Last month we had a story about hills growing into mountains and now we blog about the opposite situation…Recent press stories about what *might* happen if rising sea levels lead to a change in the datum value used for mean sea level on OS maps, has seen some people thinking that the heights of hills and mountains might be about to shrink. They are not!
We have to measure height in Britain against a commonly agreed datum level and ‘mean sea level’ is a common value chosen in many countries. It becomes the ‘zero height’ which all other heights are measured from. As land-based creatures, it’s natural for us to think of the sea as being zero height and anything above it as being ‘high’, and consequently anything below it as having a ‘depth’. So, it’s very common to see heights of hills and mountains quoted as being ‘above mean sea level’.
What exactly is mean sea level?
Mainland Britain is home to some 94 mountains – which in this example are those that have been identified having a relative height of 600 metres or more. When taking into account the smaller Marilyns (which have a relative height of at least 150 metres), the total grows to a staggering 1,551.
All this makes for a huge area for Brits to get out and explore. There’s the attraction of taking in some breathtaking views from the summit, not to mention the practice of so-called ‘munro bagging’, where avid climbers tick off mountains they’ve scaled in a bid to cover them all.
Today’s guest blog comes from Doug Belchamber at scafellpike.org.uk – the website that provides a complete guide to England’s highest peak.
Push yourself to your limit by conquering one of the greatest challenges in England – Scafell Pike! As England’s highest mountain – standing at 978 metres, this is a brilliant way of challenging yourself to beat your personal best. Located in the stunning Lake District National Park, Scafell Pike is steeped in beauty and history, and offers a fantastic experience for climbers of all ages.
Climbing a mountain is often used as an analogy to express the daunting size of a difficult job ahead. It’s with good reason, too – there are few tasks that take more preparation and dedication. Like most big challenges though, the success of reaching a peak can bring with it an enormous sense of achievement; and this feeling can last a lifetime.
Britain is certainly blessed with an enviable pedigree of mountains. Whether it’s the iconic Ben Nevis or majestic Snowdon, England’s Scafell Pike or the rolling Pennines, there’s plenty to behold – and to climb. As such, scaling the peaks of these beasts features on many Brits’ to-do lists, whether they live nearby or at the other end of the country.
The Cuillin Mountains of Skye in the Highlands of Scotland are renowned as having the most challenging mountain environment anywhere in Britain. These mountains contain narrow, complicated ridges where a day’s outing can require a mountaineer’s skill and knowledge to overcome their difficulties.
Picture: John Barnard on one of the two summits of Knight’s Peak. Photo taken by: Alan Dawson
Following on from the success of Britain’s new mountain back in April this year, we have a guest post from Myrddyn Phillips on his next mountainous challenge.
Balanced precariously on the aptly named Pinnacle Ridge in the Cuillin Mountains of Skye in the Highlands of Scotland is a lump of rock that may well prove to offer the most difficult mountain survey ever conducted in Britain.
The mountain in question is Knight’s Peak (grid reference NG 471 254). Its summit is situated amongst castellated peaks in the most challenging and dramatic mountain range Britain has to offer.
The summit of Knight’s Peak consists of two tops a short distance apart. One top is spacious enough for one person to balance on its highest point, whilst the other is a pointed top where standing is not advised. The land beyond the summit area is precipitous.
In the past week of so, you may have read about plans by Nepal to re-measure the height of Everest. Apparently being the world’s highest peak at 8,848m just isn’t enough – they want to use the latest satellite technology to get the most accurate measurement possible.
It’ll also an opportunity to settle a long standing disagreement between China and Nepal. According to the BBC, the Chinese argue Everest should be measured to its rock height, while Nepal maintains that any figure should include the snow on the summit – which would add about four metres.
This in itself is an interesting debate – what do you think is fairer?
Anyway, it’ll be two years before we hear the results, so in the meantime I thought it would be worth explaining how you actually go about measuring something as huge as a mountain.
The Snowdon range consists of glacial corries, knife-edged aretes, and some very big mountains. There are many routes to the top of Snowdon itself (in Welsh ‘Yr Wyddfa’) with some big paths that can get crowded, but when you look across the horizon of a hundred hills you’ll know why it’s so popular.
There are a variety of routes to the top of Snowdon with different degrees of challenge, but all with tremendous scenery and breathtaking views. Llanberis path and the Ranger track are the easiest way to the top, with Rhyd-Ddu, up the Pyg and down the Miner’s tracks other popular routes. The Snowdon Horseshoe should only be tackled by experienced walkers with steady nerves.
Last week I wrote about an expedition to resurvey the height of Tryfan using modern GPS technology – the same technology the Ordnance Survey uses to map the country. Well, it was a great success and here is an account from John, Graham and Myrddyn. You can also watch an interview with our very own Mark Greaves on the BBC website.
The morning began dark and grey as we drove into the car park at Ogwen cottage, dark because it was just after 5am and grey because a fine drizzle had fallen on the valley.