I’ve caught the Munro bug

fiona-poles1

Without realising it I have walked more than half of Scotland’s 282 Munros. Now the mission is on…

The Munros started as a hobby – and a way to see my partner G on a regular basis. When we met he had fewer than 100 of the 282 mountains at least 3,000ft high left to walk to compleat* his first round.

Bagging a round – or more – of the Munros is a growing passion of many walkers and G had caught the bug only a year before we got together.

Until that point I had hiked a few of Scotland’s loftier mountains but with no goal of walking more, or indeed a full round. I simply walked the mountains because it was an, occasionally, enjoyable thing to do.

Hiking Munros with G opened my eyes to the challenges and unique experiences of walking these numerous and often fabulous peaks. On these weekend outings we would plan where to go according to the weather, our time frame and how energetic we were feeling.

The 282 Munros are geographically spread from the most southerly, Ben Lomond, on the banks of Loch Lomond, to the most northerly, Ben Hope, in Sutherland. The most westerly Munro is on the Isle of Skye, Sgurr na Banachdich, while the furthest east is Mount Keen in the Grampians.

During our Munro bagging outings we travelled to places I might never have considered going, experienced weather conditions that ranged from fantastic to truly awful and took in views that often left me without words.

We walked together, or with friends, and met many other Munro baggers along the way who had great stories to tell.

I greatly enjoyed most of the summit hikes although I still have not fully overcome my fear of  heights. I have become a good hill walking navigator and I am happy to walk solo if no one else is available.

Yet I still did not count how many Munros I’d walked or even keep a note of the summits. I simply walked for the fun of it and so that I would see G on more weekends than not.

G completed one very wet October day in 2011 on Ben Chonzie, Perthshire. He was delighted with his accomplishment but reckoned he would stop at that.

fionamunro1Meantime, I still had no intention of totting up my “bags”.

Then, this year, we decided to train for the Artemis Great Kindrochit Quadrathlon . (See my race report.) We needed to become mountain walking fit because part of the quadrathlon included a hike over no less than seven Munros.

As we walked multiple Munros, including the spectacular South Glen Shiel Ridge and the Ben Lawers six, I began to wonder just how many Munros I had actually walked. I was sure it must be more than 100 – and perhaps even 140.

G wondered if I had hiked 141, which would put me at the half way mark.

And then it happened. I thought: “If I have bagged more than 50 per cent of these mighty mountains then, one day, I might finish them.”

On a quiet evening G and I sat down to tally up my Munro summits. It took a while and a lot of staring at a map. Finally we came to 142. I couldn’t believe it.

Over the next few weekends, thanks to great weather, I enthusiastically bagged another four.

Currently, my total stands at 146 – and now I would like to compleat. (Amazingly, G has a new second round tally of 104 Munros.)

However, my biggest concern is the exposed peaks of the Munros on the Cuillin Ridge on Skye. This summer, if the weather is suitable, G is determined to guide me on the scariest of them all, the In Pinn (Inaccessible Pinnacle and, officially, Sgùrr Dearg).

I will be writing progress reports in the coming months – and possibly years – but now I have a goal I might well surprise myself (and G).

And so it seems I have caught the Munro bagging bug, like so many other walkers.

The rise of Munro bagging

Just to explain, a Munro is one of a collection of mountains that were first identified by Sir Hugh T Munro. In 1891, he set out to make the first survey of all the country’s mountains with summits of more than 3,000 feet. In his Munro Tables he listed 236 individual peaks.

fionamunro2Modern surveying techniques have led to many official revisions of this Munros list and currently there are 282.

A full round of the Munros is enough of a challenge for most people. Some Munro baggers go full throttle to finish their first round in one year or two years, although, on average, it takes walkers around eight years to compleat a round.

According to the records held by the Scottish Mountaineering Club, 5,541 people have bagged a round of Munros. More than 100 walkers have gone on to complete a second circuit, while a few dozen more have completed three.

One incredible Munro bagger, Steve Fallon, has walked 15 rounds and holds the world record for walking the most Munro rounds.

The youngest compleatists are twins Cliona and Nuala McCheyne, who were aged just 10, when they they climbed the last Munro of their first round, Sgurr Choinnich Mor.

The youngest compleatist to have done the round without the presence of a parent or a guardian is thought to be Andy Nisbet, who finished his round in 1972 aged 18 years and 1 month.

The first woman to compleat a continuous round was Kathy Murgatroyd in 1982. In September 2005, Lorraine McCall became the first woman to do a non-stop “self-propelled” and unsupported round. Lorraine is about to finish her continuous round of the Corbetts.

The SMC report that Munro rounds, as well as Corbett rounds, are being finished in ever greater numbers as the years go by.

How to start the Munros

There are some very tough and challenging Munros, but there are a few easier options. Munros that start from a highish altitude, such as the Cairnwell in Angus, or those that have an easy to follow path to the top, including Schiehallion and Ben Lomond, are suitable for walkers with less experience.

It is important to note, however, that even an “easier” Munro has its hazards in poor weather – and in Scotland a fine day can very quickly turn to a poor weather day. Wherever you are walking you should be able to navigate by map and compass and always tell someone where you plan to go.



10 easier Munros for starters

The Cairnwell and Carn Aosda

Starting at high-level Glenshee Ski Centre these two Munros can be walked in just two hours and over a distance of only 3 miles (5km). The total ascent is 1400ft (430m).

Driesh and Mayar

Two more in Angus that offer fairly well-laid paths and great views on a fairly short outing. The total hike is eight miles and an ascent of 2,7000ft.

Schiehallion

Schiehallion in Perthshire offers an easily navigable trail almost to the top. The rocky summit requires some care and attention, especially in poor weather, so make sure you know how to find the summit and return to the path. The total walk is 5.5 miles and 2,500ft of ascent.

Mount Keen

This Munro, located south of Ballater, is a fairly easy day out with 2,250ft of ascent over 10 miles.

Ben Lomond

The most southerly of the Munros, Ben Lomond is a popular walk. A seven-mile hike to the summit and back includes 3,200ft of ascent.

Beinn Ime and Beinn Narnain

Located in the Arrochar Alp on the western side of Loch Lomond, Beinn Ime is an easy-ish ascent that is mostly on well-laid trail. The route becomes a little sketchier as you approach the summit but the number of walking boots that have passed this way make it difficult to lose your way. Why not add in a second Munro Beinn Narnain from a high bealach? Ime and Narnain total around seven miles of walking and 4,300ft of ascent.

Ben Chonzie

G’s final Munro was chosen because it is easy enough for friends to walk. It is traditional for friends and family to join a bagger on his final Munro. The 7.5 mile walk in Perthshire has an ascent of 2450ft.

* Compleat is the preferred spelling when referring to climbing all the Munros.



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