Re "Paved with good intentions", TAC67 p4. What is wrong with paving/improving the surface of some footpaths in the interests of greater access for disabled people? Why not support it?
It is not about political correctness, nor about "being nice" to disabled people; it is about opening up the countryside to more people, many of whom will contribute to rural economies. We cannot make countryside access a "closed shop".
Secondly, disabled people are not a closed group. Most disabled people became thus during their lives, so why shouldn't one's enjoyment of the countryside continue?
It is not the thin end of the wedge. Such upgrading is only suitable for a very small minority of paths, so why shouldn't it be done (provided such alterations don't let the motorbike riders / offroaders in)?
However, if such improvements are made, then potential users should be asked how best to build the paths. If the paths are for wheelchair-users, then seek their input as regard to surface, gradient and location etc. They, and not some outside authority, know best. A new "accessible" path which wheelchair users can't negotiate just makes everyone unhappy
Alison Fox, Alloa
PS - Here is a (possibly) interesting fact (or possibly not) about my Munro completion. I completed on Munro 197 and my birthday is 19 July, or, in figures,19.7. Anyone else done this? I know it is impossible for some people and rather tough if your birthday coincides with the number of a difficult Munro, but still... (In Pinn completers would need to be born on 16 April as the list stands at present - Ed.) The "coincidence" was sort of a deliberate decision on my part, though really the decision was based on an easy hill which was fairly local but difficult to get to for a non-driver - honest!
Re TAC66 p3 and the "can we have it back please" stuff, Glencoe MRT have finally brought their statistics up to date, so you can read this year's epics I'm glad to report. I do miss the countrywide tales of mayhem that were in the SMC Journal, and being such a shite climber they were the only things I personally could relate to! If it all hangs on the Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland to feed them the info, then I fear we will wait for ever!
Ian McConnell, Glencoe
Ed. - The Coe MRT stats are at http://www.glencoe-mountain-rescue.com/v2/statistics.htm
Re memorials. This is the last letter I intend to write on this subject, as it's been well covered in the mountaineering press of late, particularly in the Scottish Mountaineer. However, I feel the necessity of replying to Mick Furey's rant. (TAC68 p16)
Mick either misses or fails to understand the point. A bunch of flowers is one thing to remember a friend, although it would be nice if, for once, the cellophane was removed. It's the permanent memorials which cause offence - cemented cairns and/or plaques screwed to boulders, for example. I walk to these places to achieve a sense of wilderness, and sometimes I just manage, and it's magic. The profound disappointment of coming across other people's paraphernalia destroys the experience. The very idea of leaving some kind of "memorial" in a beautiful spot to commemorate one's life, to be seen by future generations, hence reducing their possibility of experiencing wild or beautiful places, is the ultimate in hypocritical acts. Suffice to say, I will continue to remove these selfish monuments.
Max McCance, Collessie
PS - Oh, and by the way Mick, thanks for telling me where yer plaque will be.
Chris Tyler (TAC68 p16) seems to be playing the pot-and-kettle game when he accuses me of ranting. As far as I remember, I said that using a torch on your head doesn't show up uneven ground as easily as holding it in your hand. I didn't know about the "wee pegs coated with a reflective material, which sent back light exactly back the way it came". He was there, I only saw a bit on the box, and it wasn't mentioned. So it worked, OK.
If the pegs had been so angled as to reflect light from a hand-torch, it would have been just as effective. But it doesn't take away from what I said about holding a head-torch in your hand. Until every path has his wee pegs, I still maintain that my idea is the safest.
I like the bit about the Underground; I didn't know the staff used head-torches, but then I stay away from London as much as possible. Don't mind the Glasgow Underground, though.
Mick Furey, Maltby
Many fine and deserved tributes have been paid to the late Tom Weir, but one rather misleading image of the great man exists. It is an image epitomised in the song by Sandy Wright of the band Aberfeldy (the words appeared in TAC64 p8). References are made to Tom being "King of the Anoraks", to his "red nose", and to his "plus-fours and a wee woolly hat". The image portrayed in the song tends to mask another side to the man's character. He could be pretty fierce especially about his climbing. He held strong and at times angry opinions on matters to do with conservation - all to his credit.
In 2000 I had occasion to spend an afternoon with him and his wife Rhona at their home in Gartocharn. I must have been rabbiting on a bit about the Munros I had climbed. Perhaps I was trying to impress him - a big mistake! He leaned forward in his chair, fixed me with a rather unnerving gaze, and pointing a finger in my face growled "Have you walked in the Campsies?" Luckily I was able to answer "Yes", and named a few significant tops to regain some credibility. He rested back in his chair with what I hoped was a look of limited approval.
No hill was boring to Tom Weir, no matter how rounded or modest in height. Apart from putting me in my place, he was good company that afternoon, but an anorak he certainly was not.
Bryan Cromwell, East Kilbride
Ed. - For more on Tom Weir see pp3-5. Anorak or no anorak, there is surely some truth in Wright's assertion that "His trousers indicated / he was sadly dislocated / from the future".
Re Dewi Jones's experiences (TAC68 p17) at the cafe on Snowdon, I too had an unusual experience there some ten years ago, but this time while bivvied outside waiting for the dawn and the start of a Welsh 3000s walk. My two friends and I had feasted at Pete's Eats and walked up by the railway line in the darkness, hoping to get some sleep and an early start the next day. We pitched on the hard concrete platform at the back of the cafe at about 11:30pm and chatted a little while before drifting off to sleep. Imagine our surprise when we were woken at about 1am by loud Bangra-style music blaring from inside the cafe. We didn't say anything, but just lay there for some time trying to take in the bizarre situation. The cafe was apparently unoccupied one minute, then hosting an Asian festival the next. No further sleep was possible that night.
I repeated the walk again a year or two later, and once more started with a bivvy outside the cafe. Again we were woken at about 1am but this time by the arrival of a talkative walker who had turned up to meet someone. He sat awake in his sleeping bag waiting, chatting, and keeping us awake, and was there still when we left for Crib Goch at 6am.
We were up Sheffield Pike off Patterdale recently, provisioned - after a family visit the day before - with some of Skipton's finest scran. A lot of people will have come across the famous Stanforth's pork pie establishment in Skipton, but - as I enjoyed my particularly fine example at the summit shelter - I did wonder if their pies had been eaten at such an altitude, or even higher, before. Sheffield Pike is only 2232ft (according to Alf), or 675m (according to the OS and the metric generation), so I can only offer it as an opening bid for the highest consumption of a Stanforth's. But maybe other TACers could enhance the record?
I was tempted to suggest as an alternative the greatest height at which my mother's ham sandwiches have been eaten, but that seemed like loading the dice too heavily in my favour. Mind you, once Alan Hinkes got wind of the competition he'd no doubt be round to stock up on me mum's sarnies ready for his second round of the 8000ers.
All the best,
Mick Harney, Reading
Ed. - I'm a contender for having eaten the most samosas on hilltops, although sadly these fine snacks (at least good cornershop ones) aren't in such ready supply since TAC Towers relocated from Glasgow to Stirling.
I see Pete Ridges (TAC68 p19) has returned to the Eddington Number debate, if one can call it that. In odd moments I have also continued to muse on it, and would like to offer three more ideas for consideration, which I refer to as Muntiple Number, Munday Number and Munannum Number.
One's Muntiple Number is the largest number of Munros one has ascended at least that number of times. My own Muntiple Number is currently nine, a list led by Ben Lomond (23 ascents) and also including Ben Nevis, Beinn Narnain, Beinn Ime, Ben Vane, Ben Vorlich (Sloy), Beinn Chabhair, An Caisteal and Cruach Ardrain. I could raise it to ten by dint of two more ascents of Beinn a'Chroin and one of Cruach Ardrain, but any further increase would be distinctly laborious. Note that one may be a completionist and have a Muntiple Number of one, and conversely (and in theory, provided one lived as long as Methuselah and one's knees didn't do a Michael Owen) have a Muntiple Number of 283 and still not be a completionist after 80089 ascents. (It must be that In Pinn again, dammit.)
One's Munday Number (alternatively Hardknut Number) is the largest number of days on which one has climbed at least that number of Munros. I personally have a Munday Number of six, and don't expect to improve on that. I suggest that persons with a Munday Number of six or more should be entitled to use the following appellations: 6/7 Ordinary Knut, 8/9 Hardknut, 10/11 Superknut, 12+ Completely Bonkers.
Finally, one's Munannum (or Marannum) Number is the largest number of years in which one has climbed at least that number of Munros (or Marilyns). My current Munannum Number is 17, which I appreciate is pretty feeble. Surely there are plenty of people out there with Munannum Numbers well over 30. A Munannum Number of 40 would be very good, and 50 seems feasible (but I guess only OAPs need apply).
But to get back to Pete Ridges. A slight redefinition in order to edge closer to the Eddington Number concept could lead to a pair of "Mareascent Numbers", one metric and one imperial. Thus: one's Mareascemt (or Mareasceft) Number is the largest number of Marilyns one has ascended with a reascent all round of at least that number of metres (or feet). As Pete indicates, the largest possible Mareascemt Number is 353, and anyone reaching that would be a Mareascemt Completionist. Perhaps he could also work out the largest possible Mareasceft Number (700? - a wild guess).
Note that these Mareascent Numbers have nothing to do with the other Mareascent Number (same spelling, different pronunciation) associated with a planned visit to Widecombe Fair by a group including Uncle Tom Cobley.
Jim Waterton, Glasgow
Ed. - Excellent stuff. I'm not sure whether I'm average or unusual (most likely a bit of both), but my Muntiple Number stands at 11, with power to add given that four of the "counters" have seen exactly 11 ascents and a further six Munros have been climbed ten times. The highest Muntiple Number I know of is 20, by Ian Douglas of Glasgow, who has climbed each of the 20 Section 1 Munros at least 20 times. (His Ben Lomond total, 1300+, is still 400 behind his brother Alan.) His actual Muntiple Number could well be up around 30, while that of Richard Wood could be higher still. I'll see if I can find out more.
My Munday or Hardknut Number is six, due to four seven-Munro days and a further four six-Munro days. Oddly all four sevens are completely different: South Cluanie, a Mamores day (in the days when Sgor an Iubhair counted), a Lawers traverse and a Grey Corries / Aonachs / CMD / Ben outing (everything bar Stob Ban). And I've been aiming to do the Inverlochlarig Seven - again a completely different group - for quite a while.
One interesting corollary would be to see how few days might be needed for all 284 Munros to be climbed - eg were the whole list divided into seven-hill clusters, that would be 41 days including a cushy four-Munro day at some stage. Were this spread over a lifetime it would be akin to someone's eclectic round on a golf course (a compilation of their best score for each hole). Looking at it this way makes Charlie Campbell's summer 2000 effort all the more remarkable: he averaged 5.8 Munros per day over 49 straight days, and got round them all self-propelled, to boot.
As for the Munannum Number, mine is 16, comprising a batch of early years and a few recent ones, with something of a 1990s slump getting in the way. As Jim says, anything up near 50 would be outstanding - to again use a golfing analogy, it's akin to shooting one's age. Reaching 50 looks very unlikely for me: I'd have to live to at least 87 and climb 50 or more Munros in each of the 42 years between then and now, given that I've only managed 50 Munros in a year eight times thus far.
The highest tree (TAC68 p17) I have seen in Scotland was a Scots pine at about 1170m on Ben Macdui plateau in September 2003. It was only a foot high and quite old, with a very short summer's growth. Others in the party were botanists Andy Amphlett of the RSPB, David Welch, SNH officer Keith Duncan and Cairn Gorm ranger Ewan Macleod. The highest one I'd seen before that was a similar-sized Scots pine at 1110m near the Feith Buidhe on Ben Macdui in the 1980s.
Pine seeds can travel for miles when winds carry them along the surface of frozen snow.
Adam Watson, Crathes
Re the black rabbit spotted by one of your readers (TAC67 p19). Black rabbits occur on the island of Skokholm off the coast of Wales. They occur at a frequency of about 1% of the normal brown (agouti) rabbits and are known to be less timid than the normal type of rabbit. As a consequence, they spend less time in their burrows and more time feeding. However, they are probably more conspicuous to predators and their life-expectancy seems to be about one-third that of normal rabbits. In situations where food is limited, the disadvantage of being conspicuous can be outweighed by the extra food the black rabbits can find. This information is in Inheritance and Natural History, by R J Berry in the Collins New Naturalist series.
Eric Gilhooley, Co. Durham
The article on bothy smoking (TAC68 pp10-12) reminded me of an encounter with a bothy tramp at Ben Alder Cottage in 1995. The character in question, Arthur, kept offering fags to my pal and me. Despite us insisting that we did not want them, he would press one into my hand each time. Not to cause offence, I discreetly pocketed each cancer stick. Of more concern was his habit of asking us "Could you hear the voices?" This, coupled with mumbled references to his having served time in Germany for murder charges, encouraged us to sleep in the next room with a lot of baggage against the closed door.
Anyway, back to the smokes. The next morning Arthur declared he was out of ciggies and asked if we had any - and by pure luck I had a cagoule-pocket full of them. Suspecting that he might keep asking, I just returned one to him which proved fortunate as he decided to walk back to the road with us and asked for a fag every half hour or so. He thought I was a very generous person, especially as we gave him a lift to Pitlochry so he could sign on.
On the topic of mountain memorials, I am not going to get drawn into the debate but will say there are two that I like for different reasons. The first is on Beinn Churalain, a small Marilyn above Loch Creran. At around 200m is a small graveyard, the Stewart graveyard I believe, which gives delightful views to the west. It feels a really peaceful place. I have some good photos taken there of an old Celtic cross silhouetted against the setting sun.
The other memorial is to the B29 that crashed on Bleaklow. The first time I came across this was in thick mist and it was quite eerie to find bits of wreckage and then a selection of poppies and wreaths. The plaque at the site says the plane crashed in 1948. Definitely a site that provokes strong melancholy feelings, especially as a memorial service is held there every year.
Kev Palmer, Leicester
Ed. - According to David J Smith's excellent High Ground Wrecks (reviewed TAC33 p8), the B29 Superfortress crashed on Bleaklow on 3 November 1948. All 13 crewmen died.
Re bothy tramps, I can recall a trip into the Cairngorms in 1983 or 1984 when I met a rough-looking bloke simply calling himself Fred somewhere around Coire Etchachan. He told of having chucked in a good job down south and driven to Linn of Dee where he handed the car keys to a stranger and took to the hills.
I have a near-complete collection of hillwalking magazines that someone, perhaps interested in the sociology of the sport, might like: Climber & Rambler from mid to late 1970s, and TGO from late 1970s to nearly present. No money sought, just uplift or payment of carriage. Contact me on 0776 9680293.
Pete Drummond, Coatbridge
Camera found on Auchnafree Hill, Saturday 9 September 2006. Please call with description: Edward Grattan, 0798 9740639.
Please note that the email address for TAC has changed. It's now: firstname.lastname@example.org
TAC 69 Index