Friday, 12 August 2011

Borderline Hills

The Munro that has been on a bit of a diet has certainly made the headlines this week and the main talking point has been the Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC) announcement that it is taking some time out to decide how to react to The Munro Society survey that has measured Beinn a' Chlaidheimh at 44 centimetres short of the magic height. Will it or won't it be demoted to a Corbett? I don't want to add to that debate, but there are a couple of other issues that have sprung to my mind and which I will discuss here.

A number of the interviews this week have concentrated on what difference this will make to Beinn a' Chlaidheimh, as if it were a stand alone Munro for which hill walkers have to walk in for many hours just to reach one Munro. Beinn a' Chlaidheimh is still at the northern end of a ridge system with 4 peaks and still on the classic circuit of the Fisherfield mountains that many walkers tackle from Shenavall bothy. A hill walker going by the name of G-Force makes that point today on the Fiona Outdoors blog. G-Force says: "In any case, it wouldn't save much of a walk skirting round this mountain because you need to walk up on the ridge to reach the peaks of all of the Fisherfields. I'm not disappointed at all." I'm with G-Force on this one; to my mind the Fisherfield 6 will always be the Fisherfield 6, even if it becomes 5 Munros and 1 Corbett. It is still a fantastic mountain journey and we should celebrate living in a country that has such stunning mountains. Whatever their height.

The other point I want to raise was triggered by something Dave Hewitt wrote in the Caledonian Mercury. Dave's argument is that "resurveys generally reduce heights rather than adding to them" and suggests there is a trend in this downward direction. It is understandable for The Munro Society to be looking at the bottom end of the Munro's Tables and top end of the Corbett's Tables, but who is going to investigate the bottom end of the Corbett's Tables and top end of the Graham's Tables, or any other set of tables for that matter? Beinn na H-Uamha is regarded as the lowest Corbett, just scraping in at a marginal 762 metres (2,500 feet). Ben Loyal and Meall an Fhudair are also pretty close to the borderline with their current heights of 764 metres. Is the status of some of these hills in doubt now? I think they are. Dave has quite rightly identified a trend towards resurveys suggesting a lower height, but if a high Graham were to buck that trend then there could be a case for promoting a big Graham into a wee Corbett.

No doubt at some point someone will get round to resurveying some of the borderline hills in the other Tables. In the meantime there is plenty for hill walkers to chat about and no matter what happens, a good hill will always be a good hill. Ben Loyal will always be right up there amongst my favourites (see my last blog posting) even if it were to be relegated into the third tier of Scottish hill tables.