Mick Furey's reference to "killer sheep" coming south (TAC69 p16) is not far off the mark, although the apparent victim this time was rather unusual. In the summer of 2006, a friend and experienced outdoor type spent a couple of days on the Pennine Way, supporting two local students who were walking the trail. He left his car, a new Mini Cooper, parked outside the Tan Hill Inn, high and remote on the North Pennines east of Kirkby Stephen (at 1,732ft above sea level it's reputedly the highest pub in Britain). At the end of the day he returned to find his car covered in small but quite noticeable dents and scratches. They were all the way round the car and all at about waist height. Every panel was dented, and on the driver's side the bodywork was especially battered.
Puzzled and understandably upset, he drove off, his shiny, racing green Mini looking considerably worse for wear. He didn't have time to do anything about the damage, because less than a week later he was in Kirk Yetholm, to meet the two walkers at the northern end of the Pennine Way. While waiting in the Border Hotel, enjoying a slow pint, he was astonished to overhear two other Pennine Way walkers discussing the current talk of the trail - an episode of "ram-raiding" at Tan Hill a few days earlier. According to the men, a notorious and evidently fearsome sheep is said to inhabit the moors around Tan Hill, and every now and then it takes exception to a parked car. Presumably the ram sees its reflection in the shiny bodywork, and then, supposing it to be a rival, begins butting the vehicle with all its might. The shiny, racing green Mini Cooper didn't stand a chance.
As you can imagine, the episode led to considerable leg-pulling back home, not least because it was a company car (the chap in question is high up in the YHA) and the repair bill ran to over £2,500! (Hard luck and all that, but at risk of asking an obvious question, how come the YHA - which used to ban walkers who turned up with anything fancier than a bicycle - now run to company cars? - Ed.) The insurance people were understandably a little bewildered, but they did eventually pay up and the car was repaired. It will be interesting to see whether the fine print of future insurance policies is amended to cover acts of aggressive sheep alongside acts of God, as well as storms, tempests and other routine outdoor hazards.
Sheep country, Derbyshire
Ed. - On a visit to Barra some years ago I was told that certain sheep there also did this - perhaps not headbutting the cars, but certainly rubbing up against them in a suggestive manner. The locals either closed a gate across their driveway or, more often, ran battered old cars rather than shiny new ones.
I read with some amusement the evidence of the official status of the TGO Challenge. (TAC69 pp10-12.) In 1987 we walked across Scotland a fortnight behind the vetted ones, and were told by the proprietor of the Monadhliath Hotel that he believed there were two freelance crossings for every one booked in.
Years later, I was given a very strong ticking off in an internet forum for the irresponsible behaviour of making a "pirate" crossing. It was sincerely believed that you could only walk that way with official sanction, with your route checked so that you didn't commit some heinous planning error, like rely on some long-lost bridge, or camp in Balmoral Forest. Maybe the concept of a coast-to-coast walk is a registered trademark, like Munro's Tables.
Have other independent stravaigers experienced similar comments?
Richard (and Frances) Webb
I'm gratified and honoured to be back in the "Murdo Munro = Monarch of the Glen" cartoon (TAC69 p9), particularly as you've spelt my name correctly. However, I wish to point out that I've more hair than the character depicted and am much better looking. I admit to having a near-tweed suit and a cap which sometimes makes me look like an estate factor, but that's a sartorial accident.
Finally, I don't know where you got this "bring back the beasties" data. I'm not in favour of bringing back the wolf, reindeer or lynx. I am in favour of bringing back the mastodon and the sabre-toothed tiger, trained to savage all who take seriously the hill categories of Grahams and Marilyns. Baggers of Munros, Corbetts and Donalds should, of course, have immunity.
Rennie McOwan, Stirling
Ed. - A sabre-toothed tiger is often to be seen in the vicinity of TAC Towers - in fact she's asleep on a chair as I type this, having recently done battle with a vole. Re misspelt names in the Murdo cartoon, there's a long and honourable tradition of this. A flick through various back issues indicates that the Highland toffee magnate is in esteemed company: Tizo's (sic, TAC1), Archie McPerson and Muriel Grape (sic, TAC2), John Ridgeway (sic, passim), Cameron McPish/MacPish (sic, passim), Carol Vordermann (sic, TAC46), Ben Lawyers (sic, TAC52), Jack Vetriano (sic, TAC62), Gerry Akroyd (sic, TAC66) and Armaggedonish and Ordinance Survey (sic, TAC70). Who can say just how many or how few of these were intentional?
Mick Harney (TAC69 p17) must be a man of iron will. I have never managed to get a Stanforth's pie more than 20 yards from the shop before feeling compelled to sink my teeth into it.
In a similar if less gastronomically sound vein, and in an ultimately futile attempt to appear wacky, I once produced a Big Mac for lunch on the Aonach Eagach. Absolutely revolting.
Walking along the Campsie Dene road in the direction of Dumgoyne on 6 January, I glanced up at the great Campsie escarpment on my right. All did not seem as it should be, scenery-wise. An enormous mud-and-rock avalanche had taken place quite recently, during a period of prolonged heavy rain accompanied by strong winds some weeks before.
Of course I decided to investigate. Just as you pass Campsie Dene House it is possible to get access to the hillside by going through a metal gate on the right. This leads to a vehicle track going directly uphill. The route allowed me to reach the base of the landslide fairly easily. I followed the slide all the way up to the base of the cliffs below "Black Craig" (Slackdhu), and estimated that the slide was over ½km long and about ¼km wide. Throughout most of its length it was a mass of earth, rocks and mud, with tufts of vegetation having been swept along on top of the chaotic surface. Most of the material was frozen and quite stable, but in some sections flowing streams could be heard coursing underneath the debris. At the base of the escarpment I could hear stones falling, a sound no doubt familiar to those who have climbed Foinaven. The surface of the landslide, especially near the top, carried boulders half the size of a small car, and it was riven with deep fissures, discouraging any notion of attempting to stumble across to the other side.
To give some idea of the scale of this landslide, it can be readily seen from the M77 when heading towards Glasgow and not far from East Kilbride if you know where to look. Campsie landslides and rotational slips are fairly common, but this one is enormous. It almost reaches down to the pipe track road. Check it out.
Ed. - Thanks also to Graham Benny for reporting this. "There has been a huge landslip under Slackdhu," he writes, "where an 80-metre wide by 20-metre high chunk of the cliff-bottom around NS557811 has collapsed and formed a mud-and-rock flow about 400 metres long and 200 metres across at the widest point. Quite spectacular - looks like one of these volcanic-eruption images you see on the news. Glad I was not about when it happened, probably 13-14 December, but probably a few sheep got caught out."
Another great read with TAC69. I enjoyed the great mountain pictures on Stuart and Karla's website. (Ha - you and about 17,000 other readers - Ed.) Good to see our esteemed Editor back in the nationals with his comments on Munrobagging in the Sunday Times on 28 January. Visitors to Deeside will be relieved to hear that I have replaced the display of old TAC covers in the Keiloch toilet after light fingers removed the last lot. They are now under armed guard. Sadly, you cannot now purchase TAC locally, following the demise of Lochnagar Leisure in Ballater. Perhaps we can persuade the new owner of the Braemar pharmacy/newsagent to stock TAC? Over to you, Ed!
Factor, Invercauld Estate
Ed. - Sadly the Sunday Murdoch gig didn't pay any bills - it was just a quotes-over-the-phone job. Re Stuart and Karla's in-the-scud site, http://www.nakedmunros.com/, good to see this functioning again - for a few days it linked to a dodgy phone-sex site, presumably because S+K had forgotten to pay their ISP bill. Also good to see the TAC toilets are back in action. The scummy thieves should be locked up in Craiginches, Cornton Vale or even Guantánamo. Re TAC availability within range of Braemar, Hilltrek down at Aboyne is quite handy, and Munros over at Pitlochry isn't a million miles away, either. Getting the Braemar pharmacy to stock it does sound a good idea, though - readers could get their fix of dodgy hill-jokes and drugs at the same one-stop shop. (Speaking of which, where the hell are you, Dr McSharkie?)
Since when did a hat, a rucksack on your back and tackety boots and socks qualify as nudism? How about exhibitionism?
Ed. - TAC has challenged Stuart and Karla to post a "winter skills" photo onsite of them wearing nothing but boots and crampons and wielding a couple of axes...
The news that Rosemary Bank (RB) should replace Ben Nevis (BN) as the UK's highest peak is interesting, but the logic is seriously flawed. (See TAC69 p19.) If the height of RB has been measured from the lowest/deepest point in the Rockall Trough, then BN and all other terrestrial hills should also be measured from that same point. It is just a different datum to the one we currently use. Thus, the true height of BN is the height of RB (1900m) + the depth of water covering RB (c305m I think) + the OS height of BN (1344m) = 3549m. If there is a lower/deeper point in UK waters, then both RB and BN will be correspondingly higher, but RB remains a submarine pimple.
I would also like to claim the first ascent of Rosemary Bank. She was in my class at primary school and one day helped me climb over a wall. In doing so I had to place my foot on her head!
PS - I also see that the Lake District has a new 3000ft summit and a new lake. According to Miss Potter (Beatrix, not Harry's sister), Ben Lomond and Loch Lomond seem to have moved south. How many other Misplaced Movie Mountains can you name?
Ed. - See David McVey, TAC16 p6.
Thanks for the kindly mention in TAC69 (p20). Incidentally, re Alison Fox's observation about Munro dates (p16), my birthday is 28 April, or 28/4. Coincidence? I think not. Obviously the SMC had to find an extra seven Munros when word of this reached them.
On top of that, I was the same age when completing as Hugh Munro was when the tables were published. Not only that, but I spent some 284 hours (plus a handful of minutes) on the mountains in 2006, a coincidence that only required a couple of hours of utterly miserable walking on Hogmanay.
Ed. - You need to get out less.
I have been in shock since the arrival of TAC69, and only now feel calm enough to put cursor to screen! Verily, I feel my mouse tremble 'neath my hand. (That's nothing. I once got jam on my joystick. - Ed.)
After feverishly opening the envelope and eagerly paging through the enclosed - then paging through it again with more care in case I had missed something - my heart sank to the nether regions of my gaiters! Which I can assure you is pretty low. Only sphagnum moss is lower.
I was left with a queasy sensation in the pit of my stomach and a bitter almondy taste in the mouth: search as I might, there was no sign of the much anticipated TAC quiz.
While the previous year I could appreciate that a moratorium was in order for the quiz, two years without one is unforgivable. Even the whaling moratorium is ending thanks to our Japanese and Danish brethren. (I am in no way endorsing the whaling activities of those bloodthirsty crazies from the aforementioned states.)
What was I to do over the winter months? Have you thought of all the misery caused to hardcore quiz entrants? Those long nights will have seemed even longer without the faint glimmer of finishing the quiz!
Is there any chance of it ever returning? I think we should be told. Has Rupert Murdoch taken over TAC Towers and decreed otherwise? Was the quiz deemed subversive by President Tony B Liar? Or is there a more sinister reason?
All the best,
Ed. - Your copy of TAC69 must have had pages missing. The quiz answers are on page 18 of this issue.
To reduce the number of Munroists (TAC69 p13), might I suggest that the complete/compleate/compleat Munroist is one who has climbed the Munros, Tops, deleted Tops and "anything that might ever get into Munro's Tables". My first round of the above was completed in 1980 and took about six years. A second round of the above was completed in 2002. I am now working on a third round and hope to achieve it before I am 80! (Don't forget to include the Furths.)
Passing climbers were amused to see my brother David arrive on top of the In Pinn in caving wellies (with fin shin guards). However they were most impressed when we got out rappel racks for the double-rope descent. For cavers who descended Hurricane Shaft in the Gouffre Berger and had been to the bottom of Gouffre de la Pierre Saint-Martin, the descent of the In Pinn held no terrors. Perhaps the only In Pinn ascents that count should be those in wellies, hobnails, clinker nails or tricouni nails. I liked my tricounis because gangs of walkers would dive for the ditch to make way. It was like Moses parting the Red Sea.
Alan L Brook,
Ed. - There's a photograph of Alan Brook's Corbett completion, on Brown Cow Hill with various cows in attendance, at http://www.smc.org.uk/Munros/Compleatists.php?ID=225
I always thought that the path improvements up to the col on the Lochnagar track were well done: they limited the path width, stopped the erosion gullies, removed the horrible mudbaths and in time merged into the heather. But now a huge stone slab walkway has appeared all the way across the col, turning into a staircase of chunky blocks right up to the Cuidhe Crom ridge. Then there's a line of scrubby new cairns leading to another stairway of big granite blocks on Cac Carn Mor.
It really is a fantastic construction, very impressive, a big quality job, and maybe it will help the eroding hillsides. But is it in keeping with the hill? Not at all, it's way over the top, a perfect example of well-meaning improvement gone out of control. It reminds me of similar vehicle tracks built high in the Italian Alps before world war two for war games on mountain passes.
Anyone involved with path building and restoration should go and take a look at how overdevelopment can turn a wild place into a tourist walk. And Lochnagar, with its great craggy corrie, should remain a bit wild. If they have to build something, my vote is for a small traditional stone bridge to replace the ford on the lower path. That would be a useful addition to save wet feet when the burn is in spate.
I do not wish to turn the Angry Inbox into a Lonely Hearts column (although unless you speak Lithuanian, I suspect Hearts is a rather lonely place just now), but I wonder if there is anyone out there able to help me. I am an experienced and very enthusiastic hillwalker in my early 50s. I completed the Munros in 2001, the Munro Tops in 2002 and the Corbetts in 2006. I am now trying to finish the Corbett Tops and have just over 100 left. Apart from a few sponsored abseils, the only time I have been on a rope was on the In Pinn, although I'm a reasonably competent scrambler.
If I believe the SMC Skye Scrambles book, some of the Skye Corbett Tops - Clach Glas and the Central Cuillin around Sgurr a'Mhadaidh and Bidein Druim nam Ramh - are Moderate or Difficult climbs and thus beyond what I would be comfortable attempting alone. Would any reader be willing to lead me on such expeditions? I am staying near Garve until August, so someone living between Inverness and Skye would be ideal in terms of being able to go at short notice when weather conditions were favourable. I would be happy to provide transport and also to foot the bill for an evening meal and a few drinks. If things went well, we could extend to some of the difficult Graham Tops of Skye and Applecross, Grahams and then Graham Tops being my objective after Corbett Tops.
Please can anyone interested email me on firstname.lastname@example.org and I will arrange to meet you for a "getting acquainted" beer.
I recently sighted a Bricklehampton Millennium Mug! For folks who may have forgotten, Bricklehampton is 14:14. For those new to TAC, that means 14 letters long and no letters repeated. (See TAC22 p15.) David and I have a friend whose parents live in the aforementioned Worcestershire village, and said friend has two such mugs which feature the house of his parents along with the church etc. He suspects the mugs are still available, so I have asked for one. (Put me down for one too, please - Ed.) What excitement! I'll have to retreat to the hills to steady my nerves.
Re Kevin Murtagh's nocturnal experiences on the summit of Snowdon (TAC69 p17), in August 1972 I arrived there just before dawn, after an enjoyable moonlit ascent via Lliwedd. Below us, thanks to a temperature inversion, a vast sea of cloud covered the whole of North Wales, with the surrounding summits standing out like dark islands. To add to our delight, after a short cold wait, we were treated to one of the most colourful and spectacular sunrises I have ever experienced. Meanwhile, a bleary-eyed character emerged from the cafe, presumably an employee, and joined us. Looking around in astonishment, he simply commented "It's just like f-ing Tolkien!", before shuffling back to resume his slumbers, while we continued our traverse over Crib Goch, looking forward to breakfast.
Muir of Ord
TAC 70 Index