Munro status in jeopardy? Ben Vane. Photo: Nick Bramhall

Munro status in jeopardy? Ben Vane. Photo: Nick Bramhall

Fresh from their television appearance with walking pin-up Julia Bradbury, the country’s three amateur hill sleuths will be stepping into the limelight again with an announcement on Scotland’s munros.

The trio, John Barnard, Graham Jackson and Myrddyn Phillips, who spend their spare time ascertaining the height of various hills around Britain, helped settle the argument over which was the highest hill in Wiltshire, with Milk Hill pipping neighbour Tan Hill by 26cm (10in), though this should really have surprised few, since it is marked as being higher on OS 1:25,000 maps.

The men’s appearance on the BBC Countryfile show, along with professionals from the Ordnance Survey, may be overshadowed next month when they hold a press conference to announce the results of surveys on four Scottish hills whose heights are all within a whisker of the official qualifying height for a munro, 3,000ft (914.4m).

The trio are being tight-lipped about the results of the survey, commissioned by the Munro Society, save to say that there will be a surprise.

The dividing line between a munro and a corbett is a thin one – just a centimetre high in fact – the accuracy to which modern GPS equipment, with ground-based corrections, can nail the height of a hill.

Looking at the lists, if there’s to be a demotion from the 284-munro list, Ben Vane, Beinn Teallach and Sgurr nan Ceannaichean all look to be in the relegation zone, with a recorded height of just 915m (3,002ft). Or perhaps Beinn a’Chleibh or its near namesake Beinn a’Chlaidheimh, which are just a metre higher on the OS maps.

Mystery shrouds the latest survey results by the amateur hill sleuths. Here, a GPS antenna and data handling device are being used on a previous outing

Mystery shrouds the latest survey results by the amateur hill sleuths. Here, a GPS antenna and data handling device are being used on a previous outing

If the surveyors have managed to find some extra height for a corbett, then Beinn Dearg can be discounted because that has already been found lacking. So attention may turn to Sgurr a’Choire-bheithe, just 1.4m (5ft) short of muscling in with the big guys.

The Munro Society is a bit of a Johnny-Come-Lately to the haughty establishment of Scottish peak recorders. Formed in 2002, it describes its point as being ‘to bring together the wealth of mountain experience that members have accumulated and thus provide a forum to in which to share interests and concerns as well as creating opportunities for convivial gatherings’. Membership is open only to those who have summited the full 284 list of munros.

The official guardian of the munro list is the Scottish Mountaineering Club, which has a history going back to 1889. Hugh T Munro, who listed the original 3,000-footers, and after whom they are named, was himself a member, as was Willy Naismith, who came up with the walking timings which have been exercising the computational skills of grough’s programmer as he puts the finishing touches to our upcoming grough route service.

All of which is of interest to the more than 4,000 ‘compleatists’ who have bagged all of the peaks, including the most difficult, the Inaccessible Pinnacle on Skye.

The trio’s survey results will be announced at a press conference in September.

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