Sunday 3 January 2021

Munro Anniversaries this year

On Ben Lomond at the start of my 525-mile, 55 Munro walk to Ben Hope in 1981

This year sees the fortieth anniversary of my first round of the Munros and the twenty-fifth anniversary of my continuous walk over the Munros and Tops. Such a long time with these hills as an important part of my life!

My inspiration for Munro bagging, as with many people, was Hamish Brown’s classic book Hamish’s Mountain Walk, about the first continuous walk over these 3,000-foot Scottish summits. From that superb book, which I’ve read many times, I didn’t just get the desire to climb all the Munros but also a desire to do so on long backpacking trips. I loved climbing hills, I loved long camping walks. What better than to combine them.

I climbed my first Munros in 1977. By the end of 1978 the total was twenty, not many as experience for a long Munros walk. But in 1978 I also walked from Land’s End to John O’Groats and learnt a fair bit about backpacking in the Highlands. The next year I set out on my first long Munros trip, walking 525 miles from Corrour Station on the West Highland Line to Loch Glascarnoch on the A835 Ullapool road. My twisting route took in the Grey Corries, Ben Nevis, and Knoydart and then north to Torridon and the Fannichs. The journey was a joy, and I was hooked on long distance Munro bagging. (There’s a chapter on this walk in my first book, long out of print, The Great Backpacking Adventure). 

Then in 1980 a new walking magazine The Great Outdoors, with which I’ve been associated for as long as I have with the Munros, launched a coast to coast walk across the Highlands. The creation of Hamish Brown, the Ultimate Challenge, as it was then (now the TGO Challenge) immediately appealed. I took part in the first two events in 1980 and 1981, climbing 56 and 36 Munros respectively. 

Ben Hope

That left 55 mainland Munros unclimbed. As these included the southernmost and northernmost Munros, Ben Lomond and Ben Hope, clearly a walk between the two was required. This was another 525-mile trip and another wonderful experience.

On these four long backpacking trips I climbed 239 Munros. Most of the remaining 45 had been climbed on shorter winter trips and while working for Outward Bound Loch Eil, where I led treks through Knoydart and across Skye to Glen Brittle. The final few, all in the Cuillin on Skye, were climbed in August 1981, the final one being Sgurr nan Gillean. 

Sgurr nan Gillean

Fifteen years later I decided I wanted to do a continuous walk over all the Munros, tying together all the previous walks and adding in the Tops, few of which I’d done, for added interest and challenge. That walk from Ben More on Mull to Ben Hope over 517 summits took 118 days and covered 1770 miles. The story is told in my book The Munros and Tops.

Camped on the slopes of Stob Coire Easain on the Munros and Tops walk.

In the quarter of a century since I finished that continuous round I have not tired of the Munros or the Scottish Highlands. There have been many more TGO Challenges, a walk along the Scottish Watershed involving a fair number of Munros, and many shorter trips. Some hills I’ve been up dozens of times, some only a few. I’ve probably done all the Munros at least a third time and maybe a fourth. I need to get my records up to date and find out!

This year will involve more Munros, more walks in the Highlands. Every year does. 


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