scotland munro’s mountain hiking notes
Around the world the highest mountains have been climbed, walked and measured and lists produced for various purposes. Often such lists provide a challenge for the more adventurous to climb all of the mountains on any particular list. In the UK the highest mountains are those over 3000 feet (914 metres). England has 4 such mountains (all in the Lake District), Wales has 15 (all in Snowdonia) and Scotland 284 (in the Highlands north of Glasgow and Edinburgh and on the islands of Mull and Skye). It should be obvious from these numbers that England and Wales can each be completed in a weekend. Scotland on the other hand presents an extended challenge, usually taking years to complete.
Dave Butcher and his wife Jan have always walked the hills and this increased considerably when they moved to the north of England when his job with Ilford Photo was relocated to Cheshire, 15 miles southwest of Manchester. The big peaks in the Lake District and Snowdonia became just a couple of hours away. The text and table below is a summary of Dave Butchers mountain hiking diary / log for the Munro’s of Scotland.
“As we became more familiar with these areas we looked further afield and the Scottish Highlands beckoned. Before our first real hill walking foray we had been to Scotland once together and one other time for me (on the Pennine Way, a walk from Edale in the English Peak District to Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish borders) so we had an idea as to how beautiful the mountains were.”
We chose Torridon for our first trip mainly because the local bookshop sold the OS 1:25000 map of the area and it sounded spectacular. It was amazing and still remains one our favourite areas in Scotland. It is near the west coast, with Loch Torridon being a sea loch, and has lots of streams, with mountains soaring up above the glens one behind another, with the slopes covered in white quartz which makes them look snow covered all the time, even in summer. Our first Munro was Beinn Alligin (the Jewel of Torridon as it is known) on 10th June 1984. We loved it and after that spent time every year in the Highlands walking the mountains.
It was not long before we heard about the Munro’s, I bought a copy of Munro’s Tables, the bible for all Munroists – the definitive list of every Munro (the list is maintained by the Scottish Mountaineering Council, SMC) and this steered us towards the 3000 foot high mountains and planning quite long days, backpacks and even a few ski mountaineering trips.
We quickly became Munroists, keenly seeking out the next challenge from new mountains and new areas. It took us almost 12 years to complete the ascent of all 284 unaided (yes we even walked up underneath the Aonach Mor ski lifts carrying our skis so that we could climb Aonach Mor and then ski down). Our last Munro was Ben More on the Isle of Mull which we did in gales, rain and low cloud on 1st June 1996 and became Compleatists 1569 (Jan) and 1570 (Dave).
Friday night would often find us doing a full day’s work and then driving up to the Highlands so that we were well placed for a weekend of walking the Munro’s. We quickly found a great bed and breakfast (Breadalbane House) in the village of Killin that was easy to reach in 5 hours from the Ilford factory in Cheshire and this became our staging post for trips further north and our base for the Southern Highlands. Danni Grant, the landlady, looked after us like we were part of the family.
We learnt the skills needed to venture onto the hills in winter (on a Glenmore Lodge course in the Cairngorms in 1986 and with Alan Adshead, a friend from Ilford who sadly died in a climbing accident) with ice axes and crampons and I became experienced in the use of maps and compass for navigation, even in atrocious weather conditions. In total we climbed about 20% (one in five) in winter conditions (reasonable snow cover) and the rest spread throughout the months of the year.
A summary from our Munro log is shown below to give you an idea of the commitment needed to complete all of the Munro’s. We finished all 277 Munro’s in 1996 but then the Scottish Mountaineering Council, in their infinite wisdom, reclassified several to increase the total to 284 and there were 5 new Munro’s for us as a result so we returned to complete them by 2001.
It would take too long to add notes from all the trips we made to Scotland but the UK photo gallery on this website has dozens of images from, and of, the Munro’s. To find them go to the UK Landscapes Gallery and scroll down to Scotland or type a mountain name into the search box.
I hope you enjoy browsing through them and if you are interested in a fine art black and white print of a specific Munro not displayed in the UK Landscape Gallery then please ask. I have an extensive library of images taken on our Munro trips but just a few are displayed here.