What makes a mountain a mountain?

(Work in progress)

Like many hill people I like to tick off lists; The Nuttalls, The Wainwrights etc.
Quite often these tops are little more than hills which are luckily over 2000ft and have no other redeeming features yet are listed in books that declare them to be “mountains”.
But if altitude does not define a mountain, what does?

“A mountain is a large landform that stretches above the surrounding land in a limited area”, claims Wikipedia. No mention of height. Wainwright, as usual, had a sensible approach… “The difference between a hill and a mountain depends on appearance, not on altitude (whatever learned authorities may say to the contrary) and is thus arbitary and a matter of personal opinion. Grass predominates on a hill, rock on a mountain. A hill is smooth, a mountain rough. Roughness and ruggedness are the necessary attributes …”

So, how do we categorise Moel Famau, the highest peak in the Clwydian range, standing at 1818ft, or 554m? Wikipedia claims it is a hill, but I personally class it a mountain, and a fine one at that. In this blog I will try to support that justification.

The event that sparked this debate in my mind was a run I did in January 2014, in which I approached Moel Famau from the West, after a circumnavigation of much the mountain’s mass. The popular approach is from Bwlch Penbarras, a generally easy walk with a short steep section to reach the summit. With just 600ft of ascent this does not really classify as an ascent.

More demanding are the routes from Loggerheads Country Park, or from Cilcain, both starting at roughly 200m, and having long and steep final sections. Both have their merits and I am happy on either route, though the direct descent to Loggerheads, due East from the summit, becomes a challenge in poor weather.

Almost unnoticed on the 1:25k map amongst the myriad of footpaths and national trails is the path coming in from the Nant-y-Ne cwm due west from the summit. A closer look at the map reveals that this side is very much steeper than any of the others. I decided to give this route a try.





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