The Humps

The Humps are one of the three major metric Relative Hills Lists of Britain adopted by The Relative Hills Society covering hills with less prominence than the Marilyns.

Since their prominence is lower, we will see that Humps have a wider geographic distribution and may take you to more novel places based on their history or difficulty.

In this introduction, we explain what the Humps are, how they originated, why they appeal and give some suggestions of how to get started in visiting and logging them.

Definition - What is a Hump?

Humps are defined as British hills with more than 100 metres of prominence.

Hill prominence refers to the relative height compared to surrounding hills. This explanation of hill prominence compares Humps which are sometimes abbreviated to P100s with Tumps (P30) and The Marilyns (P150).

The Humps also include Marilyns with a greater prominence, so every Marilyn is also a Hump. Or you could say that the Marilyns are a subset of the Humps with more prominence.

Since Humps are hills with one hundred metres of prominence, they are sometimes written as HuMPs (Hundred and upwards Metre Prominence), but Hump is usually used for simplicity.

The origin and history of Humps

Some 15 years after the publication of Alan Dawson's The Relative Hills of Britain, in 2007 Mark Jackson published a list of the next level down after Marilyns. In ‘More Relative Hills of Britain’ Mark defined and catalogued the Humps. This is available as a free download, updated to 2010 with contributions from many collaborators in the Relative Hills of Britain community.

A similar list of hills with 100m prominence had been published for Scotland by E J Yeaman in the ‘Handbook of the Scottish Hills’, published in 1989. Dr Eric Yeaman states in the introduction that

"For the purposes of this Handbook, a hill is defined as an eminence which has an ascent of 100m all round or, failing that, is at least 5km (walking distance) from any higher point on neighbouring hills."

Note that the 5km requirement is not used to define Humps. Yeaman also introduced the idea of breaking the country down into numerous Topo Sections rather than the Regions used in the SMC's Munro's Tables, which was later extended by Dawson. A quirky feature is that the difficulty of climbs is measured in the number of chocolate bars or megajoules required to get you to the top of the hill.

A further list was researched by Clem Clements for England and Wales along the same lines, now published on the Haroldstreet website. Together with Alan Dawson’s work on the Marilyns, these formed the basis of Mark’s book.

Clem Clements and Jim Bloomer later researched the Irish Humps which can be seen on the Hill Bagging site.

How many Humps are there?

There are almost 3,000 Humps in Britain but, like the Marilyns, ongoing surveying does mean there are occasional changes.

You can check the latest total and those local to you on the Hill Bagging Humps List page which gives a breakdown by countries, counties and Relative Hills sections.

The Haroldstreet Humps pages gives other options for visualising them, cataloguing ascents and GPS waypoints.

The Humps of southern England and Wales visualised on Haroldstreet

There are usually several additions, relocations, renamings and deletions of Humps each year with ongoing surveying by RH Soc members and other enthusiasts. The latest changes to Humps are recorded on the Humps change register.

The challenge of the Humps

The Humps share the benefits that the Tumps offer hill baggers, with their lower prominence compared to Marilyns, giving a wider geographical distribution throughout Great Britain. This appeals since there are more local Humps that can be climbed with less travel than Marilyns.
Their lower prominence means that they are more numerous than Marilyns in any county. Unlike the Tumps, Hill Bagging doesn't currently offer a list of Humps by county, instead it offers Humps by Topo section.

Since, like some Tumps, some Humps were chosen as sites for castles for defending and watching over the local area, they can be more historically interesting places to visit than a bleak moorland hill. For example, Mow Cop is the southernmost outcrop in Cheshire of hard sandstone grit rising 355m above sea level. It's owned by the National Trust who note that the mock tower that was built as a summer house in 1754 by Randle Wilbraham, the local Lord of the Manor was the location for the first Primitive Methodist service in 1807.

The high point of Mow Cop is not actually the Summer House or Trig Point but the 'Old Man of Mow' which is a Very Severe climb which has been ascended by Hump baggers, but not by most National Trust visitors...

Old Man of Mow. 2011 ascent. Photo credit: Rob Woodall.

Numbers of active Hump baggers

As with the Marilyns and Tumps, there is a Hump Hall of Fame. Since there are roughly twice as many Humps compared to Marilyns, the Hall of Fame entry level is set at 1200 whilst the Upper Hall is set at 2000. Currently around 100 hill baggers have claimed membership.

So far, there have been two completers of the Humps: Rob Woodall, of Peterborough, and Alan Whatley, of Derby, who reached the top of the 137m Old Man of Hoy in the Orkney islands on Sunday in July 2018. This was their 2985th, and final, summit of a Hump and they touched the summit cairn at the same time.

Old Man of Hoy ascensionists and RH Soc members: Rick Salter, Rob Woodall, Alan Whatley and Richard Mclellan. Photo credit: Hamlet Mountaineering

Geographical distribution in the UK

Like the Tumps, the Humps are distributed throughout the UK. There are fewer options for viewing where the Humps are located compared to the Tumps. In Hill Bagging the main options are Relative Hills of Britain Marilyn sections and Topo sections. Humps are also catalogued in sections for Ireland on the Hill Bagging site.