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283 Munros… could become 282

Written by Fiona August 09 2011

I’m not quite sure how I’m going to break the news to the G-Force. He is only 10 Munro summits away from compleating (this is the proper way to spell a “compleat Munro round”) his first round of Munros and during the time he’s been in pursuit of this goal (only a couple of years) one Munro – and now possibly two –  have demoted from the Munro tables of 284 mountains.

When you have so many mountains of more than 914.4m (3000ft) to summit, every single one counts. To qualify has a Munro the peak must be at least 914.4m. But in 2009, the Munro Society remeasured Sgurr nan Ceannaichean and found it to be only 913m. The G-Force had already hiked to the top of this peak but he shrugged his shoulders and carried on with his “round”.

Munro.. or a Corbett?: Beinn a'Chlaidheimh has been remeasured

Now news this week reveals that the Munro Society have remeasured another Munro, Beinn a’Chlaidheimh, in the wilderness area the Fisherfield Forest and found it to be 44cms below the required 914.4m.

Beinn a’Chlaidheimh is one also among some of the hardest Munros to summit. The “Fisherfield Six” is often considered to be the crux of any walker’s Munro round and it’s easy to see why as these mountains are located in a remote Northern Highlands area and require a huge undertaking of two of three days.

The G-Force spent a full day last summer walking the six Fisherfield Munros, but this also entailed a walk into the area and out again and two nights in a bothie.

So how can a mountain shrink? Well, it’s not that the mountain has reduced in height, rather it has been re-measured using modern satellite technology and instead of being higher than the Munro status of 3000ft (914.4m) it has been found to be 913.96m. Over the decades since Sir Hugh Munro first began his Munro list there have been subsequent re-measurings and other Munros have lost their status, while some Corbetts (these are mountains between 2500ft and 3000ft)  have been promoted to the Munros list.

The heights of three mountains in the Fisherfields were re-measured in July by members of The Munro Society. Ruadh Stac Mor was confirmed to remain as a Munro at 918m, while Beinn Dearg Mor was measured at 906m and remains as a Corbett. But Beinn a’Chlaidmeimh – 916m on current Ordnance Survey maps – was measured at 913.96m.

It is now the decision of the Scottish Mountaineering Club – which maintains both the Munro and Corbett lists – as to whether this Munro officially becomes a Corbett, reducing the total number of Munros in the tables to 282.

The SMC has said in a statement: “The Scottish Mountaineering Club 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.”

The measurement process involved the latest satellite technology. A spokesperson from The Munro Society said: “In measuring the heights of mountains just below and just above 3000ft (914.4m), we believe we are following in the tradition of accurate measurement established by Sir Hugh Munro who first produced the Munro’s Tables in 1891.

“Munro and his friends relied on aneroid barometers, the technology of the time. In 2011 we use satellite technology to achieve yet greater accuracy, but we seek the same objective.

“Munro never set down complete criteria for Munro status before his death in 1919, but it has always been accepted that 3,000ft (914.4m) was the primary requirement.”

Having plucked up the courage to tell the G-Force I asked if he was upset that a Munro he’d walked was now quite likely to be a Corbett. He replie: “No, not at all. This is one of my favourite areas for walking and I would happily have walked Beinn a’Chlaidmeimh whether it is a Corbett or a Munro. In any case, it wouldn’t save much of a walk skirting round this mountain because you need to walk up on to the ridge to reach the peaks of all of the Fisherfields. I’m not disappointed at all!”

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