Friday, 2 May 2014

Guest Contributor – Bernie Hughes


I have approached a number of people to write articles, but if readers would like to contribute an article please contact me. The only two stipulations I make are that the article has to be hill related and that I don't end up in court through its publication! Otherwise the choice of subject matter is down to the Guest Contributor.

Guest Contributor – Bernie Hughes

Bernie Hughes at the trig on Robert Law, 406m TuMP in Section 27A, and S5412.

About Bernie:  I discovered hillwalking on a P7 school trip in 1985, when we climbed the Eildons, took up solo backpacking in my mid-teens, spending many weekends wandering the hills around Glasgow with a tent and stove, and soon completed the WHW. Then in May 1992, aged 19, I set out to walk across France, from the Swiss border to the Atlantic, tent-less, stove-less and penniless, wearing Polish army boots held together with string and a Joy Division t-shirt, living off bread and cheese, and sleeping rough. I almost made it, walking some 860km in a month, but three days from the end someone put a gun to my head just south of Nantes, making compleation impractical. Back home, I'd picked up John Chalmers 100 Hill Walks Around Glasgow soon after it was published, and Fiona and I took to working our way through it during the late '90s. I met Dave Hewitt while working for John Smith Bookshops in Glasgow; he used to come in to deliver The Angry Corrie, which is where I discovered Marilyns, and hill-bagging of a sort that didn't require matching anoraks and follow-my-leader bus tours. I bought RHB in Sept 2001 and the Handbook in July 2002, three weeks before finishing 100 Hill Walks. It was only at that point that I took up hill-bagging properly speaking, but even since then 2 children, a change of career, 2 post grads and general lack of dedication to any one thing at a time have kept my hills climbed total to a modest 1142 DoBIH hills, plus 10 other Yeamans that aren't (yet) in the Database. The only list I've ever finished is the Donalds, in 2009, though I have worked my way through 75% of the Donald Deweys, and will finish those eventually. I've done a fair bit of trigpointing, benchmarking and geocaching over the past decade too; nowadays I spend more time hunting for tupperware with my kids than anything else. 
A Plea for Historical Lists; Yeamans and Clems

Nowadays, any civilian with a few grand to spare can avail him- (or, theoretically at least, her-) self of surveying equipment with the capacity to measure height and position to a degree of accuracy that would have been inconceivable in the very recent past. Perhaps even more significantly, modern media of technology allow newly discovered, or improved, height and position data to be communicated, disputed, and then broadly accepted by almost everyone to whom these things matter (not a huge subset of the population, admittedly) within a matter of hours.

It wasn't always this easy. Until a decade or so ago, the only realistic option available to hill-baggers keen to devise new hill lists, or to improve those already in existence, was to stare at contour lines on 1:50k OS mapping till their eyes bled and friends and family had deserted; I'm sure everyone reading this has been there, to a greater or lesser extent.

Modern (Advanced?) hill taxonomy is dominated by a self-consciously rigorous objectivity. If a given hill matches a certain boldly stated topographical criterion (or criteria) it is 'in'; if it fails to do so, it is 'out'. The publication of new lists, such as HuMPs, Sims and TuMPs, is entirely predicated on a (relatively) widespread acceptance of the inherent value of such objectivity, and the presence of a given hill on any such modern list is therefore permanently contingent; if a bolt of lightning blasted Slioch, reducing its height to 599m, it would cease to be a Sim ipso facto. (It would still be a Munro, of course, at least until SMC coffers required replenishing...).

A defining feature of (the best) modern lists such as Marilyns, HuMPs and TuMPs is the prioritisation of relative over absolute height. By common consent, the first person to introduce the notion of re-ascent into hill selection was John Rooke Corbett, a century ago, with his 500ft criterion for hills over 2500ft; Corbett's name, at least, must be familiar to all hill-baggers, and most regular hill-walkers, in Britain. Far less well-known is the name of the very first hill list-deviser to insist on relative height as the principle criterion for inclusion in his list: Dr Eric Yeaman.

In his Handbook of the Scottish Hills published in 1989, Yeaman answers his own, profoundly troubling, question “What is a hill?” with the following Vorticist-style blast:

For the purposes of this Handbook, a hill is defined as an eminence which has an ascent of at least 100m all round or, failing that, is at least 5km (walking distance) from any higher point on neighbouring hills. (Yeaman, 1989, p6)

Eric Yeaman's book was published in 1989 and revolutionised hill list criterion
This is a revolution in hill taxonomy. And here already on Primidi of Year 1, we have counter-revolutionary backsliding; the qualifying '5km distance' clause has returned us to the dank realms of topographical subjectivity (Walking distance by whose choice of line? Eminence by what measure at the end of your 5km stroll?); such boldness, and such failure of nerve. But with Yeaman's assertion that 100m of re-ascent merits a hill's inclusion in his list, with an absolute disregard for absolute height, we are witnessing the birth of the modern era of hill listing; but for this development, the Marilyn, HuMP and TuMP lists would not exist.

And yet despite the incontestable fact that this new and central principle, which lies at the heart of Yeaman's work, changed hill-bagging permanently, he is almost forgotten; the brief acknowledgement to the Handbook in RHB (Dawson, 1992, p9) is probably the only reference many Advanced Hill-baggers ever come across, unless they happen to read the excellent summary of developments by Mark Jackson in the HuMPs book (Jackson, 2009, p1-7)

Hopefully this is set to change; in November 2013, Phil Newby agreed to host the Yeamans dataset on his excellent website; to my knowledge, the first time the list has ever been made available in an online 'tickable' way.

It could of course be argued that the modern surveying methods referred to above have rendered Yeaman's work obsolete, and that the comparable and partially derivative HuMPs list (initially entitled 'New Yeamans') have replaced it entirely. It's true that some of the hills included by Yeaman have been subsequently proven to fall short of his own criteria, and further 100m hills have been discovered, but to my mind these criticisms are irrelevant; Yeamans are the 2441 hills listed in the Handbook of the Scottish Hills and the list deserves more generous acknowledgement and wider recognition as being of unique historical importance in the development of hill-listing and hill-bagging in Britain.

Fortunately not everyone ignored Yeaman's work; by 1993, only 4 years after publication of the Handbook, E. D. 'Clem' Clements had extended Yeaman's criteria to England and Wales. Clem's original handwritten list comprised 1284 hills. The process of verifying and digitising this handwritten document took many years and involved numerous contributors, notably Rob Woodall, Myrddyn Phillips, Gary Honey, Gordon Adshead and Iain Cameron; Clem made some additions to the list in 2004 and his list formed the basis for later HuMP research in England and Wales.

The first page of Clem's hand written 'Yeamans of England + Wales' list
The first page of Clem's corrections to his English and Welsh Yeamans list
Following publication of the Yeaman's list on , Rob Woodall suggested that I should take a look at Clem's work with a view to similar publication. At first I was unsure about my suitability for such a task, as the starting point was very different from that for my work on the Yeamans; I've been using the Handbook for over a decade, I own 2 of the 3 copies I've ever set eyes on, and I had manually keyed every single detail from it into the personalised Access 2003 hills database that I'd reworked from an early version of the pre-relational DoBIH (V3 possibly?). But I've only climbed a couple of dozen hills on Clem's list, had previously paid it scant attention, and unlike many of you reading this I had never had the good fortune to meet or correspond with Clem himself before his untimely death in 2012. But on the other hand, I decided that it would be reasonable for me to edit Clem's work for publication, provided that I make the workings explicit for anyone who wishes to take the list and improve it. So here's how I did it:

1)      I started with the 2005 list uploaded to RHB Yahoo! Group by Rob Woodall in 2005, as the RHB sections would make it easier to match Clem's list to hills already included in the DoBIH and P30 appendix.

2)     I compared this list with the 2004 'Original with corrections' list (Woodall, 2004), and temporarily removed all the 2005 additions.

3)     I then matched the remaining 1284 hills with the DoBIH / P30 appendix. In all but 7 cases, hills could be matched up in a way that allowed for minor alterations to grid ref, provided it was still clearly 'the same hill'. (A subjective process, but essentially one that had begun already in the jump from the Clem's original handwritten list to the early digitised versions).

4)     I then looked at the extra hills that had appeared between 2004 and 2005. Some of these were TuMP replacements to Clem's original list, post-RHB Marilyn discoveries etc. I discounted these as post-factum. I also removed "Y -t" twins as these are not dealt with consistently - a great many twin grid refs appear as notes in the main list without becoming detached entries in their own right.

5)     14 of these additional hills were identified by Clem himself. Although not part of the original 1993 handwritten list, I have included them in the list, following consultation with Rob Woodall, as it seemed to me that these hills are part of Clem's own legacy in a way that later Marilyn discoveries etc just can't be.

6)     Clem himself referred to hills on his list as 'Yeamans of England & Wales' or 'Yeomans', but they have been renamed 'Clems' in his honour by way of remembering the man and recognising his achievement, following consultation with Myrddyn Phillips.

7)     V14 of the DoBIH contains 1290 of the 1298 hills listed as Clems; 8 are new hills. I am very grateful to Phil Newby for agreeing to host the list online.

As I've indicated above, to me the question of whether the hills listed in a fixed publication actually match the hill selection criteria stated by that publication is a matter of purely academic concern; 'Yeamans' are the hills listed in Dr Yeaman's book, even if subsequently proven to fall short on drop or distance. I've deliberately applied this same principle to Clem's work too, as in my understanding at least, Clem considered himself to be directly applying Yeaman's criteria to England and Wales. Nowadays, modern surveying techniques (and data sharing media) mean that 'live' lists like Marilyns, HuMPs or TuMPs can be regularly updated, but published lists are historical and therefore static. Minor alterations such as corrections to height/drop figures and summit moves that 'clearly' relate to the same hill of course I have accepted, but otherwise the only major exemptions to documented and published history being where the author himself has indicated changes. Idiosyncratic, I know.

I'm not claiming any ownership of Clem's list; it's been a long collaborative effort to which many people have contributed. All I've done really is tidy it up a bit and match it to DoBIH hill numbers, so I'm completely open to reversing any of the (perhaps inadvertent) micro-decisions that I've made in the process of syncing the lists. Any discussion provoked by this is welcome, as my express purpose is to attract more attention to the irreplaceable contribution made by Eric Yeaman and Clem Clements to hill-listing and hill-bagging as we know it.

The homepage for the 'Clems' on Haroldstreet

Cameron, I. (2002), YeamanV2.xls, available at Data/

Crocker, C. et all (2014) Database of British & Irish Hills, V14, available at

Dawson, A. (1992) The Relative Hills of Britain, Milnthorpe: Cicerone Press

Jackson, M. et al. (2009) More Relative Hills of Britain, Location not given: Lulu

Woodall, R. (2004) Original E&W Clem-Yeamans_corr.txt, available at Data/

Woodall, R. (2005)  Yea E_W_M sorted by Marilyn.txt, available at Data/

Yeaman, E.J. (1989) Handbook of the Scottish Hills, Arbroath: Wafaida


Chris Watson said...

Well done, Bernie. Must have been a lot of work. My son actually bought a copy of Yeaman in Nevisport when it first came out and I picked one up - ex library, I think - a few years ago so they are not quite as rare as you suggest. And I don't think you can call Clem's death 'untimely' - he had a pretty good innings and had produced a greater body of work than most do in a lifetime.

agentmancuso said...

Thanks Chris, much appreciated.