The 2007 Issue - Preview
(A summary provided by Editor C.J Orr)

SMCJ 2007

Illustration: Girdle Traverse of Ben Nevis. Climber: Simon Richardson
Photo: Brian Davison

Summary of 2007 Journal Articles

The opening article in this years Journal The Last Of The Grand Old Masters by Dennis Gray is a memoir built around the author’s friendship and climbing relationship with Tom Patey. It is a very personal and at times humorous piece written from a privileged perspective, in that Gray had a close relationship with the good doctor over a number of years. He concludes He was truly one of the last of the grand old masters who represented more than anyone else I have known the freedom to be found in the hills. This article as well as being well written and entertaining stands as a valuable addition to the historical archive of The Club.

It may come as a surprise to many that Graham Little one of the Club’s leading climbers over a number of years has started a hill-walking club - but it’s true! A Brief History Of The ‘IAS’Hill-Walking Club tells the tale and I won’t spoil the intrigue by going into details here of this most seemingly unlikely of ventures.

Folding foam mats and tooth brushes used to be simply added luxuries to a weekend away climbing and by no means essential, but in his excellent article Bouldering With Ghosts, John Watson shows us why, for an increasing cohort of the climbing fraternity, this is no longer the case. In this finely crafted short piece the author cleverly, and very poignantly in places, juxtaposes the current bouldering explosion with traces of the past both in terms of climbing itself and the landscape where “…bouldering can be a form of listening… to deeper histories, to voices that ring like struck stones and too easily vanish into the clear air…”

Needless to say this issue of the Journal contains a number of fulsome obituaries to the late Tom Weir and I have chosen to elevate one such to the articles section. Ken Crocket enjoyed a close relationship with Tom over a number of years and in his piece Close Encounters With Tom Weir he recalls visiting him at his home and seeking his advice on the compilation of his Ben Nevis history, while at the same time being introduced to the mysteries of ‘birding.’ The meat of the piece is taken up with Ken’s role (not as a volunteer!) of introducing Tom, then in his mid seventies, to this “…front pointing thingy.” Hopes of an easy snow gully somewhere were dashed when Tom suggested ‘Crowberry Gully.’ This was carried off with aplomb but not without the author being aware of his responsibilities and doubtless the effect the outcome might have on any embryo presidential aspirations he might entertain. Not content with this, the bold Tom insisted on another outing the following year resulting in a new grade III on the Cobbler where “he discovered that a pick in turf would hold an elephant. He romped up the route and soon enough we had a new Grade III in the bag.”

Gavin Anderson in his ‘faction’ piece We Never Knew Her Name, narrating the circumstances of a fatal accident in the Northern Corries in the far off days of Jeans Hut, provides us with what President Paul Brian describes as  “Exciting writing with a serious purpose. Anyone who has ever been involved in a mountain tragedy will recognise the feelings experienced by the writer, though few of us have the skills to express them so clearly and with such sensitivity.”

The work of  16th Century gaelic poet Domnhall mac Fhionnlaigh nan Dan provides the impetus for a short piece by well known writer and recent dinner guest of The Club Ian Mitchell. In his essay Through The Eyes Of The Owl the author visits Creag  Uanich in an attempt to test the visual memory of the poets of this era. The results were quite surprising.

Carl Schaschke’s chance encounter with American climber Conrad Anker - who discovered Mallory’s body on Everest – provides the backdrop for a cleverly crafted piece of writing. Back In Gear  finds the author recalling past glories on expedition with Anker and how their paths divided sharply thereafter – he to climbing fame and fortune, the author to family, domesticity and 9-5. This is just the jolt the bold Carl needs and here he recounts the tale of the successful Mount Lassen expedition.

In his essay Red Fly The Banners Oh! Iain Smart takes us on a trip down memory lane in a way only he can. In this unlikely mix of politics and climbing he provides an entertaining and at times thought provoking look at the old communism/capitalism argument “Under a Soviet system an off-beat organization like the SMC, full of difficult people who wont do what they are told and don’t like being led, would not have been allowed; the present membership would have been sent off to the Gulag for re-education. Ironically we would probably have found the Creag Dhu already there as even worse examples of incorrigible individualism.” Concluding that “One day runaway Capitalism will collapse under the weight of its internal contradictions and drown in its own excrement.” and that we should “…get on with surfing the present wave of prosperity with all the originality we can muster  . . . . before it hits the beach.”

Alan Mullin a previous winner of the W.H. Murray Prize, died in tragic circumstances earlier this year. He wrote this article Death By Misadventure after his ascent of the groundbreaking Rolling Thunder on Lochnagar and it is offered here as a tribute to a climber of exceptional ability – a complex character, never far from controversy, who climbed as he lived – giving his all.

Time For Tea takes us on a trip to Southern Greenland where in the company of characters such as ‘Freefall’ and ‘McFrenzy’ we are taken on the ascent or rather descent (the summit is reached in the first paragraph) of somewhere big and crumbly!

In his short essay Who Needs The Himalayas?  Brian Davison recounts his journey with Simon Richardson on their 12hr. Girdle traverse of The Ben.

Peter Biggar rounds things off nicely in his very distinctive style with his short story Untrodden Ways examining climbing and ageing using the age old model of the Master/Pupil relationship.

As well as the usual New Climbs section by Andy Nisbet, we have excellent, well researched and insightful narrative summaries of the 2006 cutting edge action, both winter and summer, by Simon Richardson and Dave Cuthbertson which includes comment from the climbers themselves. There are also a number of gems hidden away in the Miscellaneous notes section.
The cover shot this year shows Simon Richardson during the very imaginative Ben Nevis Girdle which he climbed with Brian Davison and the many colour plates inside are of a similar high quality.


Charlie Orr