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.


  1. As it is just a game, why not keep Sir Hugh's original list as *the* list? Why pander to technology? They are all wonderful hills to climb and if surveying has got better, so what?

    Or - just do the lot of them - ALL the hills rather than just the Munros. That would thin out the Compleaters a bit...

  2. Sir Hugh was revising the list when he died so he obviously thought his original list wasn't accurate enough. There have been many changes over the years - the real debate is which hills over 3000 feet should be in the list and which are "merely" tops. Some have been in and out of the list like yoyos!

  3. As Scotland is still rising due to the 'rebound' from the last ice age, it will become a Munro again in the future.
    Climb it anyway! :)

    I agree with Alan. It is one mans list, and should have been left as it was.

    Mike fae Dundee.

  4. I know this will cause people to take sharp intakes of breath but since we should be working in metric now and forgetting imperial, wouldn’t it be right to change the Munro heights to above 1000 metre tops and Corbetts up to 1000M.
    The original 3000ft was only a figure to work with at the end of the day, a dividing line.
    We should move on, as bad as it might be for some.

    I also agree with Alan, do them all if you can.
    Mike, Sorry my comment will be disagreeable to you.

  5. I agree with Chris. I'm sure Munro would have corrected 'his list' if new information as to the height of a hill had come to light, and evidence of his thinking on 'tops' and 'Munros' can be found in his 1891 comment: 'The decision as to what are to be considered distinct and separate mountains, and what may be counted as 'tops', although arrived at after careful consideration, cannot be finally insisted on'. Look upon changes in the Tables as an opportunity to revisit an area or group of hills!

    But I also agree with Alan S. Climb all hills - low, high, rugged, rounded, steep or gentle, listed or unlisted.

    As for moving to a 1000m classification Alan R, I can't agree. The Munros are hills 3000ft and over so the metric conversion should apply, not a reclassification of what actually constitutes a 'Munro'.

    Apologies if this comment is too long Chris.

  6. Not true any more Mike,
    Sea level rise around Scotland is oupacing isostatic rebound - see Rennie ~& Hanson (2011) - http://eprints.gla.ac.uk/45567/

    Our Munros will be a diminishing resource!

    Like Alan says, climb them all for their own sake.

  7. I started my Munro bagging quest in 2005. Then there were 284 Munros.

    The Munros, for me, are purely a way of getting up into the fantastic Scottish landscape. So, if the numbers go up or down, it doesn't matter. I will enjoy climbing 284 mountains that just happened to be on a list in January 2005. I only wish I had the time to climb some of the other fantastic mountains that don't reach Munro status.

  8. This latest 'reveiw' shouldn't make much difference. Most folk would still climb it on a clock-wise round from Shenavall.

    Personnaly, lists are meaningless.

    Is that sea-level rise based on 'climate change' forecasts? If so, i'll take it with a pinch of salt. The inreasing ice in the next ice-age should cause sea-levels to fall. ;)

    Mike fae Dundee.

  9. A few buckets of soil will sort out Beinn a’Chlaidheimh.

  10. Hi Chris,

    "So what is the poor Munro bagger to do? As always, climb them all. "

    Not according to my hillwalking friend Douglas. He bought a copy of Munro's Tables in the lates 1980's and decided to walk all the Munros in it and that is what he is still doing and will stick with these hills regardless of what changes are made by the SMC in later published tables. I like his approach.

    Alastair :)

  11. Alastair, an interesting approach! I think that's the third revision of the Tables!