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Mountains - Key Facts

The Munros, Corbetts, Grahams, Donalds & Furths

The Munros

The list of separate mountains, as drawn up by Sir H.T. Munro in the Scottish Mountaineering Club Journal in 1891, was an unfinished one at the time of his death. His intention was to list the Scottish mountains of 3000ft and over which were of 'sufficient separation' from neighbouring tops to merit a listing. He did not write down a precise definition of what he meant by separation, though the character of a mountain did enter into it. Through regular use they have become known as the Munros. The current list of 282 Munros and 509 tops is from the 2012 revision. Under the metric system, a Munro has to be 914.4m or higher.

There were some anomalies in the original list, obvious to anyone who regularly hillwalks in Scotland. I remember doing the Beinn Eighe ridge ages ago, with no knowledge of its precise stature in the hallowed Munros Tables. I was convinced that it was a three-Munro ridge, and was very surprised indeed to find later that it was down as only one. Since then of course, the list has been revised. In essence, there were eight new Munros and one demotion! And I'm pleased to see that Beinn Eighe is now two Munros.With further research, and perhaps a firming up of whatever rules went through Munro's head at the time, it is fairly sure that obvious errors such as this one would have been corrected. Publishing the List, and maintaining a benign eye over it through the years, the SMC took the hard line, and other than promoting/demoting a few hills due to more accurately surveyed heights by the Ordnance Survey (themselves not perfect either), they have not strayed from the Munro line.

Bheinn a' Bheithir
The Munro Beinn a' Bheithir (Photo: Ken Crocket)

F.F. Bonsall also made attempts to arrive at a definition of what is a separate mountain, in two articles in the SMC Journal (1973, 1974). A mathematician, Bonsall looked at the separation of a top from all higher ground, rather than just the separation from higher tops. He also used as a basis Naismith's Rule, a simple rule which allows an easy calculation of the time taken to walk from one hill point to another, for a reasonably fit and steady walker. Naismith's Rule, in the old Imperial system, goes: 20 minutes for every mile of horizontal distance, and 3 minutes for every 100 feet of ascent. In metric this approximates as: 4.5km/hr plus one minute per 10m ascent. Bonsall then took as a starting point a separation of 30 minutes, and found that using these arguments, there was very good agreement with Munro's original list.

In fact, Munro probably deserves a pat on the head, as, according to Bonsall, seven Munros should be demoted, and twelve tops promoted. Not too bad a piece of work by Munro in 1891, using existing maps and aneroid barometer! As of summer 2003, over 3000 walkers have admitted their compleations to the SMC, and have been given a compleation number in the SMC Journal. Many others have probably finished, but have decided to remain anonymous. The SMC will also pass out Compleation Certificates to those reporting in, suitable for framing. See the current SMC Journal for details.(The archaic spelling of compleation here is fast becoming a convention with regards to Munroists.)

The Corbetts

John Rooke Corbett was a district valuer based in Bristol and a keen member of the Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC) in the years between the two World Wars. He was a distinguished student at Cambridge University and an original member of the Rucksack Club. Corbett was a regular attendee at SMC meets, a committee member and joint editor of the second edition of the Northern Highlands guidebook. He completed the Munros and Tops in 1930, only the second person to do so and, more remarkably, he climbed all Scotland's 2000ft hills.

Out of this extensive experience and knowledge came Corbett's eponymous tables in which he listed all those hills of height between 2500ft (762m) and 3000ft (914.4m) with a drop of at least 500ft (152.4m) between each listed hill and any adjacent higher one. In this way the separation between the Corbetts is more clearly defined than is the case with the Munros. The fairly large height drop between Corbetts ensures that they are quite distinct hills, unlike the Munros where the criterion for separation does not involve a rigidly fixed drop between adjacent summits. When Corbett died, his list was passed to the SMC by his sister. As has been the case with the Munros, the list of Corbetts has changed over the years as a result of changes in hill and bealach heights measured by the Ordnance Survey (OS). The present list contains 220 Corbetts.

Stob Dubh
The Corbett Stob Dubh, Glen Etive. (Photo: Ken Crocket)



Corbett's list, along with Percy Donald's list of 2000ft hills in Southern Scotland, has been added to Munro's tables to create the book Munro’s Tables of which the most recent edition came out in 1997. One additional section has been introduced for the Corbetts, namely Section 0 - Galloway and the Borders - which does not feature in the list of the Munros. In addition, a new sub-section has been introduced: Section 10a for Morvern, Sunart, Ardgour and Moidart, an area of the Western Highlands which has no Munros and which, if added to the existing Section 10, would cover a disproportionately large area of the Highlands. The area of Section 10 of the Munros becomes Section 10b in the Corbetts book and CD-ROM.

The geographical division between Sections 5 and 6 goes through the Gaick Pass between the neighbouring hills of An Dun and A’ Chaoirnich, which can be climbed most logically together. These two hills are described together in Section 6.
Corbetts's list includes so many fine and favourite hills that any hillwalker with much experience of the Highlands and Islands is certain to have climbed many of them, even if they have not set out systematically to climb all the Corbetts. The Munros may well form the mountain heartland of most of the Highlands, but the Corbetts have their place in the geography of our hills. In some areas, for example the Cairngorms, they are the outliers of the main mountains; in others they fill the gaps between them; thirdly (and most impressively) they are the principal peaks in those parts of the Highlands where there are few if any Munros.

Hillwalkers who concentrate their efforts entirely on the Munros will be in danger of missing many of the best of Scottish mountains. Height alone is no criterion and there are in the ranks of the Corbetts many peaks of great character, interest and beauty that are the equal of all but a few Munros. Dedicated Munroists in their travels will acquire a detailed knowledge of many parts of the Highlands, but not all. There will be gaps in their knowledge which an exploration of the Corbetts will fill, and this provides another very good reason for climbing these hills. Many a remote and unfrequented Corbett commands summit views of great quality. Exploration can and should be extended still further by climbing some other lower hills which are included in the book and CD-ROM, hills chosen for inclusion by reason of their character and interest.

It would be wrong to think of the Corbetts as ‘lesser’ hills, giving shorter and easier expeditions than the Munros. Many of them, particularly those which rise from near sea-level in the Western and Northern Highlands and the islands and some of the remote hills of the Grampians, give climbs that are long and demanding. Baosbheinn, Beinn Dearg Mhor and Foinaven are just three examples of Corbetts whose traverses are major hillwalking days. The separateness of the Corbetts resulting from the 500ft drop criterion means that there are few instances where three or four or more can be combined in long traverses such as are possible with the Munros. There is only one example in the book and CD-ROM where a traverse of more than three Corbetts is described.

In no part of the mainland do the Corbetts contribute more to the mountainous character of the land than in the Western and Northern Highlands. In Ardgour and Moidart, for example, where there are no Munros, peaks such as Garbh Bheinn, Sgurr Dhomhnuill, Sgurr Ghiubhsachain and Rois-Bheinn dominate the wild landscape. Just to their north, Streap, Bidean a’ Chabhair and Ben Aden yield nothing except a few metres of height to the big peaks of western Lochaber and Knoydart.

In Applecross, Coulin and Torridon the Corbetts may be rather overshadowed by the three great mountains - Beinn Alligin, Liathach and Beinn Eighe, but Beinn Bhan, Fuar Tholl, Beinn Dearg and Baosbheinn are splendid peaks which equally exhibit the classic features of Torridonian mountain.

The Grahams

The Grahams is a collective name given to all the distinct mountains in Scotland which are between 2,000 and 2,499 feet (610 and 761 metres), and which have at least a 150 metre drop between them.

Scottish hills within this height range were previously called Elsies (short for Lesser Corbetts - LCs). They have since been renamed Grahams in memory of Fiona Torbet (neé Graham), who published her own list of these hills in 1992. The original list of Elsies, and the new list of Grahams, were rationalised and combined into a single list, known today as the Grahams.

Ben Suidhe
Ben Suidhe (Photo: Ken Crocket)

There are 224 separate Grahams, spead over the whole of Scotland - even seven of the Islands contain Grahams.

Note that many of the Grahams are also Donalds.

The Donalds

Hills in Central or Southern Scotland at least 2000 feet high (610m) with a drop of at least 30 metres (98 feet) all round.

Devised by Percy Donald, a listing may be found (along with the Munros and Corbetts, in the SMC Publication 'Munros Tables'. Basically, Tops are elevations with a drop of 100 feet (30.48m) on all sides and elevations of sufficient topographical merit with a drop of between 100 feet and 50 feet (15.24m) on all sides.

Ben Cleuch
Ben Cleuch (Photo: Ken Crocket)

Tops are not more than 17 units from the main top of the 'hill' to which they belong, where a unit is either one twelfth of a mile measured along the connecting ridge, or one 50-foot contour between the lower 'top' and its connecting col.

If this is beginning to give you a headache, the basic result is that with few exceptions, an 80-feet (24.38m) drop determines a 'top', and the 17-unit rule a 'hill'.

The Furths

What are Tops and Furths ?

The Munroist’s bible, “MUNRO’S TABLES AND OTHER TABLES OF LOWER HILLS” Revised and Edited by Derek A. Bearhop (Scottish Mountaineering Trust, 1997) lists all the Scottish Mountains of 3000 feet height and above. The 282 Munros plus 227 Tops give a total of 509 summits.

The Furths comprise those summits which are generally recognised as being the 3000 ft peaks of the British Isles furth of Scotland as follows :-

England

Scafell Pike 978 m
Scafell 964 m
Helvellyn 950 m
Ill Crag 935 m
Broad Crag 934 m
Skiddaw 931 m


Wales

Foel Grach
Snowdon    1085 m
Crib y Ddysgl 1065 m
Carnedd Llewelyn 1064 m
Carnedd Dafydd 1044 m
Glyder Fawr  999 m
Glyder Fach 994 m
Pen yr Ole Wen 978 m
Foel Grach 976 m
Yr Elen  962 m
Y Garn 947 m
Foel-fras 942 m
Garnedd Uchaf 926 m
Elidir Fawr   924 m
Crib Goch 923 m
Tryfan  915 m

Ireland

Carrauntoohil 1039 m
Beenkeragh 1010 m
Caher 1001 m
Cnoc na Peiste  988 m
Caher West Top 975 m
Maolan Bu 973 m
Knochoughter  959 m
Cnoc an Chuillin 958 m
Brandon Mountain  952 m
The Big Gun 939 m
Cruach Mhor 932 m
Lugnaquillia 925 m
Galtymore 919 m

A complete ascent of the Tops or the Furths is an achievement recognised by the Clerk of the List, who looks forward to being notified in writing and recording the details as Amendments.

 


 
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