In an ever-increasingly-accessible world there are just too many mountains to climb in one lifetime and some selection criteria is necessary.
In Scotland the established target for hillwalkers is the completion of Munro's Tables - the somewhat arbitrary list of nearly 300 summits greater than 3000 feet judged to be separate mountains. For a follow on, or more readily as an intrinsic part of a round, the 260 odd subsidiary 3000 feet tops can also be done. For enthusiasts there are additionally the 221 smaller ( 2500 - 3000 feet ) and more rigorously defined Corbetts.
The lack of stature is not necessarily a reason to disdain the latter as in many examples throughout the world lesser summits are more interesting and attractive than their bigger brethren - Stac Pollaidh in Wester Ross or Ben Arthur ( the Cobbler ) provide a more entertaining day's outing than many of the well-rounded Munros such as Ben Chonzie which are only climbed to be ticked off the list. In the Alps the 3000 metre Eiger is well known but the 4000 metre Schreckhorn ( Terror Peak ) is not. In the Nepal Himalaya the 7000 metre Mt.Macchapucchre ( the Fish-Tail Mountain ) and the 6000 metre Ama Dablam are far more shapely and picturesque than the 8000 metre massifs of Annapurna and Kangchenjunga .
( The Fishtail Mountain )
Moving furth of Scotland Munroists can proceed to tackle the 3000 feet summits of England ( 4 off in the Lake District including Scafell Pike ), Wales ( 8 off including Snowdon ) and Ireland ( 10 off including the Macgillycuddy Reeks ).
On the continent the equivalent of Munro bagging is the climbing of the 80 "four-thousanders" ( 4000 metre peaks ). While many, including Mont Blanc, the highest, offer no technical difficulties some, such as the 4000 metre Schreckhorn, provide a much harder challenge than Scotland's Inaccessible Pinnacle - the most difficult of the Munros. As with the Scottish Munros the 4000m Alps have all been climbed in a single continuous round ( by Simon Jenkins and Martin Moran who also completed the first winter traverse of the Scottish Munros )
A comparable situation also obtains in the USA where the 54 " Fourteeners "( 14,000 feet peaks ) of the Colorado Rockies comprise the target list. On a springtime visit I climbed the snowbound Mt. Elbert - the highest in the list and second highest peak in the contiguous states to California's Mt. Whitney. Although of comparable altitude to the European Alps the Colorado Rockies are not alpine in nature and like the Scottish Munros are snow-free in summer. For some, eg Pike's Peak, there is no mountaineering challenge as it is possible to drive to the summit.
Climbers with deep pockets or affluent friends might consider the Seven Summits comprising the highest peaks of the seven continents - Mt. Elbrus in the Caucasus in Europe, Kilimanjaro in Tanzania in Africa, Everest in the Himalaya in Asia, Mt.Kosciusko in the Southern Alps in Australia, the Vinson Massif in Antarctica, Denali ( Mt. McKinley ) in Alaska in North America and Mt. Aconcagua in the Argentine Andes in South America.
Mt.Kosciusko does not involve any serious climbing and has been described as a walk in a park. An alternative / rival summit to Mt.Kosciusko as the highest peak in Australasia / Oceania is the higher and more difficult Carstensz Pyramid ( Puncak Jaya ) on Irian Jaya in Indonesia. Commercial agencies organize climbing parties for Elbrus, Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua and even Everest. The 5000 metre Vinson Massif presents the greatest logistical problems with no commercial flights available to the antarctic continent. All seven summits have been climbed in a single calendar year.
The ultimate collectables for mountaineers are the world's 14 "eight-thousanders" ( 8000 metre peaks ) - Shisha Panga in China ( close to the Langtang Himal in Nepal where it is known as Gosainthan ), Everest on the border of China and Nepal, Kangchenjunga on the border of Nepal and Sikim, Makalu, Lhotse, Cho Oyu, Manaslu, Annapurna and Dhaulagiri in Nepal, and the remaining five ( K2, the second highest, Broad Peak, Nanga Parbat, Gasherbum I and Gasherbum II ) at the western end of the Himalayan chain in The Pakistan Karakorum
All 14 have been climbed solo by Reinhold Messner - one of the first to climb Everest without the use of supplementary oxygen. Yorkshireman Alan Hinkes is well on his way to becoming the first Briton to complete the list despite having suffered a spate of ill-fortune. On the walk-in to Makalu Base Camp he had a bad fall and had to be helicoptered out, on K2 he suffered a coughing fit while eating a chapati and fractured a rib, and on his latest expedition in Nepal has recently been reported to have suffered an attack from the stomach-bug giardia - even supermen are human.
For those interested, places on climbing expeditions to 8000 metre peaks are on offer from agencies such as Camp 5 ( established by Al Burgess, one of the well-known climbing twins ). Cho Oyu is quoted at £5,000 and Everest for £20,000. Places are limited so early application is advisable.
Climbing connoiseurs will of course have their own selection criteria for selecting those peaks on which they decide to spend their time and money. For those seeking first ascents many 6000metre peaks remain unclimbed.
( The Commentator, The (Glasgow) HERALD Saturday 26th June 1999 )
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