Cumbria claims Britain’s newest mountain as persistence pays off

The steep southern slopes of Calf Top, Britain’s newest mountain The steep southern slopes of Calf Top, Britain’s newest mountain Myrddyn Phillips
14 Sep
2016
As a Cumbrian hill in the Yorkshire Dales is offically declared a mountain by a mere six millimetres, Geographical talks to summit mapper Myrddyn Phillips about what defines a mountain

Last week, the Ordnance Survey made a mountain out of an old hill – Calf Top in the Yorkshire Dales. The beige loaf of a mount, dusted occasionally with snow, surpassed the mountain threshold by just six millimetres. A quarter of an inch. One third of a five pence coin.

‘A hill needs to be 609.6 metres, or 2,000 feet, above sea level to be classified as a mountain,’ says Welsh hill walker and mountain expert, Myrddyn Phillips. Phillips spent two hours collecting height data on the peak in question in 2010 and again in 2016. Calf Top did not register as tall enough the first time, measuring a tantalisingly close 609.579 metres. ‘The result was so close to the threshold that the OS advised us to go back and gather a further four hours of data,’ he says explaining that the longer an amount of time is spent on a mountain candidate, the more accurate the data becomes. ‘However, we are only talking tiny margins of improved accuracy,’ he clarifies.

Luckily, a small margin was all Calf Top needed. When Phillips came down the summit for a second time, it clocked in at 609.606m. ‘That was thrilling’ he says, ‘as we never know what the results are going to be until they are post-processed. For the known height to be changed six years after the first assessment felt like a job well done.’

Why is 609.6 metres the magic number between mountainous glory and hilly ignominy? For such a precise measurement, the answer is actually somewhat arbitrary as there is no universal distinction between the two. In the US, mountains are generally defined as rises over 1,000 feet, though there are many ‘mounts’ that are smaller. ‘Meanwhile, the UK’s 2,000 feet has mainly historical merit,’ says Phillips. ‘There has been a long tradition of list authors cataloguing the 2,000ft mountains of England and Wales and referring to these as such. Calf Top has become the 317th.’

In Scotland, where the Highland fault line has created thousands of peaks at much higher elevations, there is less need for a distinction between the two. ‘In Scotland, the word “hill” can be used in a generic way to encompass everything that is of significant height,’ says Phillips. ‘Even Everest is just a big hill.’

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Related items

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe Today

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • The Air That We Breathe
    Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality as scandals surrounding diesel car emissions come to light and the huge health costs of po...
    National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    Diabetes: The World at Risk
    Diabetes is often thought of as a ‘western’ problem, one linked to the developed world’s overindulgence in fatty foods and chronic lack of physi...
    The Nuclear Power Struggle
    The UK appears to be embracing nuclear, a huge U-turn on government policy from just two years ago. Yet this seems to be going against the grain globa...
    REDD+ or Dead?
    The UN-backed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) scheme, under which developing nations would be paid not to cut dow...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in PLACES...

Water

Cape Town is edging closer to ‘Day Zero’, the long-feared…

Water

Ongoing restoration projects are breathing new life into Florida’s Everglades

Cities

Despite protests, an experimental pedestrianisation system is proving to be…

Mapping

National Archives map historian, Rose Mitchell, highlights some of the…

Water

An expedition into the Jordanian desert is helping teachers and…

Mountains

Trivia fans take note, Mount Hope in the British Antarctic…

Water

An enormous hydropower development in Ethiopia is expected to put…

Mapping

From nuclear warnings to whether your favourite band will ‘make…

Mapping

New maps of global reptile distribution reveal significant gaps in…

Forests

Indigenous conservation schemes in Peru can be more effective than…

Mapping

How are the EU member nations faring in the fight…

Mapping

Violence against women violates human rights, and the lack of…

Cities

Deadly heat waves could become more frequent in cities thanks…

Mapping

These 13 poignant infographics are in the running for the…

Mapping

Sometimes referred to as the fourth dimension, time has a…

Forests

A global, citizen-led carbon sequestration scheme is aiming to combat…

Mountains

Among the Himalaya region, which along with most of the…

Cities

Beijing looks set to welcome to its streets an innovative…

Cities

The next step towards declaring London a National Park City…

Mapping

The spatial distribution of healthcare workers globally tells us a…