Tuesday 1 January 2019

Munros & Challenges: Looking Forward to 2019

Sgurr nan Gillean, final Munro on my first round in 1981

This year sees two significant events. The first in March is the 100th anniversary of the death of Sir Hugh Munro, compiler of the Tables of Scottish Mountains over 3000' high that are named after him. The second is the 40th anniversary of the TGO Challenge walk across the Highlands. Both the Munros and the Challenge have been entertwined in my life and have special meaning to me.

I started climbing the Munros after reading Hamish Brown's superb Hamish's Mountain Walk, about the first continuous trip over all of them. Inspired by this I set out in 1979 to hike the Munros in a series of long backpacking trips. Then in 1980 the then new magazine The Great Outdoors promoted a new challenge walk, a crossing of the Highlands from coast to coast, devised by the same Hamish Brown. I entered and undertook a route crossing 56 Munros, all of them first ascents. The Challenge and the Munros were now firmly connected in my mind.

Ben Hope, final Munro of my continuous round in 1996

I finished my first round of the Munros in 1981. In 1996 I undertook them again in a continuous walk and added all the subsidiary Tops. Will I complete them all again? Maybe. In fact I suspect I've probably done a third round. I have to confess my records are not up to date.

Camp on my 1996 Munros & Tops walk

I've completed the Challenge fourteen more times since that first one, always including some Munros along the way. Next May I'll be taking part in the fortieth one. I won't be repeating my 1980 route though. That year, for the only time, the Challenge was three weeks long. It's been two ever since. I don't think I could do in two weeks what took me three forty years ago. I am planning a shortened version of that route though. With plenty of Munros.

Camp on the TGO Challenge, 2007

In the meantime my first action of 2019, after toasting the New Year with a glass of Ardbeg whisky, was to fill in my application for membership of The Munro Society. I've been meaning to do this for several years. A hundred years after Munro's death seems an appropriate time to do so.

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