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The Full House and the Metric Landscape

Alan Dawson

October 2015

This article was published in The Munro Society newsletter 35, December 2015

It was Alan Brook who introduced me to the notion of the Full House. Two years ago he informed me that I was one of 26 people (now nearer 40) known to have climbed all the hills in the categories recorded by the Scottish Mountaineering Club: Munros, Munro Tops, Corbetts, Grahams, Donalds and Furths. These six lists form the framework familiar to hillwalkers in Scotland and can provide structure and focus for their walking. In total they amount to 1043 hills: 282 + 227 + 221 + 220 + 89 - 30 (seven Corbetts and 23 Grahams are also Donalds) plus 34 outside Scotland. Surely over 1000 summits is enough for anyone? Obviously not, as I was encouraged to write about a different hill framework that is available for those so inclined.

The key features of the Full House are:

The key features of the Metric Landscape are:

The key terms in the Metric Landscape are Marilyns, Humps, Simms and Tumps:

These lists overlap (as Donalds overlap with Grahams and Corbetts), so that:

A diagram may be helpful. Everything within it is a Tump.

  Height:
  Simms Simms that are also
Humps
Simms that are also
Humps and Marilyns
600m
  Tumps that are not
Simms, Humps or Marilyns
Humps Humps that are also
Marilyns
30m
Drop: 30m 100m 150m  

Redrawing this roughly to scale as a Venn diagram produces the following:

All the Corbetts and Grahams, along with 202 Munros, fit within the small SMH category. Fourteen Munro Tops are also Humps but none are Marilyns. Most Munro Tops are also Simms, but 68 are not and so they fall outside the entire diagram as they have less than 30m drop. Most (47) of these 68 are Subs, which means hills that they fall short of one of the main categories by up to ten metres, therefore:

I have heard mention of Stumps (Subtumps under 600m high) but they are not talked about in polite company.

Time to focus on some specific hills to inject more life into this subject, starting with the Simms (Six-hundred Metre Mountains). There are several tricky summits among the 2526 Simms, but no stoppers. Technically the most difficult is probably the smooth rock summit of A'Chir on Arran, which I was able to slither on to at the third attempt as a young man of 39, but failed to repeat the trick when I went back twenty years laters. Skye has several Simms on the borderline between scrambling and moderate climbing. As well as the In Pinn and Am Basteir, there are Knight's Peak, Bidein Druim nan Ramh, Sgurr na h-Uamha, Caisteal a'Garbh-choire, Clach Glas and others. On the mainland, several Simms can be intimidating in poor conditions, e.g. Creag an Duine (Seana Bhraigh), Meall Beag (Suilven) and Meall Mor (Lurg Mhor), though all have easier routes via longer approaches. In Wales, Crib Goch and the twin pillars on top of Tryfan can be problematic for those not as agile as they used to be.

There are also numerous remote Simms, such as those around the Tarf Hotel and further west toward the upper reaches of Glen Feshie and Glen Bruar. Uchd a'Chlarsair and Leachdann Feith Seasgachain South Top are hills for the connoisseur of long walks in quiet lonely places, where the walking on higher ground is better than one might expect in such a heathery and peaty area.

Moving on to Marilyns, which are creeping into the consciousness of several members of TMS, the two large and steep obstacles are Stac Lee and Stac an Armin in the St Kilda group, though Cnoc Glas on Soay is also awkward to land on and get established. As well as the technical and logistical difficulties, the swell makes landing impossible on most days. The blanket ban by the landowner (NTS) on landing on the stacks from April to early October makes the only feasible tactic a swift autumn raid for those available to pack their bags and head to Lewis at short notice. This tactic worked very well this year, when twelve people managed to climb the stacks in superb weather.

Stac Lee and Stac an Armin are both Humps (Hundred Metre Prominence) as well as Marilyns but some other Humps are more difficult, notably the Old Man of Hoy, Lianamuil and Arnamuil (both Mingulay), Sheep Rock (Fair Isle) and the Old Man of Mow (Cheshire East). The OMoM is a controversial summit as it is a man-made pinnacle sculpted from natural rock. It is regarded as unstable and climbing is not officially allowed, though some baggers have managed the VS ascent, so it's easier than the other Old Man. There are no records of ascents of Lianamuil, Arnamuil or Sheep Rock in recent decades.

The advent of Tumps is so remarkable (some say ludicrous) that they may be worth a whole article one day, as they offer enormous scope for travel, adventure, problem-solving, entertainment, despair, disdain, and disappearance into vegetation. At this stage I will simply mention that Mark Jackson started the research on them when he was 14 years old, and that Rob Woodall has climbed 9500 of them including over 1000 in 2015. Rob has the rare ability to be enthusiastic about ferocious sea stacks off Shetland and farmers' fields in the far south of England, and also manages to fit in trips to high mountains around the world while holding down a full-time job. He is therefore the leading bagger of Marilyns and Tumps and is at the top of the Hall of Fame (HoF) for each. The reason for these HoFs is that it is so difficult to complete any of the lists in the metric landscape, so running totals are recorded as well as details of rare completions. Currently four people have climbed all the Marilyns (Rob Woodall, Eddie Dealtry, Michael Earnshaw, Alan Whatley), two have climbed all the Simms (Ken Whyte, Iain Thow), no-one has climbed all the Humps and I rashly predict that no-one will ever climb all the Tumps. The criteria for entry into the four Halls of Fame are:

600 Marilyns (out of 1556) to enter the Marilyn Hall of Fame (Marhof), 1000 for the Upper Hall, 400 to reach the Corridor of Obscurity.

1200 Humps (out of 2983) to enter the Humphof, 2000 for the Upper Humphof.

2000 Simms (out of 2526) to enter the Simmhof, 1500 to enter the Simmhof Corridor.

2000 Tumps (out of 16846) to enter the Tumphof at level 1, 3000 to reach level 2, 5000 for level 3, 8000 for level 4, 13000 for level 5.

Clearly this is all a game and, to quote Myrddyn Phillips, 'it is a mighty good one', though some may think it is all getting out of hand. The entry level for the Simmhof was set deliberately high as there are now over 300 people in Marhof and I didn't want to make the same mistake of making it too easy to get in. This has worked so far as the Simmhof has only seven members, with two more not far away. In a moment of weakness I opened up a Corridor to offer encouragement for those struggling to reach 2000 before they enter the Great Hall in the Sky. In my opinion keen hillwalkers should be able to nip up over 200 Simms a year without too much trouble. I concede that it is harder for those bagging hills in other lists at the same time or having to work for a living, but then it's also harder if you are having to hang around measuring them.

Judging by the numbers streaming through the portals of the other three Hofs, the Metric Landscape has caught on in recent years, but it is far from mainstream, which is the way some of us prefer it. I see no reason why the Full House lists and the metric lists should not be able to co-exist semi-happily for several years, with the weight of history behind the Full House and the weight of science behind the Metric Landscape. There are many ways of defining and listing hills, just as there are many ways of climbing them, and there are numerous fine hills beyond the walls of the Full House. There are even some beyond the shores of Britain (P1500+), but this article is long enough already.

Further information

Marilyns are listed in The Relative Hills of Britain by Alan Dawson, Cicerone Press, 1992, plus update sheets.

Humps are listed in More Relative Hills of Britain by Mark Jackson, Lulu, 2009.

Simms will be listed in The Absolute Hills of Britain by Alan Dawson, Pedantic Press, 2021. In the meantime, over 700 of them are listed in Corbett Tops and Corbetteers, TACit Press, 1999, and 1000 in Graham Tops and Grahamists, TACit Press, 2004, both by Alan Dawson et al and available from the author for the price of a pint.

Tumps are listed in the Database of British and Irish Hills (DOBIH), available from www.hills-database.co.uk and on the hill-bagging website: www.hill-bagging.co.uk

Details of Marhof and Simmhof are at www.rhb.org.uk. Humphof is maintained by Chris Watson (rhb@rhb.org.uk). Tumphof is maintained by Adrian Rayner (tumphof@gmail.com).