A 21st Century Approach to UK Peaks

Walking has never been so attractive. It’s cheap, it keeps you fit and it gets you away from the crowds. Yesterday’s launching of a new interactive website on Ben Nevis draws together for the first time a UK-wide peak challenge and a wealth of information for hill walkers.

The beauty of this metric list of peaks is that it has something to offer for seasoned walkers, those starting out on a new hobby, and families. There’s nothing new in the concept of the hill walking challenge and the appeal of bagging all the peaks on a list. This website enables walkers to create their own challenge near to where they live, or for a holiday, to suit the constraints on their leisure time and pocket. Or they could tackle all the 158 peaks in the UK with a prominence of over 500 metres, by taking up Bloomer’s Challenge.

For over a century, hillwalkers have used various tables of hills as the basis of a multi-year challenge. The most famous, Munro’s Tables, have a long history but are limited to the Scottish Highlands and two Islands. Although there are some GB-wide tables – most notably the Marilyns – so far there has been no UK-wide peak challenge.

Two UKMA members – Jim Bloomer and Roddy Urquhart – have been independently long convinced that there was a need to devise a new peak classification based on the metric Ordnance Survey maps that came out in the early 1970s. They aim to take advantage of the great advances that have been made in map accuracy as well as the efforts of many hillwalkers to accurately establish the heights, summit locations and prominences of peaks.

Over the last year and a half they have been refining ideas and developing material for the new website. This work was undertaken by e-mail and by telephone; they met for the first time at Pitlochry station on Wednesday. The website was created from Jim & Roddy’s material by UKMA webmaster Phil Hall.

Yesterday, Jim and Roddy went up to the summit of Ben Nevis (1344 m) to launch the Prominent Peaks. It was a typically dreich day’s walking in Lochaber with the cloudbase at 900 m for the ascent. Above 1000 m there was about 25 cm snow underfoot and on reaching the summit almost on cue snow began to fall.

It was a relatively quiet day on Ben Nevis. When Jim and Roddy arrived there were only two snow buntings around so the summit photos had to be taken separately! About a third of the way down, the cloudbase rapidly dropped to 600 m and they got a good soaking.

For more on the new website, please try it out by clicking here or accessing the press release.

[Contributed by Roddy Urquhart]

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