• Graham

You can’t say you weren’t warned. If you insist on visiting this part of the world in the middle of March, both Hail Storm and its neighbour Winter might well live up to their names and provide a reminder that even little hills can still have a nasty sting in their tail. And so it proved with the last of the Pennines on my list. En route, the mind recalled a number of rather ominous sounding names. Along with the above mentioned there is, inter alia, Gathersnow Hill, Cold Fell and Raw Head, not to mention the potential perils that await the unsuspecting on Wild Boar Fell. Climate change may have made a difference, but there are still those living among the hills who remember days or even weeks when they were cut off from the outside world.

Hail Storm Hill is a curious eminence. Access from any direction is through a housing estate, then by means of a well-made track, built no doubt to service the wind farm. This road, for it is little less, leads directly to the trig point. Unfortunately, although an excellent view point, the Ordnance Column is not the top. Point SD 835193 is some 1000 yards to the west situated in the usual uninviting mixture of ling and peat. At the height of the Marilyn season, various stray bodies can be seen wandering from one tuft to another in the hope of discovering the true summit, an outcome achieved as much by accident as design. You can either join these lost souls or resort to what might be termed the ‘Dawson Ruling’. The author of The Relative Hills of Britain states that a top can be considered attained if the climber’s head is above the highest apparent point. So, select a suitable tussock and stand tall! (It is probably not very useful to introduce the relative heights of the wind turbines at this juncture).

Hail Storm Hill, however, is not the only summit to cause problems to the ardent Completionist. Putting to one side the obvious expeditionary difficulties of Stac an Armin and Stac Lee in the St Kilda archipelago, the summit of Sgurr Dearg in the Black Cullin is the nemesis that awaits the majority of Munro and Marilyn Baggers. The apparent top of the mountain offers little difficulty and splendid views across Coire Lagan to Sgurr Alasdair and the great rock face of Sron na Ciche. The actual high point, however, is the very tip of a splinter of rock which protrudes from the surrounding hillside. This Inaccessible Pinnacle is technically a rock climb and non-climbers usually require assistance to make the top of the shard. Once up they are then faced with the knottier problem of getting down – a dilemma much accompanied by swinging about on the end of a rope and plaintive cries for help.

Equally inconvenient are summit Trig Points surrounded by mud. My own other “inaccessible” experiences were on Black Hill, once the county top of Cheshire, and Cheviot which is still the high point of Northumberland. On my first visit to both, I was faced with a sea of glutenous slutch surrounding the desired summits. They were eventually reached, but the method of forward propulsion resembled more swimming than walking. The modern bagger will have no such difficulty as both are now surrounded with paving stones that would put most urban sidewalks to shame..

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