/ The UK's 3 finest mountains

Please Register as a New User in order to reply to this topic.
BnB - on 15 Jul 2017

I've been enjoying picking my three favourite UK mountains.

I'm sorry to have to exclude Beinn Eighe' wild coires and bony fingers, An Teallach's pinnacles and it's stunning coire head wall, Snowdon for its majestic build-up, Bhuichaille Etive Mor and Bowfell for their pyramidal impact. I can't include the Ben, despite its magnificent N face because so much of the mountain is dull. Likewise the plucky protuberance of Tryfan which kneels at the foot of a bigger parent. So here goes.

Number 3 is Bidean nam Bian. Who can fail to gasp as they drop down from the meeting of the waters and behold the three sisters, with SCNL beyond, piercing the clouds with its noble spire. Best in May when the snow drapes the high cliffs while spring climbs into the hidden valley. If this fastness is a fascinating retreat from the binoculars aimed across the valley floor, then its sister valley below the towering cliffs of SCNL presents at its remote head the most Alpine of settings on the mainland.

Liathach is at number 2. It was a toss up with An Teallach but the Grey One overwhelms with its fortifications while the Forge shies away as if embarrassed by its armoury. Seen from Loch Clair, Liathach presents the most formidable mountain form in the land. Like a dinosaur frozen in stone. A prehistoric battleship. Climb me if you dare.

So often a bold front reveals a soft backside but, on this occasion and from every angle and on every side, this mountain roars its defiance of our dreams of conquest. What joy that the summit scramble delivers such delight along with its hypnotic panoramas. This Stegosaurus has a spine to match.

And so to my number 1. Ask any child to draw a mountain and they will outline a bold pyramid. And so, childlike, I give you, as my favourite mountain, Skye's own Pic, its Dent, its Horn, Sgurr nan Gillean.

No summit arrests from every angle like SnG. From the minute I set eyes on it, as a humble walker reared on Wainwright's guides, and with that author's timidity, it has held my attention and inspired my love. Yet, if a mountain is to inspire, it must also intimidate. And here is a peak that on all three of its soaring, jagged ridges presents forbidding obstacles to the walker that prove to be joyous outings for the scrambler, silhouetted against the stunning arc of the Cuillin and the glowing ocean beyond. That there is no easy way to such a prominent summit endows the mountain with a unique purity. To gain the top itself, to perch as an eagle in its eerie as the cliffs fall way on all sides, is to declare it incomparably the finest looking-post in this land.

Every route up the imposing pyramid feels other-worldly. Is this really Scotland and not Corsica or Cortina? Yes, SnG, more than any other peak in these isles, this is a mountain.
Post edited at 22:31
Mal Grey - on 15 Jul 2017
In reply to BnB:

Nicely stated, hard to argue with. So many others to consider, some of which you recognise, but not sure I can argue with your shortlist of "finest" too much.

To be fair though, "finest" is different to "favourite" for me. For that latter, one of the singular hills of Assynt, Suilven, would have to be in there, just for the way it leaps upwards from the lochan-studded land, and for the unsurpassed views of land and water from its ridge.
aln - on 15 Jul 2017
In reply to BnB:

> So often a bold front reveals a soft backside

I gave a very similar compliment to my missus today...
abseil on 16 Jul 2017
In reply to BnB:

*Butter mountain
*Debt mountain
*Mountain Warehouse

Seriously though, I like Moel Siabod and Tryfan.
Mal Grey - on 16 Jul 2017
In reply to abseil:

Tryfan's a good call, must arguably be the rockiest mountain outside of the Cuillin, and such an iconic shape.
BnB - on 16 Jul 2017
In reply to Mal Grey:

> Tryfan's a good call, must arguably be the rockiest mountain outside of the Cuillin, and such an iconic shape.

Tryfan has a great deal going for it. But it's barely 2,000ft above valley level. In this company it's a terrier amongst wolves!! All subjective of course and I appreciate why it has such a following.
Mal Grey - on 16 Jul 2017
In reply to BnB:

Size isn't everything...
BnB - on 16 Jul 2017
In reply to Mal Grey:

> Size isn't everything...

It certainly packs a bigger punch than any mountain south of Glencoe.


petestack - on 16 Jul 2017
In reply to BnB:

> It certainly packs a bigger punch than any mountain south of Glencoe.

Why certainly? Is it demonstrably objectively finer/more dramatic than The Cobbler, Cir Mhor, Scafell or quite a few others? Of course not... they're all great, but you're ultimately talking subjective opinions in trying to rank them.
plyometrics - on 16 Jul 2017
In reply to Mal Grey:

> Size isn't everything...

Agreed.

I rather like the beautiful, near symmetry of Ill Bell and Froswick.
BnB - on 16 Jul 2017
In reply to petestack:

> Why certainly? Is it demonstrably objectively finer/more dramatic than The Cobbler, Cir Mhor, Scafell or quite a few others? Of course not... they're all great, but you're ultimately talking subjective opinions in trying to rank them.

Because you (can) have hands on rock for every inch of its height instead of just the final couple of hundred feet. That's an objective observation.

But Tryfan isn't even in my top 5 or 6 so I'm not pressing its case. Its rise is too small for my liking. I prefer Cir Mhor as a mountain. Good call.
no_more_scotch_eggs - on 16 Jul 2017
In reply to BnB:
What an excellent piece of writing!

I've done similar exercises, even going as far as inventing scoring systems to compare contenders (well, it helps when I'm struggling to get to sleep...) , and come up with a similar short list.

In the end I discounted sgurr nan gillean because, for all its undoubted merits, it's just the end of a much longer ridge, and not even the highest point on it. Liathach is an awe inspiring sight, and undoubtedly the lord of all it surveys, but it lacks great climbs; and your description of bidean is vivid and compelling, I'd rate it ahead of the other two but for me it's squeezed out by three titans of stone:

3rd- snowdon. The horseshoe over crib goch is perhaps *the* most compelling scramble/walk in the UK. It's got Lliwedd, and cloggy. It looks great, with soaring ridges in all directions. And I can't think of any other mountain that could have its dignity trampled on by having a railway built up it and still hold its head high, but snowdon manages it.

2nd- the buachaille etive mor. Ask a child to draw a mountain, and it will look like the buachaille. That view you get when you turn the corner towards Glencoe as you cross Rannoch moor never fails to take my breath away. Then there's the routes- for scrambles its unmatched, with curved ridge, north buttress, broach buttress, the lagangarbh buttress; and the climbs- rannoch wall, and slime wall, each packed with classics. And in winter, add crowberry gully and you have a mountain for all seasons...

1st- it may be ugly from some directions, but there's no getting away from it: Ben Nevis must surely be our finest mountain. Size does matter; and looking across the allt a'mhuillin from carn mor dearg in winter feels like you've been transported from Scotland to a much greater range. It has everything: the finest walk (the CMD arĂȘte), great scrambles (ledge route, castle ridge), and then there's the climbing, from alpine scale ridges to the hardest trad climb in the world. And then winter arrives, and it becomes just about the only British mountain that people regularly travel from abroad specifically to climb routes on. It is a colossus in British climbing, and a literal colossus, standing head and shoulders above its surroundings....

That's my take on it anyway...

And I agree about Tryfan- a nice hill, without a doubt- but not even the best summit in its own range, and out of its depth in the company above....

;-)

Cheers
Gregor
Post edited at 21:40
Robert Durran - on 16 Jul 2017
In reply to BnB:

Beinn a'Bhuird
Ladhar Bheinn
A.N. Other

(in no particular order)
andrew ogilvie - on 16 Jul 2017
In reply to BnB:
You do Cir Mhor a bit of a disservice, especially if you include the A Chir ridge. It would be close to the top of my list.
ads.ukclimbing.com
andrew ogilvie - on 16 Jul 2017
In reply to BnB:

I reckon Sgurr Nan Gillean is the finest summit of any UK mountain (and I've been up plenty) but I've never really been persuaded by Liathach, it would struggle to make my top 3 in glen torridon.

Three favourites not enough.
BnB - on 16 Jul 2017
In reply to no_more_scotch_eggs:

Well put. And great to see Snowdon so appreciated. Taking the range as a single mountain, it culminates beautifully.
BnB - on 16 Jul 2017
In reply to Robert Durran:

Beinn Bhuird is virgin territory for me. Probably the only major summit I've not set foot on. I'll note your recommendation.
Robert Durran - on 16 Jul 2017
In reply to andrew ogilvie:

> You do Cir Mhor a bit of a disservice, especially if you include the A Chir ridge.

But the A Chir ridge is part of, well, A Chir! Cir Mhor still a worthy contender though.
andrew ogilvie - on 16 Jul 2017
In reply to petestack:

I should have read your post before replying: very discerning choices : not that I dislike Tryfan in any way.
BnB - on 16 Jul 2017
In reply to andrew ogilvie:

Yes. It's been a long time since I went to Arran and I've rather fallen for Skye where I've made a home. But you're the second poster to press the case for Cir Mhor and it impressed me greatly on three separate visits. But it could have made more of an impression or I'd feel the urge to return more keenly.

Of course this is all personal musing and we love our mountains for many different reasons.
Robert Durran - on 16 Jul 2017
In reply to andrew ogilvie:

> I've never really been persuaded by Liathach, it would struggle to make my top 3 in glen Torridon.

Which three might it struggle to beat?


petestack - on 16 Jul 2017
In reply to andrew ogilvie:

> I should have read your post before replying: very discerning choices : not that I dislike Tryfan in any way.

Just to be clear they were but three examples of fine peaks *south of Glen Coe* and no way intended to be my top three in UK (which I'd never be able to pin down). TBH I've not yet been on either Scafell or Tryfan, which still both hugely appeal to me, but included Scafell to avoid a purely Scots-centric counter-argument to BnB's 'south of Glencoe' assertion. And of course you can be on rock for far more than 'just the final couple of hundred feet' of Cir Mhor!
andrew ogilvie - on 16 Jul 2017
In reply to Robert Durran:
Ben Eighe, Ben Alligin, Ben Dearg...just my opinion.
I think I may be the victim of my own high expectations of Liathach ( thanks to WH Murray and the calendar industry) and it kind of underdelivered whereas I had a very early multi-pitch experience on Ben Eighe, a magnificent winter traverse of Alligin ( with Liathach and Ben dearg as the alpenglowed backdrop) , and a very satisfying scramble on dearg which was much "scramblier" than anything on the main ridge traverse on Liathach. I should probably go back and do the northern pinnacles to give it a chance of redemption.
Post edited at 23:16
abr1966 - on 16 Jul 2017
In reply to BnB:

1 Slioch
2 An Teallach
3 Stac Polaidh

My thinking....number 1 for a big walk, great place and impressive sight.
Number 2 for classic winter climbing, serious looking and a real mountaineering experience.
Number 3 for the best view, easy stroll up and great location.
andrew ogilvie - on 16 Jul 2017
In reply to petestack:

You chose well in Scaffell, two magnificent climbing faces and an unnerving scramble, well seen from Bowfell.
The New NickB - on 16 Jul 2017
In reply to BnB:

In the past I have approached this question slightly differently, looking at the (subjectively) best peaks in England, Wales and Scotland. Tryfan has always been my answer for Wales, for many years I would have said Crinkle Crags for England, but I could be tempted by either Bowfell or Scafell. For Scotland, like you I have a great fondness for Bidean Nam Bian, particularly in winter, but my heart says I must pick something on Skye, the problem is, which one.
petestack - on 16 Jul 2017
In reply to andrew ogilvie:

> I should probably go back and do the northern pinnacles to give it a chance of redemption.

http://www.petestack.com/blog/northern-pinnacles.html

Quite exciting!

Robert Durran - on 16 Jul 2017
In reply to BnB:
I think that how people respond to this depends very much on whether the climbing possibilties are taken into account. If so, Beinn Eighe trumps Liathach and Snowdon trumps Tryfan for example. And Sgurr nan Gillean wouldn't get a look in!
Post edited at 23:50
ads.ukclimbing.com
andrew ogilvie - on 16 Jul 2017
In reply to petestack:

Thanks. It certainly looks dramatic: worth a visit when I'm up there.
BnB - on 17 Jul 2017
In reply to Robert Durran:

> I think that how people respond to this depends very much on whether the climbing possibilties are taken into account. If so, Beinn Eighe trumps Liathach and Snowdon trumps Tryfan for example. And Sgurr nan Gillean wouldn't get a look in!

That's a good point. My list is very much a mountaineering one without any focus on the climbing possibilities. Otherwise BEM would have been further up the list. Whisper this, however, like a Tryfan, it suffers from being a bit short relative to the starting point.

My favourites surge their full height. Bowfell from Brotherilkeld being an English case in point. Likewise Snowdon from Plas y Brenin.
BnB - on 17 Jul 2017
In reply to petestack:


> Quite exciting!

I did that route last year. Very difficult (we failed) to follow the description and rather serious (chossy) throughout. I sent one block tumbling within a few feet of my partner. I didn't think much of the pinnacles but it is the magnificent northern coires of the mountain that cement its place in my heart.
BnB - on 17 Jul 2017
In reply to The New NickB:
> In the past I have approached this question slightly differently, looking at the (subjectively) best peaks in England, Wales and Scotland. Tryfan has always been my answer for Wales, for many years I would have said Crinkle Crags for England, but I could be tempted by either Bowfell or Scafell. For Scotland, like you I have a great fondness for Bidean Nam Bian, particularly in winter, but my heart says I must pick something on Skye, the problem is, which one.

If your exploration of the Cuillin ever takes you to the secret lochan beneath hidden Sgurr Coire an Lochain then a look up at the soaring fastnesses of Sgurr Dubh Mor will inspire and terrify in equal measure. A mighty sight.
Post edited at 07:59
petestack - on 17 Jul 2017
In reply to BnB:

> I didn't think much of the pinnacles

For sure they're loose and quite serious, but that end of Liathach just wouldn't look the same without them! So we've got a shapely mountaineering line on a shapely mountain, which should score highly by your criteria?

tripehound - on 17 Jul 2017
In reply to BnB:

Sgurr nan Gillean.
An Teallach.
Ben Nevis.

( the last for its classic N Face in winter)
Simon Caldwell - on 17 Jul 2017
In reply to BnB:

1. Suilven

the others are trickier and will probably vary from week to week

2. Ben Cruachan
3. Ben Hope.
skog on 17 Jul 2017
In reply to BnB:

As much to be Devil's Advocate as anything, I'd suggest that the main Black Cuillin of Skye is really just one long, complex, mountain (with the lowest pass on it being barely a whisker below 2500').

This, to my mind, puts Sgurr Alasdair firmly at the top of the list. Even if you don't accept my premise, I'd have Sgurr Alasdair at or near the top - its fine corries and ridges and lochans, the cliffs and buttresses around the Cioch, and the way it towers steeply above anything within reach, are simply unmatched in this country. And the rapidly changing weather, straight off the Atlantic, adds to the mountainous feel.

Beinn Eighe is in my second place, I can think of no other hill in the country, outwith Skye, which just -feels- so mountainous and wild; standing in Coire Mhic Fhearchair, looking across the loch at the Triple Buttress, is always an emotional experience for me.

I agree about number three - Bidean is such a fine, dark, mountain, with so many different aspects and so many adventures to be had - and it towers over all of its neighbours, clearly the dominant peal opf Argyll.

Cutting it down to just three is pretty harsh, though.
johncoxmysteriously - on 17 Jul 2017
In reply to skog:

Assuming we're considering the question from the angle of hill-walking rather than climbing:-

An Teallach
The Cuillin
A'Mhaighdean

jcm
tony on 17 Jul 2017
In reply to abr1966:

> 1 Slioch

> 2 An Teallach

> 3 Stac Polaidh

> My thinking....number 1 for a big walk, great place and impressive sight.

> Number 2 for classic winter climbing, serious looking and a real mountaineering experience.

> Number 3 for the best view, easy stroll up and great location.

That's probably closer to my choices, although I'm not sure about Slioch at number 1. An Teallach is magnificent, and I'm surprised it doesn't feature in more people's choices. I do love Stac Pollaidh, but I don't think it quite matches any of the Torridon hills.

Also slightly surprised not to see anyone enthusing about Suilven.
Simon Caldwell - on 17 Jul 2017
In reply to tony:

> Also slightly surprised not to see anyone enthusing about Suilven.

Other than the first reply to the thread, and me a few posts up ;-)
tony on 17 Jul 2017
In reply to Simon Caldwell:
Apologies - didn't see yours, and didn't read Mal's reply properly.
Post edited at 12:19
skog on 17 Jul 2017
In reply to tony:

> Also slightly surprised not to see anyone enthusing about Suilven.

I'll enthuse about Suilven, or Stac Pollaidh, for as long as you'll listen, but I personally think they're too small to be one of the UK's three finest "mountains".

> An Teallach is magnificent, and I'm surprised it doesn't feature in more people's choices

Cutting it down to three is the other problem! An Teallach would make my top ten for sure, and probably my top five.
Robert Durran - on 17 Jul 2017
In reply to tony:

> Also slightly surprised not to see anyone enthusing about Suilven.

Suilven is a great hill but rather two dimensional and lacking in climbing interest to really cut it for me.

ads.ukclimbing.com
Simon Caldwell - on 17 Jul 2017
In reply to Robert Durran:

To me it's one of the most 3 dimensional hills out there, rising out of an extensive plain.

If climbing interest is one of the criteria though I'll concede the point
Robert Durran - on 17 Jul 2017
In reply to Simon Caldwell:

> To me it's one of the most 3 dimensional hills out there, rising out of an extensive plain.

It goes up/down, east/west, but not really north/south, so pretty two dimensional!

Please Register as a New User in order to reply to this topic.