Ben Nevis, the highest summit in Britain
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Britain is a small country yet it has a surprising diversity of landscapes and a considerable expanse of upland areas. We've got mountains, hills, fells, escarpments, heaths, moors and downs. We've got grassy summits, rocky summits, forested summits and even suburban summits. We've got odd, isolated hills rising from flat plains, we've got ranges of mountains, we've got clusters of fells, we've got huge upland plateaux of both mountain and moor.
During the last 150 years or so the recreational use of our high ground has taken hold. People love to ramble, to hike, to hillwalk and to climb. It was perhaps inevitable that some of the explorers would turn to listing and classifying the hills that they'd climbed or aspired to climb. Thus there are many lists of British hills, each of them defined by a variety of criteria. Scottish mountains over 3000 ft high? There's a list. English hills exceeding 2000 ft? There's a list, in fact more than one. All UK hills with a relative height of 500ft or more? Yes, there's a list.
Every list is different, and some are controversial. Disputes arise over just how you define your criteria. What makes a hill a hill, what makes a mountain a mountain? What, in essence, is the difference? If a hill has more than one top, how do you define which are principal summits and which are mere outliers? When does a mountain with several summits stop being a mountain and start being a mountain range? The problem is, of course, that all these things are subjective. Everyone has different opinions. In an attempt to satisfy these differences there are a variety of overlapping lists with different inclusion criteria for height, reascent, relative height, proportional height and distance.
I recently found a quote on the web (and I regret that I've lost the reference), which says, "ultimately you can't define mountains by numbers." It's absolutely true. Every list, inevitably, contains summits that simply aren't interesting, and leaves out many that are. But that doesn't deter the "baggers" and list-tickers. We know that these lists are artificial, yet they represent a ready-made challenge which many cannot resist. There are those who dedicate themselves to climbing all the Munros, or all the Corbetts, or all the Wainwrights or Marilyns or whaterer else takes their fancy.
complete any of the lists. (Well, perhaps the Wainwrights if I'm
I'm a fair weather walker, I don't like exposure to steep drops, and I
don't drive so many hills are beyond my reach. But I do love hills and
mountains and summits, and I visit those I can whenever the opportunity
arises. In these pages I want to share some of them with you. Below are
some notes on the various lists.
Munros (and Munro Tops)
Mountains in the Scottish Highlands over 3000 ft, as listed by Sir Hugh Munro late in the 19th century. The feat of completing the Munros is still the ultimate achievement for hillwalkers and summit baggers. Munro divided his list into two sections - principal summits, and outlying "tops". However he defined neither, and many feel that he left glaring anomalies and inconsistencies. Tops to which Wainwright would have given a whole chapter languish in obscurity, having been defined neither as a Munro or a Top. Cairn Gorm, for instance, has thirteen recognisable summits; Munro defined Cairngorm itself as the principal summit but only 5 of the other 12 are Tops. Liathach, which most people think of as a single mountain, was regarded by Munro as a range and given two principal summits. Neighbouring Beinn Eighe, however, which has a more extensive and complex ridge than Liathach, got only one Munro - Ruadh Stac Mor, which topographically is an outlier some way off the main ridge.
Re-surveying by the OS over the years has resulted in a number of summits either being promoted to or demoted from the list. Beinn Teallach in the Monadhliath range seems to have changed lists more than once. More contentious are the changes in status which the Scottish Mountaineering Club have introduced over the years - Tops have become Munros, Munros have become Tops, undefined summits have also come and gone. The SMC take a committee, and therefore consensus, approach to these changes, but they still remain subjective and some of them still appear to be inconsistent to outside observers. It's a debate that may continue indefinitely.
283 Munros and a further 227 Tops. All Munros are also Murdos (see
below). Some writers refer to the Furth
Munros - these are other British
that would qualify as Munros if the definition were extended to cover
whole country rather than just the Scottish Highlands. There are four
Munros in England and fifteen in Wales. A subset, Metric Munros
The Murdos are an attempt by writer and walker Alan Dawson to rationalise the Munro list. In his introduction on the Tacit Press website, he says:-
"The word Munro has become synonymous with Scottish mountains over 3000 feet, yet anyone who has climbed all the Munros will be aware that numerous 3000-foot summits are not counted. The list of Munro Tops might therefore be regarded as a natural progression, but few Munroists have gone on to climb all of these. [Some believe that] the Munro Tops are an unsatisfying assortment of major mountain summits and minor bumps... The list of Murdos provides a much more rational and appealing extension to the Munros.
"A Murdo is a Scottish peak over 914.4 metres high (3000 feet) with a reascent of at least 30 metres (98 feet). The 444 Murdos comprise all 277 Munros, 160 of the most significant Munro Tops and seven additional summits. The list of Murdos [includes] the most rewarding 3000-foot summits without the less significant tops." Alan Dawson has also appended a list of sub-Murdos, which are summits that just fail to qualify for inclusion in the list (useful, as resurveys may promote at least some of them to full Murdohood some day).
has had the idea of extending the definition of Murdos throughout the
Isles. In this scenario, in addition to the 444 Murdos in Scotland
are also 6 in England, 15 in Wales and 13 in Ireland.
Corbett's list encompasses all of Scotland, not just the Highlands. He
listed summits that are above 2500 ft in height and are not already
furthermore, he stipulates a minimum 500 ft reascent. This extra rule
less significant tops and gives his hills a degree of distinction.
the Corbetts are a "second division" of peaks in the Highlands.
occasionally promote and delete hills to and from this list; there are
currently 221 Corbetts. Rather more recently a list of Corbett Tops has
been produced, and also one of Corbett Tops of Munros. Corbett Tops
have a 100 ft reascent criterion, the same as Murdos.
refer to English and Welsh 2500-ers as Furth
Corbetts or Welsh
/ English Corbetts. All Corbetts are also Marilyns
(see below), save for one
specific exception involving two adjacent Corbetts with identical
Donalds (after the compiler, Percy Donald) are Scottish hills outwith the Highlands, with a minimum height of 2000 ft. His list is subjective in that it stipulates no reascent figure, but in practice all Donalds have a reascent of at least 100 ft and there are no apparent omissions or anomalies. The original list covered the Southern Uplands but a small number of hills close to (but outside) the Highland Boundary Fault have recently been appended.
Donalds. Some hills are both Donalds and Corbetts.
Basically, all Scottish hills between 2000 and 2500 ft. A "Third Division" if you like, though this category includes some significant and popular mountains such as Suilven and Stac Polly. Like the Corbetts, a reascent of at least 500 ft is stipulated.
This list of hills was first published in The Relative Hills of Britain (Alan Dawson, Cicerone Press, 1992). Originally, Scottish hills in this height range were referred to as Elsies (short for Lesser Corbetts). They have since been renamed Grahams in memory of the late Fiona Torbet (née Graham), who compiled her own list of such hills at around the same time. Her initial list omitted all hills in Southern Scotland and about a dozen in the Highlands, but included several hills with less than 150 metres of reascent. To avoid having two conflicting lists, it was agreed to use the existing list published in The Relative Hills... (with a few name changes), but to refer to the hills as Grahams.
Grahams. Some hills are both Donalds and Grahams; all Grahams are also
Marilyns (see below). There is also a list of Graham Tops
(of Munros, Corbetts and Grahams); these , like the Corbett Tops, have
a reascent of 100 ft.
The Marilyns are another invention of writer and walker Alan Dawson and represent an attempt to rationalise the differences in criteria between the various lists covering Britain, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England-and-Wales or the British Isles as a whole. However, it introduces a quirk of its own - it stipulates a *relative* height of 500 ft from all surrounding terrain. The Marilyns cover all Britain but exclude Ireland. Very recently the 500 ft criterion appears to have been "metricated" to 150 metres, but this has made no actual difference to the list itself.
This 500 ft (or 150m) relative height stipulation brings in hill summits in relatively minor English hill ranges such as the Cotswolds and Lincolnshire Wolds, some of which might be regarded as obscure, boring or remote – but of course the same can be said of certain Munros. The higher Scottish Marilyns are also Munros or Corbetts (or Murdos); those between 2000 and 2400 ft high are the same as the Grahams (see above). A major advantage of Marilyn bagging is that it encourages you to explore parts of Britain that other lists don't cover, but a downside is that it brings in tops on several remote Scottish islands (such as St Kilda), plus a small handful of fearsome sea stacks that require advanced climbing skills. Some Marilyns are barred from public access and it seems doubtful whether anyone will ever succeed in climbing all of them.
There are 1554 Marilyns at present though the number fluctuates occasionally as maps are republished with newly surveyed contours, or independent surveys accepted by the OS establish more accurate heights. A list of sub-Marilyns (those that don't quite make it either on the height or reascent criteria) has also been compiled.
Some additional info from the compiler, Alan Dawson:
Marilyns are similar to Corbetts, but whereas Corbetts are only between
2500 and 3000 feet high and are only found in Scotland, Marilyns may be
from 500 to 4500 feet high and are found throughout Scotland, England
Wales. It must be admitted that not every single one of the Marilyns is
terrifically interesting, but a high proportion of them are significant
summits or local landmarks, whereas the list excludes many of the more
tedious summits that have been included in other lists." For
information see Alan's website, The Relative
Hills of Britain
The 214 Lakeland summits listed in Alfred Wainwright's seven volumes have never officially been given the collective description of "The Wainwrights" but the definition seem to have come into popular usage almost by default. Wainwright stipulated a specific, tightly-bound area within which he listed and surveyed every summit above 1000ft, though there was no reascent or distance criterion, several blatant omissions (e.g. Walna Scar, over 2000ft high, south of Coniston Old Man) and a sentimental inclusion or two (e.g Castle Crag in Borrowdale). As well as being subjective his list was also inconsistent. For instance, he gives Scafell Pike two Tops (Broad Crag and Ill Crag), yet Skiddaw Low Man is listed as a separate fell. Few would regard Armboth Fell as a separate hill, particularly as half a dozen similar bumps attached to neighbouring Ullscarf were given no such distinction. Several other Wainwrights, such as Pavey Ark, are not even summits but merely appear to be so when viewed from below. And as for Mungrisedale Common.... it seems likely that AW was just filling space in Book 5.
all that, the Wainwrights remain as the finest list of Lakeland hills
of Alan Dawson, and introduced and listed by him in The
Relative Hills of Britain. An acronym - Hills in England, Wales or
Ireland over Two Thousand feet high. There is a reascent criterion of
meters (100 ft approx). Previously the Hewitts were known as the
and excluded Ireland. There are 525 Hewitts in total: 178 in England,
in Wales and 212 in Ireland.
Apart from the 211 Irish Hewitts many hills in this list are also
and may also be Wainwrights. All Hewitts are also Nuttalls (see
Nuttall have published a two-volume book, Mountains of England and
(Vol 1: Wales, Vol 2: England). These books, and the Nuttalls
website, list summits over 2000 feet (610m) with a reascent of 50
(fifteen metres). There are 443 Nuttalls.
"Mountain Tables" is currently the most recent list to appear in print,
a slightly quirky publication listing English / Welsh hills lower than
2000 ft but higher than 500 metres (roughly 1550ft), with a
100 ft reascent
- there are 186 in England, 242 in Wales and 5 on the Isle of Man. They
are in effect a
second division of Hewitts.
Based on a list by Clem Clements,
and between 1000 ft and 500 metres in height; the division
below Deweys, in effect. There are
an estimated 1712 Clements.
In 1989 Dr Eric Yeaman
published a bumper list of Scottish mountains, including all
those with a reascent of 100 ft plus others qualifying by a measure of
distance. Purely for the purposes of these pages, however, I'm counting
a hill as a Yeaman only if it's between 1000ft and 500 metres in
i.e. it's not already listed as a Munro, Corbett (or Corbett Top),
Graham (or Graham Top) or Woodall. In effect my Yeamans list is the
Scottish equivalent of the Clements. There are 2326 of them.
a superset of Marilyns; the acronym means "Hundred Metre Prominences".
Thus the HuMPs are all British hills with a hundred metre (roughly 330
ft) prominence regardless of height. They encompass the Marilyns,
sub-Marilyns and others. The HuMPs serve two purposes; they give
seasoned Marilyn baggers yet
more hills to tick, and they also introduce a purely metric British
hill list for the first time. There are currently 2985 HuMPs, of which
just 820 lay outside Scotland. One practical difficulty facing any
HuMP bagger is that a good many of the lesser ones have no public
access whatsoever, often being situated on working farmland. Another is
that the HuMPs include a summit that is arguably the most difficult in
Britain - the Old Man of Hoy, a fearsome sea-stack in the Orkneys. A
definitive list of HuMPs has been compiled by Mark Jackson.
are purely my own invention; the list contains nothing new but is
simply a collection of all lists of hills of 100ft (i.e. 30 metre)
prominence. I wanted a list that would start with the Murdos (in
Scotland) and the Hewitts (in England) but would extend down to 1000ft
of altitude. Thus it is a combination of the Murdos, Corbetts and
tops, Grahams and tops, Hewitts, Deweys, Donald Deweys, Clements and
Yeamans. It doesn't include any hills less than 1000ft high.
Many other lists have been published, many of them relatively recently, and it's worth mentioning them here. John Rooke Corbett, as well as his list of Scottish 2500 ft summits, also drew up a list of English 2500 ft summits in 1911. It was published in the Rucksack Journal. It was revised in the 1920's and later amended by Edward Moss in 1933. In the same year W T Elmslie published a list of English 2000 ft hills. F H Simpson followed up in 1937 with a list of Lake District 2000 ft summits, using more accurate mapping. Edward Moss extended Simpson's list with one covering the whole of England in 1939 and then Wales in 1940. He subsequently published a number of updates.
was next on the scene, his 1973 list covering 2000 ft summits in
and Wales using a criterion based on a relative-height-plus-distance
Another list of English summits, compiled by Nick
Wright, appeared in 1974. Chris
Buxton and Gwyn Lewis published a more
English / Welsh 2000 ft summit list in 1986, with a reascent criterion
of just 10 metres - consequently this list includes a great many minor
tops. Finally, Richard
Moss, the son of Edward Moss, maintains
database of English / Welsh hills based on his father's tables. It
cross references these with the lists of Dawson (i.e. Hewitts),
Bridge, Buxton & Lewis, and Wright.
The concept of Relative Height
Relative height (otherwise known as prominence) is a slightly tricky concept to grasp if you don't instinctively understand it first off. In essence it's the minimum net height you have to reascend to reach the summit of a given hill from any higher ground. It's a measure of how well it stands apart from its neighbours in terms of elevation. For a more detailed description see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prominence
A way to
visualise relative height is to imagine that sea level can rise
and fall. To determine the relative height of any given hill, imagine
that the sea rises just enough to cut your hill off completely from all
higher ground. The relative height is your hill's elevation above the
new, imaginary, sea level.
that rely on the concept of relative height, such as the Marylins,
list hills of individuality - those that stand out from their
A consequence of such a list is that it always includes the principal
of any upland area but will tend to leave out the minor tops or
Upland plateaux such as Dartmoor tend to have few summits with a
significant prominence, whereas "peaky" areas such as Kintail will have
Ultimately, though, even lists based on relative height are going to
boring summits as well as exciting ones. The concept of aesthetic
just can't be based on numbers.
My place on the ticklists
For those who like to know these things, I've climbed:
||Munros out of 283 (16.6%)|
||Munro Tops out of 227 (4%)|
||Murdos out of 444 (12.2%)|
||Furth Munros out of 21|
|179||Marilyns out of 1554 (11.52%)|
||Corbetts out of 222 (3.15%)|
||Corbett Tops out of 449 (0.7%)|
|1||Graham out of 224 (0.4%)|
||Graham Tops out of 777 (0.8%)|
|168||Wainwrights out of 214 (78.5%)|
|120||Hewitts out of 316 (37.97%)|
|159||Nuttalls out of 443 (35.89%)|
||Deweys out of 433 (9.93%)|
||Clements out of 1712|
||Donald Deweys out of 1015|
|14||Yeamans out of 2326|
||HuMPs out of 2985 (7.54%)|
|344||ThuMPs out of 7918|
||Birketts out of 541 (36.23%)|
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