The Angry Corrie 40: Jan-Mar 1999

TAC 40 Index

Tricky Tops: Obscurities in Munro's Tables

Ken Stewart

RECENTLY, in company with others over the years, I have tried to understand the history of the status of each of the Munros and Tops (used here as a "non-Munro" top) in the Tables. Difficulties abound. Older maps were much less precise, often showing no detail within a large ring contour where there are now shown to be one or more substantially higher points. Much faith was placed in the vagaries of aneroid measurements. Positions were given not by grid refs but by vectors, ie a direction and distance from a known point, such as "1 mile SSE of X". Unfortunately, in at least two critical cases, this lands you (with a modern map) on the col between the two Tops to be distinguished! There have also been outright mistakes, of various natures; eg the 1921 Tables gave An Garbhanach Munro status, relegating An Gearanach to a Top. This was reversed in 1933, with a footnote that it had all been a mistake due to a misunderstanding. Are these to be taken as face value or do we say that An Gearanach has "always" been the Munro? In the original Tables Munro several times deliberately made a lower point the Munro and a higher point the Top, often apparently because the lower point was the only one named on the map. This policy was discontinued in 1921 but still had echoes as late as 1974 with Maoile Lunndaidh and Clach Leathad.

All the same, most of these problems are manageable. There are three ridges, all in the Affric area, where the record is less clear.

Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan East ridge - three points of interest:

A1 East Top, c960m, OS25/33, NH064226 (<10m drop) - a name also often used for the 1151m summit

B1 Stob Coire nan Dearcag, 941m, OS25/33, NH071225 (26m drop)

C1 Stob Coire na Cloich, 915m, OS25/33, NH075227 (39m drop)

Munro's original Tables made only B1 a Top; at least the name (Top of Coire Dearcag) and height are consistent, though the vector fits C1 better, as does the map in Butterfield's book. The 1921 Tables added A1, despite its very small drop, and this remained until it was quietly dropped in 1974 (the first metric edition, which made more changes than might be thought). The 1997 Tables replaced B1 by C1, presumably because of its greater drop.

Mullach na Dheiragain - four points of interest:

A2 Carn na Con Dhu, 967m, OS25/33, NH072242 (82m drop) - previously "ridge south of Creag a'Choir Aird"

B2 Mullach na Dheiragain, 982m, OS25/33, NH080259 (144m drop) - also previously "ridge south of Creag a'Choir Aird"

C2 Mullach Sithidh, 974m, OS25/33, NH082264 (49m drop) - also called Creag a'Choir Aird

D2 Mullach Sithidh East Top, 932m, OS25/33, NH087268 (<10m drop) - also called Creag a'Choir Aird East Top

The 1891 Tables made A2 ("southern portion of the ridge") the Munro, though with a remark that "no height is given ... but it appears at least higher than [C2]", with C2 and D2 Tops. In 1916, Edred Corner reported his visit with a companion. They found, using two aneroids, heights of 3080, 3075, 3188 and 3058 feet for A2 to D2 respectively. He confirms A2 as Munro's "separate mountain". It is curious that heights C2 and D2 are very close to current values but that those of A2 and B2 are about 100 feet different. In 1921, perhaps from an improved map, the Munro was put at B2 with A2 removed. The 1947 SMC Western Highlands Guide reported "... the ridge is about 21/2 miles in length. The highest point is near the North end and about 1/2 mile South of the OS cairn and approximately 30 feet higher." In 1981 A2 was included and D2 removed.

Carn Eighe East ridge - four named points of interest:

A3 Creag na h-Eige, 1147m, OS25, NH131264 (49m drop)

B3 Stob a'Choire Dhomhain, 1147m, OS25, NH131264 (49m drop)

C3 Stob Choire Dhomhnuill, 1137m, OS25, NH138262 (31m drop)

D3 Sron Garbh, 1131m, OS25, NH144263 (24m drop) - always a Top

The problem here is largely of nomenclature. In 1891, A3 and D3 were Tops, with C3 added in 1921. Presumably A3 and B3 refer to essentially the same point but this is obscured by the 1981 Tables which state that A3 was deleted but introduce B3 and remove C3 without stating this. Further, the 1969 Tables say that the name "Dhomhnuill" is wrong and should be "Dhomhain". Currently B3, C3, and D3 are Tops. The name Creag na h-Eige appears on current maps well out on a NE spur from B3 and is applied in the Murdo Tables to an outlying 913m top - potentially a very inconvenient Munro Top should it be remapped slightly higher.

Next, there are the wandering Gowals of Cairn Bannoch. There always have been two Tops, Cairn of Gowal and Craig of Gowal. However, their positions (on OS44) have varied among A4 (991m) NO226820, B4 (983m) NO228816, and C4 (927m) NO232809, each pair having been in vogue at some time or other. Craig has normally been at C4, except for 1981 when it was at A4 - probably simply a mistake. (Ed. - I well remember visiting the Gowals in this period, using the 1981 Tables, when they were clearly absurd on the ground - but we trusted the book, and went on our way.) From 1921 to 1990, Cairn was at B4, but the 1997 Tables put it at A4. Which point it occupied in Munro's original version is obscure, since the height translates to 988m and the vector to the col between A4 and B4 - and in any case he calls it "a very doubtful Top". It seems best to minimise change and assume he meant B4.

Finally, it came as a great surprise that there is a problem on such a popular mountain as Cruach Ardrain. In the summit area (OS51/56) are two tops: A5 North East Top, 1046m, NN409212, and B5 South West Top, 1045m, NN408211, separated by a col c10m lower.

Munro made A5 the summit and B5 a Top, remarking that B5 was mapped at 3429ft and A5 as "--77ft" (digits obliterated on the 6-inch OS map he consulted). He presumed this to be 3477ft, "as it is only slightly higher", and reiterated this a few years later in SMCJ2, saying "a few minutes took us to [B5], about 1/4 mile from the higher [A5]", and again in SMCJ3. However, by 1921 it was known that the obliterated spot height was 3377ft and B5 became the Munro, with A5 deleted. This remained until 1981, when the Munro went back to A5. It is difficult to see how, given that A5 and B5 are now mapped as 1m different in height, that the 3377ft spot height could be at A5, but I suspend judgement until I see a suitable old map. It is curious that early and recent descriptions explicitly mention A5 as being the summit but that I have yet to find a description from 1921-81 which states that B5 is higher.

I've tried to give definite conclusions on all these doubtful points, but would welcome comments from other readers who may have a different perspective.

There is a misprint here in the Tables whereby the numbers of two Munros have dropped by one line.

Ed. - Edred Corner: cracking name. Does anyone know any more about him?

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