Climbing Munros

200 out of the Top 500 Summits are Munros (82 Munros do not have drops of 500ft so do not qualify as Top 500 Summits).

The Munros were named after Sir Hugh Munro who first listed the Scottish mountains over 3,000ft. Sir Hugh Munro did not complete the Munros, not climbing the Inaccessible Pinnacle or Carn Cloich-mhuilinn, a Munro (later deleted) near his home, before his death in 1919. However, over 6,000 people are now recorded by the Scottish Mountaineering Club as having completed them and this list includes myself and my two brothers, Alistair and Jonathan. Munros were an important part of our lives for about twenty years so I have recorded my thoughts on those days below.

This article can also be found on the recent Munro Society newsletter (2019).

3 Siblings completing the Munros on Ben More, Mull
3 Siblings completing the Munros on Ben More, Mull

‘I have never been sure which was my first Munro. The year was 1971, I was 15, and we were taken from Sedbergh to a school CCF camp at Cultybraggan, near Comrie. The camp lasted a week and the highlight was a two day trip over Stuc a’ Chroin (perhaps!) and Ben Vorlich.  On day one we probably traversed the south east ridge of Stuc a’ Chroin, then camped in the bealach below, but I can’t remember.  So, many years later, I climbed Stuc a’ Chroin again on a cold, crisp February day, just to be sure!

Until my early twenties I didn’t know what a Munro was, but the Scottish mountains offered excitement and a greater challenge than the more local Lake District Fells. So in the 1970s we arranged a number of trips by train,  bike and bus targeted at specific mountains like Sgurr nan Gillean (three attempts to reach the summit), An Teallach, Liathach, Ben Nevis and other household names.

Sgurr nan Gillean from near Sligachan
Sgurr nan Gillean from near Sligachan

By 1981 I had read Hamish Brown’s book ‘A Mountain Walk’ and longed to visit many of the places where he walked and camped during his journey. Therefore, I set myself the goal of climbing all the Munros,  which seemed a distant dream at the time. The SMC Guide to the Munros, published in 1985, demonstrated that the Munros could be completed by someone living in England with two or three long weekends to devote to the task annually. I set myself a target of ten Munros per year which was achievable.

They were happy times; me, my two brothers, Alistair and Jonathan, and Jonathan Pyman, who also completed them, used to look forward to Munro weekends, sometimes on our own, sometimes  together. Memories include, the round of Coire Lagan in unbroken sunshine, gentle snow falling  in June on the Fisherfield ‘big 6’, and a wet descent at 11pm from Cairn Toul to Garbh Choire Refuge. In the pub afterwards we would pore over the SMC Guide, by that time moth eaten with pages sticking together. Occasionally locals would come over and say ‘How many have you done, son?’ They always claimed to have done far more than we had

A’ Mhaighdean , Fisherfield big 6, (Heather Thomas-Smith)
A’ Mhaighdean , Fisherfield big 6, (Heather Thomas-Smith)

The completion of the Munros is tough, the distances are long, the weather can be appalling and the underfoot terrain terrible. This all adds to the tremendous satisfaction of completing a challenge that few others manage, well maybe not so few now that there are over 6,000 Munro compleaters listed! However, they say you never regret the things you do and I will certainly not regret climbing the Munros.’