TAC 49 Index
Chris Pearson recalls the founding of one of the more unusual hill clubs
Our assessor spoke. 'OK folks,' he said, 'I want you to
navigate to grid reference zero zero zero, zero zero zero.' What?! What trick was he was pulling now? We assessees frowned and studied our maps, and yes, high on the flanks of Ben Macdui was the strangest grid reference of them all: six zeros.
Hours later we arrived at the appointed location, a deep snowy bowl a long way from anywhere, much favoured for snowholing on Glenmore Lodge courses. The assessors moved into their 'here is one we made earlier' hole dug at the start of the winter, while outside in the gloom and spindrift we began to dig. Not for nothing is this spot known to course members as the arsehole of nowhere.
Two years later I was in the much more agreeable location of a café in Pembrokeshire, unfortunately with some fellow sullen climbers hiding from the rain. After eking out our pot of tea we were in danger of outliving our welcome, despite having already achieved one stay of execution by ordering beans on toast, and now it looked like we were faced with having to go for a walk.
Cousin Mark it was who, when peering at the map, made the historic utterance: 'Hmm, that's odd. There's a grid reference here of zero zero zero, zero zero zero.' I stopped shovelling beans as a shiver went down my spine. Where had I heard those words before...?
I recounted my Macdui experience, and this led to a discussion on such things as the grid reference system and the realisation that the Ordnance Survey repeat the grid numbering every 100km. Each 100km square is uniquely identified by code letters, so to be precise in the Macdui example our assessor should have said 'I want you to navigate to NJ zero zero zero, zero zero zero', to prevent some smart-arse whipping out Landranger 156 and heading off across the Cairngorms plateau on an epic trek towards Pembrokeshire. He was never likely to have said that, though.
And so we departed the café and tracked down a part-icular farm in west Wales, where after taking a bearing from a nearby barn and pace-counting into the middle of a field, we halted and shook hands. The Treble Zero Club was born. (OK, so strictly speaking it should be the Treble Zero Treble Zero Club, but the shorter version sounds a whole lot neater.)
Immediately we had a whole range of issues for our ethics committee to mull over. How many TZ locations are there in Britain? Where are they? What about access? How close do you have to come to an imaginary point on the ground for it to count? How can you tell when you are there? This, we decided, was going to be tricky.
Research from an OS road atlas showed there to be 22 locations on land, and we decided that with good navigation it should be possible to get within ten metres of each epicentre, especially if a box-search pattern was employed. I thought I would continue to lead the table with two Treble Zeros to my credit, but hadn't reckoned with Cousin Mark. Within a few weeks he had rung to report an eventful visit to Walsall, where the TZ lurked inside a large fenced-off building site where industrial units were under construction. Hiding his car some streets away, he had found a gap in the fence and came at the target by a circuitous route, using piles of gravel and pipes for cover. Careful compass work, however, showed the target zone to be out in full view of a security guard's hut. Lesser baggers would have retreated, but not Mark, who made a dash for the middle. As he claimed his ground, the guard glanced up and he was spotted. Apparently a large amount of shouting followed as Mark fled with 'scurity' puffing after him. Only after an anxious period spent hiding in bushes was he finally able to escape the compound.
Not surprisingly, I put off my own visit for years, dreading a similar experience. I decide to await the completion of the building works and then see how accessible the TZ had become. Perhaps it would be in some aisle of a new B&Q (easy-peasy) or in a storeroom at the back (a tougher challenge). It was when returning from another wet weekend in Wales that the visit was made. Hallelujah! - the magic spot was now on the forecourt of a petrol station, beside pump seven. I took a photo, and there were no problems other than odd glances from motorists.
Other TZs duly followed. There was a field near Chesham, for instance, north-west of the M25. Undaunted by his Walsall experience, it was here, in 1993, that Mark attempted his third T - Zand failed. Conscience got the better of him as the field was waist-high in wheat. From the sidelines he called me on his mobile for a hastily convened meeting of the ethics committee. It was decided that tactful trespass was OK, but damage was not and so he should leave it for winter. (An identical problem affects the bagging of trig points, especially those at around 100m which are often heavily agricultural - Ed.) So Mark retreated, and it was not until the winter of 1998, on my way home from Heathrow, that I visited and found a bare stubble field, disturbingly open to view. The compass indicated that a lonely telegraph pole in the middle of the field marked the spot, so I took a deep breath, made a beeline ... and escaped unchallenged. Trespassing to take in a hilltop can take some explaining, but as for bagging a telegraph pole near the M25...
Swaledale has a lovely, easy TZ, set amid the tumble-down walls and open fields of an abandoned farmhouse on the edge of the moors. It lies close to the coast-to-coast walk and was added to a day out climbing Kisdon and sampling the surrounding teashops.
The Manchester Moors / Peak District TZ is an awkward bleeder to pinpoint on the ground, being on the join between Landrangers 109 and 110. I climbed it on a muggy August evening en route to the Lakes and wasted a lot of time wading uphill through deep heather, navigating by overhead power lines. The actual spot was a pleasantly dry peat hag on which to leave boot prints. A good path was found for the descent.
South of Whitby, near the village of Staintondale, lurks the bête noire of Treble Zero baggers. Mission Im-possible? This one was referred to in an early TAC (see Grant Hutchison's 'Really BIG Boring Squares and Conspiracy Theory' in TAC18). There was discussion of the giant 100km grid squares of which TZs are the corner points, and - as Grant pointed out - there is a titchy bit of shoreline east and south of the Staintondale TZ that is not covered by the Landranger series, possibly the only bit of unmapped land in Britain. (Not at all: see the answer to qn 6d in the quiz on p13 - Ed.)
The Staintondale TZ is on the shoreline, which made my attempt to bag it from above rather challenging. I wandered along the cliff-top path before committing to a Tarzan-style descent through trees to a Lost World plateau of giant vegetation and moss where the cliff had half slipped and then halted. Unfortunately the front half of the plateau was shale, crumbling a further 30 metres to the TZ in the boulders below. No way down. It would require boulder-hopping at low tide for several miles, or an approach from the sea, SAS-style.
The Ochils example is on a golf course near Pool of Muckhart: a short harmless stroll alongside a fairway behind some houses. Best to wear a loud jumper and hideous checked trousers so as to blend in better.
The TZ in a wood south-east of Rutland Water was bagged on the way to Antarctica. Well, it was taken in en route to the HQ of the British Antarctica Survey at Cambridge. A quarry had eaten into the wood, not shown on my map, but enough clues remained of the track system and the firebreaks to pinpoint the spot by pace-counting from an attack point. (Orienteers will understand.) And near Cirencester there is another agricultural TZ, next to a main road junction. The hop over the fence had to be timed between passing cars to avoid odd stares.
All of which amounts to nine Treble Zeroes bagged over nine years. This leaves 13 adventures still to come:
Of course the scope for creating your own list/adventure is endless. Just choose a grid reference and see where it leads you. Everyone can have their own personalised challenge by converting their date of birth into co-ordinates - eg if you were born on 4 August 1956 then you would set about visiting all the 040856 grid refs. No need to follow the crowds!
Ed. - The Staintondale TZ is an excellent example of what could be called the In Pinn Rule: namely that any list of hill targets always seems to throw up one (and often just one) which is liable to prove unusually resistant in terms of access by normal means. Most of the standard hill lists provide examples: the In Pinn for Munros of course, the Cobbler and Stac Pollaidh for Corbetts and Grahams respectively, Pillar Rock for English 2000ers, Great Links Tor for English 500m tops, possibly the Old Man of Mow for English SubMarilyns and so on. Marilyns of course have the collective nemeses of the two Kilda stacks plus Boreray, Dun and Soay, while England-only Marilynbaggers inevitably face having to solve the conundrum of Crowborough.
There are also less obvious examples - from the world of trigbagging, for instance. Anyone wishing to visit all 80 or so trigs on Landranger 64 must at some stage deal with the 46m pillar at NS663599. This is doubly protected: standing within a locked enclosure which is itself inside the grounds of Hallside primary school near Cambuslang. Quite how to reach this without ending up splashed across the tabloids as a Psycho School Stalker is a problem which no active trigbagger is known to have solved. The similar problem on sheet 66 was however cracked at the start of February, when the bold Fraser 'No Limits' Clark vaulted the East of Scotland Water Board railings and so topped out the notorious 91m Dunsapie trig on the east side of Arthur's Seat.
And then there is the 83m trig inside Dundee's Territo-rial Army base. The editor (eagerly) and Grant Hutchison (in happy-to-tag-along mode) attempted this in mid-Feb simply by asking to be let in. And, after the gateman had phoned 'the captain' and argued the case of the'two civilians walking round all the trig points in Scotland', they were.
TAC 49 Index