Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The History of Welsh Hill Lists

The History of Welsh Hill Lists – Part 4

The Early Years

1929 James A Parker

In 1929, two articles of interest to our story were published, both related to the same subject.  One consisted of two pages, entitled ‘The Scottish Threes (contd.) and after’ and was published in the Cairngorm Club Journal No.68.  But of greater importance, and the one we shall concentrate on, is the more detailed eight page article published in the Scottish Mountaineering Club Journal, entitled ‘Beinn Tarsuinn and the British Threes’.  The author of both articles was James A.Parker, whom we have briefly met as the third person to complete the Munros.

It was Parker’s objective to climb all the British Isles separate mountains over 3000 feet.  These became known as the ‘British Threes’.  Parker takes up the story of his last Munro: “I climbed my last Munro, Ben Hope, on the 19th July 1927 – at least, I believed that it was the last”.  “In October 1928, I learned to my chagrin that an alleged 2970 foot Scottish mountain had grown to the extent of about 110 feet, and had thereby acquired the rank of a Munro”.  “The hill is, of course, Beinn Tarsuinn”, hence the title of his article.

After climbing Beinn Tarsuinn, and verifying that the mountain was, in fact, over 3000 feet, Parker turned his attention toward the remainder of the British Threes.  This culminated in him spending a week in Wales, during the Easter of 1929.

At this stage, the Welsh Threes were known to contain fourteen summits over 3000 feet, two of which, Foel Grach and Crib y Ddysgl, in Parker’s opinion, could not be classified as separate mountains.

Parker passes comment on the three distinct groups, the Carnedds, the Glyders and Snowdon.  The Carnedd group: “Consists of a long ridge about 7 miles in length, with six 3000 foot tops, two of which – Carnedd Dafydd and Yr Elen – have very fine northern sides.  The summit ridge affords a very delightful high level walk over quite easy ground, and must command magnificent views in clear weather.  Smoke from the Midlands, however, is apt to be common, and is almost as bad as the smoke from a Canadian forest fire”.  “The next group, the Glyders, containing five 3000 foot summits, presents stoney or grassy slopes to the south and a magnificent range of precipices to the north.  The highest point is Glyder Fawr, and the most interesting one is Glyder Fach, with its famed masses of huge stones on the summit and its very fine north-east ridge running out to Tryfan”.  “Snowdon itself is magnificent, and in its east and north faces has few rivals outside of Skye.  The round of the horseshoe is fascinating, that is, up the east face of Crib Goch and along its knife edge arête and pinnacles to Crib y Ddisgl and Y Wyddfa, and then back along the narrow summit ridge of Lliwedd”.

Under the heading of appendix II, Parker’s ‘List of the mountains in the British Isles 3000 feet or over in height’, appears on the last page of his article.  In all, twenty three separate mountains outside of Scotland are listed, with their respective heights.  England has four mountains, Wales twelve and Ireland seven.  By 1921, Munro’s Scottish list of separate mountains had been revised to 276, with the addition of Beinn Tarsuinn it now stood at 277.  With Parker’s additional twenty three British Isles 3000 foot mountains, the total reached a rounded 300.

The first list of mountains that many people now know as the 'Furths'
On the 19th April 1929, James A. Parker ascended his final 3000 foot separate mountain within the British Isles, thus becoming the first person to achieve this particular challenge, his chosen 300th and last mountain was Tryfan.

The Welsh part of Parker’s list is but a microcosm within a much varied picture of Welsh hill lists.  Historically it and its similar, later counterparts are important for comparing Wales’s highest peaks with their contemporaries in Scotland, England and Ireland.  To ignore the separate 3000 foot category would be doing an injustice to the history of Welsh hill lists.  As we will see, in the upcoming years, important changes in criterion use, listing of hills and book format will be led by this particular category of hill list.

Only eighteen years had passed since Wales’s first comprehensive listing of mountains appeared, and already the three standard designated minimum height criteria; Corbett’s 2500 feet, Carr and Lister’s 2000 feet and now Parker’s 3000 feet, had been established.  These three heights would dominate hill lists for the next five and a half decades and beyond.  It would take another fifty five years before a Welsh hill list was published that chipped away at these three’s dominance over the designated minimum height criterion.  But, that is for the future, for now, we have to re-visit our old friend John Rooke Corbett.

Next installment due on the 30th September 2014

For the Preface please click {here}

For Part 1 please click {here}

For Part 2 please click {here} 

For Part 3 please click {here}

No comments: