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Following on from publication of the 'rules for claiming county high points' in the USA (Marhofn 38), Gordon Adshead has been musing on issues in the tricky field of Marilyn ethics:
A How summit area is reached
B What constitutes reaching the 'top'
C Damage and annoyance to others
D Technical trespass
'Just getting my ideas straight' he says:
A0 There are no hard and fast rules - anyone can do their own thing.
A1 With 2010 Marilyns to target (remember Ireland), it is not appropriate to use the concept of 'climb'. It is better to use 'visit'.
A2 It is valid to visit Marilyn points by any route and by any means whatsoever, provided no (or minimum) damage is done or annoyance given to others. (Hence cars, horses, 4w drive, canoes, bikes, motorbikes, microlights, parachutes, helicopters etc are not immediately ruled out.)
A3 Use of 'non-foot' transport is only valid if it causes no damage to existing roads, tracks and wildlife (hence I would rule out off-track mountain bikes).
A4 Walls, fences etc can be climbed provided minimum damage is done.
B1 Man-made structures on a top should be climbed if possible and safe.
B2 Touch the top of cairns and trig points.
B3 Stand on water tanks and hill forts.
B4 Climb old stone towers if not locked.
B5 Ignore radio masts and windmills.
B6 If summit area is strongly fenced, it is valid to circumnavigate the fence.
D1 It is better to ask permission if in doubt.
D2 Respect nesting restrictions, shooting rights and time scales.
D3 Technical trespass is valid provided genuinely no damage or annoyance to others.
'Don't take me too seriously', he says - 'but I would welcome comments'. And there have indeed been several observations:
Asking permission is unethical (although correct behaviour).
A4 You have to climb fences and walls to get up any top, anywhere, in my experience. There is generally no need to cause any damage though.
B4 Not bloody likely!! This must be a rare occurrence but the spot heights are never on top of a tower, are they?
B6 Not sure about this - haven't had the problem yet. It would generally be possible to arrange access if you knew about the problem in advance.
D1 No! You should not need permission to visit a trig point or a hilltop. As long as you are causing no damage, you should have the 'right to roam'. Obviously, it is not acceptable to trample crops looking for an elusive high point, but chopping down a few nettles should not matter.
D2 This depends if the restrictions are reciprocal. If walkers are welcome when there is no shooting, one doesn't mind so much if one can't go exactly where one wants to!
Never ask permission because if it's refused you will be in a much worse position than if you just go and pretend you had no idea it was private. It sometimes works if you look lost. Rowland prefers to look like a confused tourist and answer in Swedish but there are places where this lacks conviction. How many foreign visitors want to climb Myarth or Carnedd Wen? We have twice in Scotland been reprimanded for not asking permission and then told that if we had asked it would not have been granted. This was on Cnoc an Liath-bhaid Mhoir (16D) in April (we were accused of disturbing the vixen which we guessed he wanted to shoot) and Cnap Chaochan Aitinn (8B) in May where, although the factor was impeccably polite, there was an implication that we would never be granted permission to climb this hill.
I have always taken the view that I will try to get to the high point but not at the cost of giving obvious offence (Crowborough) or entering military establishments (or similar) without permission (St Boniface Down, Lowther Hill). In such cases I walk round (all round, or as much as is practicable and sensible). I am happy if I am within about 1.5m of the true summit so that my head is higher than it and I can see across. Of course this approach does not apply to hills on military ranges such as Mickle Fell.
I take the view that 'modern' man-made tops do not count, but ancient ones do because it is often quite difficult to be sure which features are natural and which are artificial. As a practical rule I use the start of the Industrial Revolution (say, 1750 AD) as the dividing line.
I think the pragmatic US approach is better than the purist British one. Suppose the leaders of the Hall of Fame persuaded the army to lower them from a helicopter onto the summits of Stac Lee and Stac an Armin, thereby completing all 1551 Marilyns. I would congratulate them on their initiative, and endorse their claim. Consider the Munros; many Munroists will have a few hills for which they managed to get vehicular access along private roads or tracks. I really do not think that one should worry about marginal 'breaches' of the rules. Completion of any list involves a huge amount of commitment and effort, and should be recognised as such.
I like to give it my best shot. If I can reach the highest point without being accosted, apprehended or attacked (by man, dog or bird) then I will do so even if it means climbing over high fences. This approach has worked on Saxa Vord and Lowther Hill, among others. If it fails I might try again one day (or one night) but if I'm unlikely to be back, e.g. Saxa Vord, then I'll probably claim the summit anyway. To misquote Marx (Groucho, not Karl): 'these are my principles, and if they don't work ... I have other principles'. But I'm still not convinced about the validity of helibagging.
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