Who Andrew Fraser donates money to, and why, is a matter for himself, but his article about charity events in the hills (TAC66 p20) was otherwise insufferably elitist and po-faced. The Highland hills are not a fragile environment, nor are they some kind of rare zoological specimen to be preserved in aspic for the enjoyment of "future generations". The hills and glens of the Highlands have for millennia been working landscapes used for hunting, farming, commerce and travel. They are not and never have been the exclusive preserve of any one group of users.
The events to which Andrew refers are annual and have a minimal effect on the landscape. As a Highland person, what I enjoy most about the Highland Cross and the Great Wilderness Challenge is that they raise money primarily for local charities and they involve large numbers of local people. It's good to see local folk getting out into the hills if only once a year, and both events have a real atmosphere of selfless goodwill. Yes, there will be the odd paper cup or sweetie paper left lying around, but are so-called serious mountaineers exempt from this sin?
The accident rate for such events is minimal and places no excessive demand on local emergency services, all of whom enter into the spirit of the day.
Andrew needs to lighten up and look at history. The hills are the sacred preserve of no single group and their environment is much less fragile than all those hand-wringing beardies from the conservation industry would have us believe. Over three centuries, many thousands of head of cattle were driven through the passes and glens of the north and west. Were the revival of such trade to be proposed today, the outcry can well be imagined - but, 150 years after the demise of the droving trade, where are the signs of it now to be found? The landscape repairs itself quietly and quickly and the annual passage of a few hundred human feet in addition to the evidently - by Andrew's implication - more legitimate traffic of real mountaineers is an irrelevance.
Andy Beaton, Dingwall
I have not climbed a lot of "hills", but I do have a favourite local climb. After attaining the position, if one knows where to look, there is an old ammunition box - small, dark green, deposited beneath a protective pine. If you don't know it's there, you'd never see it.
Opening this ammo box, one finds inside messages, notes, small mementos left by previous visitors. One can sit and read notes from previous climbers from all over the world. Each can leave their thoughts, philosophy, whatever they wish. Every five or ten years, or when the box is full, an anonymous group empties it and compiles the messages into a notebook.
We have left candy and emergency treats in the box. There is a lighter, a good-luck charm, miscellaneous "stuff'n'junk". But it is completely unobtrusive. It has been there for at least a decade that I know of. Notes inside from repeat visitors are great fun to read. Local students who took their first trek during elementary school and return annually to add notes leave one with a sense of growth and maturity. There is a pencil, a small notepad. No directions, no stipulations, you just write what you wish then return the box to its protective home under the pine.
I would be horrified to see a plaque or memorial established in this site called "Sacred Rim". Its natural beauty would be forever altered in an unnatural way. This is contrary to the philosophy of "leave no trace". Perhaps even the ammo box is more than we should have done. Hard to analyze. I know our family picks up every piece of trash we see, and we leave none of our own. I am always surprised to see gum wrappers left on the trail. A lack of respect is shown. We should teach our visitors better climbing etiquette. Education cures most problems, in my humble opinion.
Sublette County, Wyoming, USA
What a crabbit lot some TAC readers are. I've never seen such self-righteous rubbish (TAC67 p17). I don't want every hill covered with memorials, but some of the views expressed are downright arrogant. Who are they to say how other people should commemorate those they loved? Does it matter that much to them that people want to leave flowers where a loved one died? Or are they just setting themselves up as arbiters of "taste"? What's in good taste for you may be outlandish for someone else.
And who does your man Max McCance think he is to go round dismantling other people's memorials: Chief Commissioner of the Hill Police? We've had enough of them telling us when not to go on the hill, what to wear, what to carry, without some self-appointed demolition crew boasting about their deeds. Maybe someone who doesn't like the colour of his front door should repaint it for him.
Ashes aren't just burnt flesh, but crushed bones as well. That's why you get more than you expected. What do you think those white bits are, the gristle from a black pudding?
My old mate's ashes were scattered from the top of the hardest route he ever put out on Stanage Edge; he went all over the place but there were still traces of him in various places years later. I pay my respects every time I pass Millsom's Minion, and yes, we did screw a wee plaque to a boulder at the bottom of the crag. I've got mine sorted in advance: dug into the beach in front of the Big Hoose at Inverie at low tide. Definitely the finest sea-level view in Scotland. If the kids want to put up a bench too, all well and good. If they pay for drinks all round in The Old Forge, even better. I just hope enough of my Knoydart friends are still around in 20 years or more.
Mick Furey, Maltby
Perhaps you could point out to Mr Furey, if you can interrupt his ranting for a moment, that the path up the Storr (TAC67 p18) was marked out by wee pegs coated with a reflective material, which sent light exactly back the way it came. So if you had the torch on your head, you saw the path lit up. Hold the torch at waist level and you saw nothing.
We guides actually pointed this out to the audience as part of the pre-walk talk. In fact, over the six weeks of the performance, the only people I saw trip or stumble were the clever-clogs who insisted on holding the torch (and a few gatecrashers who either had hand-torches or no torches at all). Given that our audience were not all hill tigers or young and fit, it was quite important that we had a way of marking out the path safely, and this was the best and lowest-impact way we could devise.
Chris Tyler, Skye
PS - My brother Jonny had years of Underground experience too, and he wears his headtorch on his head. He was a guard on the Circle Line...
It was most disappointing to read Mr Atkinson's letter (TAC67 p19) after all the hard work done on access by the Knoydart Deer Management Group and the courtesy extended to him on the day. The letter is inaccurate and vindictive.
The point is, prior preparation before hillwalking in known stalking areas during the stag season (15 August-10 October, excluding Sundays) is absolutely essential to avoid abortive excursions, wasting everybody's time and expense. Full information on the local estates' stalking activities can be found in links from the Knoydart Foundation website, http://www.knoydart-foundation.com/
I can assure your readers that the local estates are fully committed to facilitating the new access legislation, but under it responsibility cuts both ways. Prior preparation by finding out about stalking in the area is not only common sense but is the law.
Remember we are talking about a very short period of the year where the issue is relevant. Even then, walkers will find that ample alternatives such as other Munros and low routes are made available throughout.
In summary, I would say it is vital for walkers and estate managers to make it work. They both have an affection for these wonderful hills. If it doesn't work, imagine some of the alternatives to deer stalking estates, eg miles of monocultural sterile coniferous forestry or industrial windmill farms.
Sir Patrick Grant
Glen Dessary / Knoydart Deer Management Group
I looked at the maximum sun hours question (TAC67 pp18-19), having some spare time while recuperating from sinus surgery. Research on the internet soon found formulae linking an object's hour angle, declination, altitude, azimuth, and observer's latitude. Also needed are a table of the sun's declination and conversions from grid reference to latitude/longitude. Somewhere else I found that sunrise and sunset times are computed for when the sun is 0.833° below the local horizontal, atmospheric refraction then putting the sun's upper edge on the horizon. Observer height also depresses the horizon, so add this to 0.833° and find the sun's hour angle when its altitude is minus that value. Multiply the hour angle by two to get sidereal time from rising to setting, then by 1.0027 for solar time. Simple.
On the UK mainland, Ben Hope is the clear winner with 18 hours 38.1 mins on 2 July. Beinn Spionnaidh and Cranstackie are next with 18 hours 37.1 mins. The formulae also give azimuths, and plotting these on the map showed none of the possible obstructions projecting above the Ben Hope horizon. Sun hours at other points are Dunnet Head and Beinn Dearg 18 hours 27.1 mins, Carn Eighe 18 hrs 19.1 mins, and Ben Nevis 18 hrs 12.1 mins. You get a few more minutes on 22 June, 18 hrs 45.1 mins on Ben Hope.
The longest potential sunbathe in Britain is probably on the northernmost Marilyn Saxa Vord, 19 hours 30.1 mins at the solstice.
David Foster, Glasgow
Ed. - Thanks also to David Gray for pointing out that various Shetland hills get considerably more midsummer sunlight than do the northern Munros and Corbetts, despite being much lower.
It was interesting to read that the Swan felt an avian affinity for the Stoneymollan geesehenge (TAC67 p20). Despite passing the thing every few weeks, I've never spotted the geese: all I see is railway sleepers joined by industrial-scale metal brackets. On recent visits I've made an effort to look properly, but there are problems in seeing the edifice: approaching from Balloch the view is blocked by the streetlights; from the north there's a footbridge in the sightline. The Dumbarton approach is clearer, but there's a confused backdrop and the immediate impact is the wooden structure.
The intrinsic flaw in its location is that it is sited on a roundabout, that is, at a road junction, and a busy one too, with about half the traffic in summer being hire cars and on the wrong side of the road.
The Swan's advantage in being able to see the bigger picture here is not due to his artistic attributes but to the fact that he is a non-driver. Even when a passenger, I "drive" most of the time and certainly at roundabouts. A complex artwork of this type creates an additional distraction for drivers: why locate it here? Surely something simple and low-lying, like the nice new heather beds outside Aberfoyle, would be better, and the art could go to Lomond Shores which certainly needs it.
Still, it could have been worse: prior to this, the gateway to the National Park for many visitors was Balloch McDonald's Golden Arches.
Val Hamilton, Croftamie
After spotting a Christmas-type tree on the Aonach Eagach in January, I started wondering where the highest tree in Scotland might be. Is this something TAC has looked at before?
It's a bit difficult to define a tree, so I just looked for mapped ones. A brief inspection of OS maps suggests that the highest mapped trees in Scotland are on the Rhinns of Kells at NX510839 at just over 730m. The highest in the UK seem to be on the side of Pen y Gadair Fawr at SO231285, 760m+.
Ed. - TAC51, 52 and 54 included articles about the highest Scottish examples of houses, pubs etc, along with more unusual things such as highest table tennis table and highest ice cream van (990m on Mullach Clach a'Bhlair). The highest plantations mentioned were 680m on Cairn Gorm and 670m on Carn Dearg Mor, so the Galloway and Black Mountains plantations seem to have raised the bar. (Sharon Harris from New Zealand has also been in touch to enquire as to the whereabouts of the highest petrol station in Scotland. She recalls once having driven up an off-road track and emerging opposite a petrol station with a sign indicating it was the highest. Any ideas?)
Talking of raising the bar, Dewi Jones writes:
In June 1967 I was camped, with a group of students, high in Cwm Llan under the south face of Snowdon. It being a fine evening, I decided to go up to the summit to see the sunset. Having set off at seven we were on the top by about nine. We were the only ones there and were milling about on the terrace outside the hotel when much to my surprise the manageress appeared and offered to open up for us. Consequently, while the youngsters went for the pop and crisps, I was able to have a pint. And what a pint it was! - not for the quality of the beer, I hasten to add, but for the situation.
To sit at that window at 3500ft supping ale and watching the sun sink into the sea beyond Anglesey was a singular experience that cannot have been enjoyed by many, and stays clear in my memory to this day. As I recollect, we could not linger and after finishing our drinks had to quickly clatter off down the loose screes of the Watkin path in order to get back to our tents before the light failed completely.
A reference to John Lennon (TAC67 p6) and a recent visit to the Beatles shop near their "birthplace" in Mathew St, Liverpool, prompts me to write about a wee coincidence. In the shop I bought Lennon's long-forgotten punky album Walls and Bridges. Could the title have been inspired by the eponymous mountain lists of that era, compiled by Claude Wall (Ireland) and George Bridge (England and Wales)?
I recently bought a new Landranger Sheet 56 for Loch Lomond, mainly to find out about forestry changes. My first use of it however was to visit the Glen Fruin Grahams and I was concerned to find Danger Area plastered over the NW ridge of Beinn Chaorach and over the E side of Beinn a' Mhanaich. I knew that the W side of Beinn a'Mhanaich was a MOD no-go area, but did this mean they were spreading their activities further? I went ahead with my visit and came upon a signpost at the start of the track to Auchengaich reservoir advertising "Hill path to Glen Luss". As this goes right through the supposed Danger Areas I was encouraged and duly completed my round, including a descent of Beinn a'Mhanaich's south ridge, which remains festooned with MOD notices warning one to follow the arrows and not stray on to the western slopes. Has the OS made a mistake in labelling these Danger Areas, or is there something we have not been told? I am in the dark (hopefully not glowing!), so would be grateful if any of your readers can shed light on the situation.
Andrew Fraser, Inverness
Confusion still reigns concerning the long-running saga of the attempt to have sheep removed from the Braes of Foss grazings on East Schiehallion. (See TAC62 p16.) In negotiations with the tenant at Braes of Foss, the John Muir Trust had apparently negotiated a payment for removal of the sheep. Only later, after the bulk of the flock had been sold to a farmer, said to be from the Dumfries area, did it transpire that some 60-100 sheep had remained, running with the flocks hefted to adjacent ground to the west. As had been predicted by local sheep farmers, these Braes of Foss animals returned to their original home territory, and such has been the ongoing problem over the last two years.
Considerable time and money was expended by various active members of the JMT in monitoring the situation, with attempts by JMT staff to remove the sheep proving but a temporary palliative. Members of the JMT with local connections have been increasingly reluctant to discuss the issue, or to maintain their involvement in what has become an embarrassing situation. Privately, some admit that the removal of the sheep was not conducted in the spirit intended, and there is a fear that the dotting of the i's and the crossing of the t's of the contract was not unambiguous.
The options now seem to be: further payment to secure removal of the 60-100 sheep, fencing the ground to prevent sheep ingress on the northern side of the mountain, or awaiting an anticipated rundown of flocks due to changes in agricultural subsidies. The latter should be known sometime by the end of this decade. Payment to remove sheep whose removal was a part of the original contract seems at worst a criminal waste of JMT members' money, and even at best it is throwing good money after bad. Stock fencing would neither stop sheep wandering around its upper limits, nor prevent deer from entering the ground.
All these facts were known and were said to have been well discussed beforehand in the JMT's Schiehallion Group, whose members have laboured long and hard to assist in the drawing-up of a sound conservation management plan.
Irvine Butterfield, Pitcairngreen
Ed. - For a story from a happier part of the JMT world, see http://www.jmt. org/news/2006/piano_pr.html for details of how staff removed a piano - or was it an organ? - found high on Ben Nevis during a clean-up.
In response to Perkin Warbeck's review of the Tom Crean film at the Dundee Mountain Film Festival (TAC67 p6), I can say that poor Tom Crean died in hospital in Cork following an operation to remove his appendix in 1938, aged 63. This was a sad end for a man who had done what he did and endured so much physical hardship in the polar expeditions.
I am writing this some 20 miles or so from Annascaul where Crean was born and finally laid to rest. When he retired from the Royal Navy in 1920 and came back to Annascaul, Ireland was in the bitter stages of the war of independence and County Kerry was one of the hotspots for IRA activity. Six weeks after coming home, his brother Cornelius Crean - a sergeant in the Royal Irish Constabulary - was shot dead by the IRA in County Cork. Another RIC officer from Annascaul who had been in world war one with the Royal Munster Fusiliers was tried and executed by the IRA the same weekend. So you can see that anyone who had connections with the British would be required to keep their head down and their mouth shut. After the war of independence came the bitter civil war which further broke communities apart.
Crean is buried in Annascaul in a tomb he built himself. The man was indeed a local hero; in a sense he was in the right place but at the wrong time. Fortunately - but unfortunately posthumously - his achievements have been recognised through publication of An Unsung Hero, by Michael Smith.
Tralee, Co. Kerry, Ireland
I was most intrigued by your little article on Miles Hutchinson in TAC66 (p10). Now, there's someone for me to try and emulate. I've only got 15 rather than 50 years under my belt since completing, but I have one "golden" accomplishment to my name which probably isn't all that common. I first climbed Ben Nevis sometime in August 1955. I was on a touring holiday of Scotland with my fiancée at the time. The day in question was a Saturday, and the tourist path was quite busy. I see now that the date was within a month of Miles's completion, though at the time the term "Munro" had not entered my vocabulary. Anyway, the point is that a few weeks later I got married; after another 50 years I celebrated my golden wedding anniversary; and a few weeks after that (12/12/05 to be precise) I climbed Ben Nevis again. So, I wonder: how many people have made the ascent of Scotland's highest mountain both before and after 50 years of marriage (to the same person)? Any thoughts?
All the best,
Jim Waterton, Glasgow
Ed. - Certainly a rare achievement, possibly unique. Jim Waterton's Munro completion - on 15/5/90 - was also unusual, in that it's one of only two I know of to have taken place on An Caisteal. The other was by Roger Cumming of East Kilbride MC on 20/10/96, and although there have probably been more, it's clearly not the most popular of finishing hills.
Seeing far more completion traffic is Ben Chonzie, and this was where John Mallinson wrapped up his round on 1/8/56. He's believed to be the second earliest surviving Munroist, and by the time TAC69 appears in the autumn he hopes to have repeated Miles Hutchinson's feat and revisited the cairn 50 years to the day since his completion.
With regard to the "counting" Munros piece, TAC66 p10, the corollary is: What's the highest number of armchair Munros anyone has ticked? An armchair Munro is where you climb a Munro Top or a Corbett and it's later upgraded to a Munro.
Also, re the Eddington Number debate (TAC64 pp12-13, TAC65 p14), according to Alan Blanco's database of such things, the UK has exactly 353 summits with a drop of at least 353m. And reliable sources indicate that the world has very close to 1500 summits with a drop of 1500m or more.
As for me, I think I can claim 199 UK summits of 199m+. The good thing about this line of thinking is that it looks as though I'm well past the halfway mark, and there aren't many counting methods that give that impression.
Pete Ridges, Prenton
Ed. - Pete is one of several actuaries who regularly climb hills, so will no doubt be taking an interest in the attempt, as part of the Edinburgh-based Faculty of Actuaries' 150th anniversary celebrations, to put someone on top of each Munro at some stage during 2006. The idea is to raise at least £100 per Munro for the Children's Hospice Association Scotland, and there's a website detailing progress at http://www.faculty150.org.uk/munro_ bagging.asp
Whilst musing on the 150th anniversary of Hugh T Munro's birth, and on the near-exponential increase in the numbers of registered Munroists over the years, it struck me that it is high time that a new, more exclusive category of Munroists should be established. I propose the title Genuine Munroist (although the initials GM have sinister connotations for some people), bestowed on the minority who have climbed all 284 summits under their own steam, ie those who have led or soloed all the Cuillin tops. Being dragged up the In Pinn then lowered off by a professional guide or a friendly rock climber surely doesn't count as a genuine ascent. Anyone who has spent years, or a lifetime, hillwalking should have acquired at least some rudimentary skills in climbing or scrambling for their own safety if not for the safety of others.
I wonder how many of the 4000+ claimed Munroists are Genuine? Not that many, I fear. Perhaps the Editor can consult his archives and establish who he believes to be the first GM. Obviously neither the Revd A E Robertson nor the Revd A R G Burn.
Findlay Swinton, Monikie
Ed. - Hard to say who might have first done them all in this way - I'll have a rummage and see if anything can be unearthed for a future issue.
Personally, when I eventually got round to tackling the In Pinn, I felt pleased to be on the blunt end of a rope provided by "a friendly rock climber" (thanks again, Kevin), rather than that of a commercial guide with whom I'd had no prior experience of "normal" hill days. That's not to disparage the guides and their skills, it's just that, not having resorted to a hired gun for any of my other Munros, it would have felt odd for this one. By contrast, a lot of aspiring Munroists now pay guiding companies for assistance in plenty of ascents, not just the Cuillin ones, and for such people a guide on the In Pinn presumably feels normal.
Iain Robertson writes -
This year is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Hugh T Munro, compiler of the famous Tables. In order to mark this significant event, the Munro Society suggests that anyone wishing to pay tribute to Sir Hugh could climb a Munro or Munros over the weekend 14-15 October, or on Monday 16 October, the actual birthday. In order that tributes may take tangible form, participants are asked to send a note of their name, address, Munro(s) climbed during the weekend and any other comment they might care to make on what Sir Hugh and his Tables have meant to them. These should be sent to The Munro Society, 12 Randolph Court, Stirling FK8 2AL, or email@example.com, and will be put together in a "Tribute Book" to be deposited in the Munro Society archive held in the A K Bell Library in Perth. Those who subscribe to the "Tribute Book" will receive an acknowledgment which will describe the event and something of its background.
Munro Society members will be in attendance on Driesh, the nearest Munro to Sir Hugh's home at Lindertis, and people can pay their tribute by "signing in" at the top. Further details available shortly at http://www.themunrosociety.com/
TAC 68 Index