The Munro that never was

CLIMBERS can pack away their boots.

A mountain which experts thought might count as a Munro - and therefore, one more to be bagged by hillwalkers - has come up short.

Yesterday a team of surveyors settled a long argument about the status of Foinaven in Sutherland, showing that it did not come up to the mark in terms of height.

The measurement was taken using technology far more advanced than that used when mountaineer Sir Hugh Munro produced his first list of peaks over 3,000ft (914.4m) in 1891.

The Munro Society asked surveyors CMCR whether the mountain was high enough for entry on to the list. Two surveyors from the Falkirk firm scaled Foinaven last month and measured its Ganu Mor summit using the latest satellite positioning technology in an exercise that took over 13 hours. They found that it was only 2,988ft (911m) - 12ft (3.4m) short.

About ten members of the Munro Society and various mountaineering clubs accompanied the expedition, helping to carry the equipment.

Their findings mean that Foinaven will not be Scotland's 285th Munro, but will remain one of the country's 220 Corbetts - peaks between 2,500ft and 2,999ft.

David Corfield, of CMCR, said: "We used extremely sophisticated GPS equipment which can measure mountains to within 30mm accuracy, so there's no doubt about the result.

"Our results have been validated by the mapping agency Ordnance Survey, so it's official - Foinaven is no Munro."

The Munro Society, which was formed in 2002 and whose 3,000-plus members have climbed all the current Munros, said it was not disappointed.

Iain Robertson, president of the club, expressed relief that the debate had finally been put to rest.

"We weren't looking to collect more Munros, we just wanted some closure to this debate which has been going on for years."

He said the new measurement does not detract from the quality of the mountain: "Foinaven, a very fine mountain, remains a Corbett.

"Mountaineers are a disputatious lot, but they can't argue about this one any longer."

The result will come as a relief for villagers in nearby Rhiconich and Kinlochbervie, who had feared they would be overrun by "Munro-baggers" - walkers intent on scaling all Scotland's 3,000ft-plus peaks - if Foinaven had passed muster.

But Munro-baggers might yet have one more peak for their to-do list - the results of a survey of Beinn Dearg in Torridon are due later this year.

It is possible that the new measurements could also result in the demotion of Munros to Corbetts in future.

Irvine Butterfield, founding president of the Munro Society, said the spot on Foinaven previously measured at 914 metres has now been shown to be 908 metres.

If a three-metre margin of error was applied to other Munros, the status of seven would be under threat.

Mr Butterfield said: "There is bound to be someone making a claim that we should look at the others. But the position of the society is that we managed to secure the services of the surveyors to do two only.

"Funding is tight and we are not in the business of proving other mountains are Munros. Because there has been some controversy over the years, we decided to look at the two that were at 914 metres. We are happy we have settled this discussion [about Foinaven].

"It could be that someone else will pay for it to be done and if they do, it's a whole new ball game."

• SIR Hugh Munro did not set any measure of topographic prominence by which a peak qualified as a separate mountain, and much debate has since taken place over how distinct two hills must be if they are to be considered as two separate Munros.

The Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC) has carried out a number of revisions of the tables, both in response to new height data on Ordnance Survey maps and to address the perceived inconsistency as to which peaks qualify for Munro status. As of 1997, all peaks with an individual prominence of 500ft (152.4 metres) or more have been given Munro status.

Remeasurement using modern technology means up to seven Munros could lose their status if found to be overestimated. They are Carn Aosda, above the Devil's Elbow, and Geal Charn, north of Drumochter (both 917m); Beinn A' Chlaidheimh, Wester Ross, and Beinn A' Chleidh, Tyndrum (both 916m); Beinn Teallach, above Spean Bridge; Ben Vane, near Arrochar; and Sgurr nan Ceannaichean, Strathconon (all 915m).

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