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A Selection of Some 90 British and Irish Mountain Tops

A Selection of some 900 British and Irish Mountain Tops. Compiled and arranged by William McKnight Docharty. Edinburgh: Darien Press Ltd., 1954. 124 pages: frontispiece, 9 panoramic photographs, mountain lists, explanatory texts. (Privately printed.)

William McKnight Docharty has achieved in his book something which many of us who know a little, and love what we know, of British hills, hoped that one day might be done. He has listed the hills of from 2500 to 3000 feet above sea level, in Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and England. (The countries are in order of their mountaineering importance, whether one measures by height or numbers.)

Sir Hugh Munro started, late last century, when he tabulated the 3000-feet-or-over peaks in Scotland, something that Docharty has now continued. It is still a feat, which few have achieved, to climb all the 276 “Munros” in Scotland. To climb all the British “Docharties,” which Docharty’s listed 2500-footers may well come to be termed, would be a far greater feat, though an attractive one to undertake.

Let no one despise the British mountains because they are “small” from a height above sea level point of view. It is unlikely that any mountaineer would, because every range has something special of its own, and mountain comparisons are generally inadequate. British mountaineering, however, derives much of its interest from the combination of a temperate climate with the northerly latitudes in which Britain lies.

The Gulf Stream may prevent Britain from being an icebound land like Greenland, but, when one climbs up 2000 feet or more in Britain, one moves right into a sub-arctic region. Take a look at the equivalent latitude in North America or Siberia, to see why this is true. In summer one can enjoy wonderful dry and warm rock-climbing, but in a flash the weather can change, and at 2000 feet snow can fall at any time of year. In winter and spring especially, real mountaineering alertness is essential on any British hill above that elevation. In these seasons a seemingly mild day can quickly change to the white hell of an arctic blizzard.

Docharty is a true mountaineer and mountain lover. If Fate has led him through a miraculous escape from being a complete cripple to accept limits to his mountaineering capacities, not only do his limitations exceed the physical aspirations of many men of his age, but they have led him to an appreciation, examination, and painstaking tabulation of interesting hills in the British Isles which might otherwise have missed the notice of many. He has thereby made a great contribution to mountaineering.

His book is not only a stimulus to further exploration of British mountains, it is a guide that any mountaineer from any country who finds himself in Britain, would highly value. Thousands of people may in consequence enjoy healthful pleasure they might otherwise have missed. It is to be hoped that many, Americans especially, may with the aid of Docharty’s lists, find and learn to love the Britain that lies above 2000 feet.

Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton