Braemar one was agreed with SNH and the local planners, who were equally horrified when they saw it erected, but could do nothing. The low level masts for motorists can generally be hidden in trees or painted brown to blend in. To get a phone signal while out in the high hills, the mast must be up there too. Roll on the satellites.
Factor, Invercauld Estates
Ed. - One aspect of the phone mast debate is that little legislative help is likely from central government. Speak with local planners and you'll find them unhappy about the masts but completely unable to intervene if the structures are under 15m in height. The word is that government policy is heavily behind any perceived "progress" in commun-ications technology, such that masts are officially seen as good things even if they do offend a myriad of eyes.
Wanted - hillwalkers' records. (Warbeck has a few old Santana and Genesis LPs; you can have those - Ed.) I am about to embark on a statistical analysis of hillwalkers' data to test the validity of Naismith's Rule and to examine alternative models. There have been plenty of previous studies along these lines, the majority by walkers looking at just their own data but nothing statistically rigorous as far as I can see. I would be grateful for any data which TAC readers are able to provide. The minimum I need is a table of total ascent/distance/time with an indication of the geographical region (Scotland, Pond District etc). Explanatory notes such as snow conditions or lengthy stops which would extend the time taken may be helpful. The results will be published on www.biber.fsnet.co.uk All data sources will be acknowledged.
If you are able to help, please email a file to email@example.com or post to Chris Crocker, 2 Holly Bank, Frodsham WA6 6QY. Order of prefer-ence is electronic (any format), typed, handwritten, but all data will be used.
Coire nan Giomach (TAC43, p19) does indeed mean corrie of the lobster: there's also a leacann and an allt of the pincered one. But maybe it was an OS traduction of a more likely giomanach, a hunter or sports-man. On the other hand, the allt flows down into Loch Sron Smeur, the loch of the brambly nose, so maybe a bit of nouvelle cuisine was going on.
Unusual things seen on Ballencleuch Law recently reminded me of the "hills have spies" revelations of TAC43. The day of these observations is also significant as it was on a particular late October weekend when a larger than usual number of demon baggers were in the vicinity, including suspected masterspy Blanco.
It seemed a perfectly ordinary, peaceful morning as we set off but then there they were - yellow sheep, bright, and unmistakable, sunflower-yellow sheep! Whether or not one of their number was in a bothy, pleasant or otherwise, somewhere nearby we did not investigate, nor did we want to know.
All pure coincidence - or not?
Pool of Muckhart
I too have noticed some anomalies among the English "near miss" tops (TAC43, pp18-19).
When I visited Firth Fell (trig point, 607m) and Birks Fell earlier this year, (a) the latter was clearly higher than the former and (b) I had no doubt that the ground by the ruined building (not marked on the 1:25000 map) at SD919761 was at least 1m higher than the ground on the SW side of the wall where the OS have the 608m spot height. So much so, in fact, that I did not even bother with the double (difficult) wall crossing needed to visit that point. It was not, however, possible to be sure whether the 919761 spot was higher or lower than distant Sugar Loaf (609m spot height) on Horse Head Moor.
I conclude that, in Marilyn terms, Birks Fell (the Marilyn in the original RHB list) is at least a twin of Sugar Loaf and may still be the actual Marilyn. Bearing in mind the possible errors in the spot heights (as distinct from trigs), it is less easy to say whether any point reaches 610m and frankly I think some sophisticated surveying, or a steam-driven altimeter, would be needed to determine this.
My notes on Calf Top, visited two years ago, read simply "There was a trig point at the clear topmost point". Now this does not prove that there was no tuft of heather slightly higher than "the station height at ground level" (to quote the OS about trig points at summits), for I was probably not worried about 20cm; however I think it unlikely that the difference would have been much more than that. But of course if the trig point height is really 609.3m (1999ft), then even this small addition could push Calf Top into the Hewitt category.
Illgill Head is more difficult. I was there in cloud and quite pleased to be certain of both tops. All I can say is that their relative heights seemed to be as I expected. With regard to Mike Jacob's observation, such estimates are very difficult to make when in one direction the horizon is low, flattish ground (or perhaps even sea) whereas in the other the background is much higher hills. This will make the true summit, viewed from the SW with Scafell beyond, seem lower than it is, and the SW top look higher. Further, there is a 603m trig point near the SW top and hence any doubts would lead to a reduction in the 609m height of the main summit, not an increase in that of the SW summit.
High Seat has a 608m trig point which Wainwright quotes as having a 1996ft bench mark, and it seems fairly clear that there is no ground more than a foot or so higher than this. And Renwick Fell, visited last year, also has a trig point, this time 609m, which was clearly at its summit. So no new 2000ft hills here. More interestingly, nearby Watch Hill has a spot at the currick easily 2m or 3m higher than the 602m spot height and thus probably qualifies as a SubHewitt with a 30m drop. And it took me some time to find Renwick Fell, which I know as Thack Moor; to say that it is "on Cross Fell", nine miles away, merely confirms my prejudice against a class-ification based on drop alone.
My explorations have revealed several other hills where the highest point is likely to be higher than the "map summit" (even if we assume that height to be accurate). In most cases the matter is not very significant; if a Marilyn has a drop of 247m rather than 244m, or a Hewitt a height of 683m rather than 681m, then few of us will worry. We should perhaps guard against getting too worked up about precision just because some arbitrary limit (2000ft and 3000ft? 600m and 150m?) is at stake. Visit the near misses anyway and make sure - they are usually worthwhile. Having said that, there is one aspect which niggles. I am (unlike many) happy with spot heights in metres, because the probable error is at least as large as this. But trig points and benchmarks, precisely identifiable points, have a probable error of only 0.2m and so values to metres lose some of the surveyed information. Should we try to persuade the OS to give trig point heights to 0.1m on future Explorer maps? Or (since this would be futile) to make such information readily available in some other way? Perhaps one of TAC's readers closer to the action will tell me that it already is available. If so, I would welcome details.
I'm fair pleased at popping up every now and again in Murdo Munro's cartoon-strip, but I'm baffled by the story-line in TAC43. Surely you don't intend to kill me off? It won't do. I've been with you from the beginning. I never complained about you giving me less hair than I've got. I insist on staying.
Furthermore, I'm doctor, not Mr. It would please my family and the University of Stirling if you made that change. Orrabestorratime, as we say in the uncultured Hillfoots.
Perkin Warbeck responds -
Gratifying though it is to have Rev Dr McOwan respond in print to his continuing popularity as a Murdo Munro character, one fears he has somewhat missed the point.
Far from violent death signifying a character's passing, one will probably find that RevDoc goes from strength to strength. Murdo himself for example has been killed time without number - well some quite high number less than 43 anyway.
As for the amount of hair with which he is bestowed, I disclaim responsibility. Somewhere near the start I told the Swan to base the character on Mr Pastry who may be remembered fondly by older readers. Does TAC have any young readers?
The principal bassoonist of the Manchester Camerata Orchestra, Laurence Perkins, is currently touring with a programme of music and words based on sea themes, inspired by Sacheverell Sitwell's description of the instrument as being "like a sea-god speaking". However he is also a keen mountaineer, particularly in more remote areas, and is looking to put together a similar programme with a mountains theme. So far Norman MacCaig is in the frame, as is Bill Murray, but any suitable shortish examples of mountain literature, poetry or prose would be welcomed, particularly a decent translation of Duncan Ban MacIntyre's "In Praise of Beinn Dorain".
These should be sent to Laurence Perkins, 10 Adria Rd, Didsbury, Manchester, Albion, M20 6SG. Knowing TAC readers to be a distressingly hyper-literate lot, I'm hoping for an encouragingly heavy response to this appeal. Thanks in advance for all contributions.
Roderick Manson, Blairgowrie
Perkin "Hill-God" Warbeck again -
I congratulate Rev Dr Perkins on his name. I myself played the bassoon in the Grove Academy school orchestra when Munros were but a twinkle in my eye. I was told by my teacher that it was called "the faggot" in France because of its appearance. Perhaps this could form the basis of the principal bassoonist's next work.
I am a PhD student at the University of Leeds interested in wild land perception mapping. I have designed an Internet questionnaire with the aim of collecting information on how wild land is perceived in Scotland, perceptions which can be used to produce a map which reflects the wild land condition of an area.
There may be two measurable criteria having a strong influence on wild land perception in Scotland. One factor is closely linked to the idea of the "long walk in" and termed in the questionnaire as "remoteness from mechanised access". It can be measured as the minimum time it takes a walker to reach a particular destination from any origin (usually a road or car park). A second factor strongly influencing wild land perception is the impact of certain man-made features such as roads, hill roads, pylons, hydroelectric power plants, etc. This is also referred to as "apparent naturalness". The presence of such features can detract from a wild land experience, particularly when the features are visible.
I would like to make the questionnaire available to a wide range of people and the gathered information can be used to assist in land management, conservation and national park planning in particular. The questionnaire can be found at: http://www.ccg.leeds.ac.uk/steffen/questionnaire1.html
School of Geography
University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9PS
Gah, you're losing your grip so you are. Time was when TAC constituted the only reliable source of information for hill/cricket crossover fetishists like myself, a solid source of data on both counts. What other magazine would, for instance, have noted that the neighbouring summits of Croft Head and Capel Fell share names with English Test cricketers, or mused on six wickets having fallen during an ascent of Gwastedyn Hill in Wales?
But now what do we get? TAC43, p12, your Ed attempts some high-flown lit-crit review of Ronald Turnbull and Roy Clayton's book and compares them to "watching Lance Kluesner and Daryll Cullinan bat together for South Africa". Come on, get it right, it's Klusener - and it's not just a typo as the mistake is repeated twice in the next five lines.
What on earth's happening at TAC Towers? Stop taking your eye off the ball! Next thing we know you'll be confusing Ben Humble with Anil Kumble, Keith Stackpole with Stac Pollaidh.
Orange Free State
Since the "nice woman (honest)" referred to in a short paragraph by Donald Shiach in TAC42 (p11) is a near neighbour of mine, I read the piece with more than the usual degree of interest. Increasing pressure on Strathfarrar is no different to any other Munrobagging area, but this bottleneck seems to cause more anguish than others. That the road through the glen is private is beyond question (even the Highland Council road gangs aren't allowed up to repair it).
This shouldn't mean that the plebeian hordes are denied access of course, and they aren't - but there are certain rules to be observed. In the high season (July/August) I have arrived at the gate at 9am only to find myself at the end of a growing queue of anxious Munrobaggers waiting for the tickets to be distributed.
The first rule therefore is - arrive early. If you do arrive to find the gate locked and the glen full, the second rule is - be patient. Don't forget that the good people handing out the tickets are not responsible for who is allowed in, or when. Although the official limit is 25 cars, thanks to their good nature, that limit is frequently overlooked. Most people driving into the glen simply go up to the dam, take a photograph, and drive straight back down again, so you won't have to wait long for a vacancy.
The impatient can always park by the gate and enjoy a circular route around Beinn a'Bha'ach Ard - a pleasant hill in its own right and as fine a viewpoint as any from the trig point.
However, it's worth waiting to get in. My local postie (who has a key, and therefore unfettered access) claims that Strathfarrar is the finest of the glens hereabouts - finer even that Affric. I find it hard to disagree. It's a very fine glen, and it's also worth remembering that the special quality of Strathfarrar is enhanced by the relative absence of traffic.
So if you find yourself fuming with frustration at the gate, remember that the real villain of the piece is the Nature Conservancy Council (aided and abetted by the Hydro). If you wish to direct your venom at any organisation, look no further.
Is it just me, or does anyone else out there have sympathy with the inhabitants of Lawers village, who were given rather bad press in TAC43, p11? They live on a narrow wee road with no public parking places, and they rely on vehicular access for their livelihoods. If the hotel car park fills up every weekend with cars owned by folk who don't stay there, eat there or drink there, is it any wonder the owners get hacked off? If the horn-carver gets three walkers' cars filling his customer spaces, then he can pretty well shut up shop for the day, because his passing trade will do exactly that - pass. I'd estimate that a fiver each from those three cars is no more than appropriate compensation for one lost sale. And the farmers need only the occasional idiot diagonally-parked and fouling access to turn them against walkers in general and those with cars in particular.
TAC readers, of course, are courtesy personified at all times. But perhaps we can acknowledge that "a very small percentage" of hillwalkers are "arrogant unpleasant boneheads" (to borrow the phraseology our esteemed Ed applied to the Lawers-ites). You've met them, I've met them, we've all met them. I also suspect (though I hesitate to advance the thesis here) that the single-minded Munrobagging community might be rather richer in bone-heads than most random cross-sections of the hill-going population. The "promotion" of An Stuc to Munro status must have brought down an avalanche of such frothingly determined table-tickers on Lawers village - enough to fill all the available spaces and then spill out into drives and thoroughfares on many occasions.
Now, there's a guy who visits the folk across the road from us maybe twice, three times a year, and he always parks so that it takes me a forty-one-point turn to get my car out into the road. Those who know me will attest that I am the mildest of men, but just that little bit of inconsiderate parking reduces me to a state of intemperate fury. Can you imagine what it would be like if that happened to you week in, week out, year round? And if it stopped you doing your job and earning your live-lihood? And if the folk (or at least, folk apparently very much like the folk) who caused the problem in the first place described you as an arrogant unpleasant bonehead?
The Lawers folk aren't the problem; the absence of good public car parking is the problem. That's what hill-walkers and local residents should be complaining about - together.
I have recently written a couple of ignored letters to Trail. The first, pointing out the difference between Rannoch Moor being 180 miles square and 180 square miles, is a silly and irritating mistake for an outdoor magazine to make, but not particularly important. The second, which had some idiot on Braeriach looking for the "fabled barns" (and, I can't think why, not finding them), seems to be downright irresponsible for a periodical which clearly aims itself, at least in part, at first-time walkers. Trail has not seen fit to print a correction and, although it is unlikely that anyone unaware that the barns have slipped a bit will be reading TAC, it might be worth mentioning. If nothing else, it might prompt Trail to get potentially fatal route errors corrected.
Grahaeme Barrasford Young
Having followed the saga of the Bastard Goats of Ben Vrackie (TACs passim) for some time, I feel that I must inform readers that there are other beasts out and about on our hills. On 25 July I set out in not very promising weather for an anticlockwise round of the Cruachan hills. At Stob Garbh I began to see the hoofprints and droppings of several cattle. Judging from the size of the prints and the tufts of red hair these were Highlands - although the red hair and copious shite could, I suppose, be attributed to Chris Evans.
The prints and droppings continued along the ridge to Stob Diamh, then swung around and began to descend the narrow ridge leading towards Drochaid Glas. The droppings were very fresh and I speculated on what action to take should I meet the beasts on this narrow ridge in the mist ... especially given the reputation of the Ben Vrackie goats!
The trail disappeared in the bealach boulderfield and I suspect that cattle would have difficulty attaining the Drochaid Glas summit. The weather improved markedly soon after, and I saw no sign of these summiteers - or should that be summit steers?
PS - Re beards et al (TAC43, p17), I thought I'd located a photo of a young Cameron McNeish with a clean-shaven chin and a full head of hair, but it turned out to be just my Wilderness Walks video upside down in the cupboard.
TAC 44 Index