Tuesday, 9 August 2011
A Munro No More?
To be a Munro is simple. You have to be a Scottish hill 3,000 feet or higher. Easy it would seem. And for many hills it is. 3050 feet. Munro, 2950 feet. Sorry. Not a Munro. But what about those hills that might be 2999 or 3001 feet? Just how accurate is the measurement? The Munro Society has been finding out over the last few years with a series of surveys using modern accurate equipment and techniques. Two years ago they booted out Sgurr nan Ceannaichean above Glen Carron, discovering it was a full metre below the magic line (see my post, Munro Changes). And in keeping with metric maps the new measurements are metric, which means that line is 914.4 metres, a wonderful measurement that beautifully illustrates the craziness of the Munro game – which I love. I mean, who would compile a list of hills over 914.4 metres?. Today, the Munro Society announced its latest findings, having measured three hills in the wonderful and remote Fisherfield Forest back in July. The three hills were two Munros – 918 metre Ruadh Stac Mor and 916 metre Beinn a’Chlaidheimh – and one Corbett (hill between 2500 and 3000 feet) - 910 metre Beinn Dearg Mor. The first and last preserved their current status but Beinn a’Chlaidheimh came in at 913.96m, a full 0.44 metres too low. So logically Beinn a’Chlaidheimh is a Munro no more and joins the Corbetts. But not yet as there is another twist in the story. The guardian of Munro’s Tables, the official list, is the Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC), for whom Sir Hugh Munro originally compiled them and the SMC has said that it “has been notified of these survey results and has undertaken to consider the implications for Munro’s and Corbett’s tables when the Ordnance Survey update its map of the area.” So Beinn a’Chlaidheimh is in the curious position of still being a Munro whilst not meeting the qualifications. A Munro, indeed, that is not 3,000 feet high. And it is now up to the OS to make the final decision. If its next map keeps the current 916 metre height then Beinn a’Claidheimh remains a Munro, if it accepts the Munro Society height then it isn’t. If Beinn a’Chleidheimh is demoted it will mean the famous (or infamous) Fisherfield Six Munros, one of the toughest Munro days out, will become the Fisherfield Five (and my Scotland book will be wrong – damn!).
So what is the poor Munro bagger to do? As always, climb them all. They’re all fine hills and all worth the effort. And anyone who makes it up to Fisherfield, which is a long way from anywhere, and has good weather would be wasting their journey if they missed any hills, regardless of height. But if time or sunshine is short and choices have to be made then I’d go for Beinn Dearg Mor first, a superb rocky hill in a fantastic situation overlooking Loch na Sealga and with a superb view of An Teallach. It may “only” be 906.28 metres (a new lower height from the Munro Society survey) but you’ll not notice the lack of 8.12 metres.
The picture shows A’Mhaighdean (left) and Ruadh Stac Mor – whose height according to the new survey is just 0.02 metres higher than previously thought.