Sunday, 6 November 2016

Scotland's shrinking!


One of Scotland's most popular outdoor activities, Munro-bagging is set to become a little bit easier - and it's all due to global warming! In case you haven't heard of it Munro-bagging refers to climbing all of Scotland's hills which rise to a height of over 3000 feet (or 914.4 metres if you prefer the metric measurement).

The Munro family coat of arms
It all started with a man who was obsessed by Scotland's hills or more precisely by their height. Sir Hugh Munro, 4th Baronet of Lindertis (that's the family coat of arms you see here) was born in London in 1856 but was brought up in Scotland on the family estate of Lindertis near Kirriemuir in Angus.

Sir Hugh was a keen mountaineer and hillwalker from a young age and in 1889 he helped to establish the Scottish Mountaineering Club - Scotland's second-oldest such club. His list of 3000-foot-plus mountains was first published just two years later in the club journal.

This list caused considerable surprise in the mountaineering world as, until it was published, it was thought by most climbers that the number of mountains exceeding 3000 feet was as low as 30, not the much greater number which Munro claimed. His original list contained 283 hills but this has been revised several times over the years and the current list of mountains in Scotland which exceed 3000 feet has been set by the Scottish Mountaineering Club as 282.

These mountains are now known as Munros and in Scotland it is a surprisingly popular activity (almost an obsession to some) to attempt to climb them all and around 150,000 people try to do just that every year.To date well over 5000 people have officially 'compleated' at least one round of Munros and many have done multiple rounds.

A panorama of several Scottish mountains

So how will global warming affect those who wish to climb all the Munros? Actually climbing these hills won't really get any easier but one thing which might happen is that the number of official Munros may decrease.

How so? Well, global warming means that the ice-caps will melt resulting in an increase in sea levels and since the height of a Munro is measured from mean sea level which will, of course, increase due to the general increase in sea levels, then the Munros will, in effect, 'shrink' a little in height.

Some mountains in Glen coe

Not only that but increasing sea levels will result in the sea shoreline 'creeping' inland thus reducing the land area of Scotland. So Scotland and its mountains are in danger of 'shrinking'!

Of course, this won't just happen in Scotland it will happen worldwide but only in Scotland is there this inexplicable fascination with whether a hill is or isn't a Munro. There are some hillwalkers I know of who won't even consider climbing a hill unless it is a Munro - an attitude I just can't get my head around because there are so many worthwhile and spectacular hills in Scotland which are below that magic 3000 feet level.

The Bealach na Ba on a sunny day

There is even a breed of hillwalker who shuns any of the revised lists of Munros and will stick rigidly to Sir Hugh's original list. I can understand this attitude and I lean towards it myself. Sir Hugh didn't have the benefit of modern technologies when he surveyed Scotland's hills but he did a magnificent job to come up with the list he did and any alteration to it would seem to be an insult to his memory.

Global warming notwithstanding there are some things which simply shouldn't be interfered with!

All images are in the public domain


  1. I love to walk, but now to climb hills. Walking the roads and viewing the mountains would be a pleasure.

    1. I never cease to marvel at Scotland's hills for every time I go hillwalking they show themselves in a different way from warm sunny days to winter snows and all conditions in between.

  2. Thanks for visiting The Glasgow Gallivanter. Happy New Year!