Category Archives: Beginners

10 Things I Love about Munro Bagging

1) Getting out in the fresh air

There is nothing better than being outdoors. It is proven to help with your mental health, keeps you healthy and helps you gain perspective on life’s challenges. Especially now with the various lock downs and travel restrictions, getting out into the fresh air is ever more important. Even if it is not to climb a hill.

2) List Ticking

Lets be honest, without a list, is it really Munro Bagging? I love the feeling of accomplishment that you get after a long hill day to come home and update your log. I always do this and then start planning the next one! Check out my post on how to log your Munros.

3) The Views

Having never climbed in the high mountains, I don’t have much to compare to, but I think the views from the high Scottish tops rival anywhere in the world. They are my favourite place to just exist, no phone, no email, just me, the top and the breeze – perfect. My day in the Mamores was one such day.

4) The Challenge

Climbing over a vertical kilometre for most of the Munros is challenging. There are no two ways about it, whether its your fitness, the terrain or the weather, no Munro climb is without its challenges. Overcoming these challenges throughout the day fills me with an overwhelmingly positive outlook and sense of achievement.

5) Travel

Bagging the Munros includes travelling to far flung places and parts of Scotland. These are places I doubt I would normally visit. I always try and put a little into the local economy when I am there, so its good for the locals too! Scotland is an amazing place, and Munro Bagging gives me the opportunity to explore a bit more of it.

6) It’s a little bit crazy

When you tell the guys in the office or your friends that you spent your weekend conquering a 3,000 ft mountain, you tend to get a few strange looks. Whilst most people will have walked in the countryside, some may have even climbed a Munro or two, not a huge number of people actively seek out hills in all weathers to tick them off a list. I can see why sometimes Munro Baggers are labelled as crazy…

7) Trying New Things

Similar to the travel point above, Munro Bagging has given me opportunities to do things that I otherwise would not have done. I’ve scrambled in the hills and ridges above Glencoe, I’ve camped in the Hidden Valley and I’ve learnt a wide variety of skills that I would not have had a need for without bagging Munros.

8) Self-reliance

If there is one thing that Munro Bagging has taught me, it is that it pays to be self reliant. Being responsible for your own equipment, the planning, your nutrition, navigation, clothing choices, the list goes on and on. As you become more comfortable in the hills and wild places, you come to realise that whatever the day throws at you, generally, are equipped with the skills, knowledge and equipment to deal with any eventuality. Although over-confidence can sometimes come and bite you on the ass…

9) Equipment

I think if all Munro Baggers are honest with themselves, all of us are addicted to our equipment. Just a little bit. The boots, the rucksacks, the jackets, if so inclined, you could spend an awful lot of money on outdoor equipment. Who’s to say that’s not money well spent?

10) Fitness

There is no argument that walking in the outdoors and specifically climbing Munros helps keep you fit (granted if you then go home and tan 12 beers and smoke a 20 packet of cigarettes, I can’t vouch for your fitness). But for those of us who want it, Munro Bagging can be the central part of a fitness regime that will keep you trim and healthy well into your life. In my opinion there is no way better to keep fit than climbing a hill or two regularly.

Best Hills for Beginners – Beginners Series, Part 3

The next part of the Beginners Series, is about selecting the right walk for your introduction to hiking. There are so many variables, so many hills and so many experiences to choose from. I touched a little bit on choosing the right hill and the right route for your skills in an earlier post, which you should definitely check out if you haven’t done so already.

In this post, I am going to look at some of the best hills for beginners to tackle. However, my earlier advice on doing your own research and deciding if the hill and route is right for you still stands. Similarly, whilst I can recommend these hills, a lot will depend on the day, the weather and the decisions you make on the day – don’t blame me if these hills are above your skill level!

All Scottish hills can have a sting in their tail, no matter their height or geography, so please always take a map, do your preparation, carry the appropriate kit and be sensible out on the hill. And remember, take nothing but photographs and leave nothing but footprints.

Kilsyth Hills – Tomtain and Garrel Hill – 453m and 459m

Tomtain on the left, Garrel Hill on the right

These two hills are a great walk for the beginner – two hills in one walk! My report of this walk can be found here. These hills are easily accessible as they are just to the north of Kilsyth and Cumbernauld, with good links to the M80 and M9. After parking up in a great view point, the walk has boggy bits, steep bits and the views are incredible.

For the beginner, this walk gives you a flavour of what Scottish Hill walking can be all in microcosm. And if there was ever a reason to fall in love with hiking in the Scottish mountains, the views here alone are good reason.

Arthurs Seat – Edinburgh – 251m

When you talk about accessibility, there is nowhere else on earth (as far as I am aware) that has an extinct volcano in the middle of the capital city! Having walked this hill many times, I can say that whilst there is not the remoteness factor that you get from some of the larger hills on this list, Arthurs Seat more than makes up for it with its unique character and location.

The views north in Fife and south into the Pentlands are excellent, as well as along the Firth of Forth. The best thing about this hill – in my humble opinion – is that you can climb it in an hour or so from a variety of start points, and grab a coffee on the way back into town. Where else can you do that? Perfect for hill walking beginners.

Dumyat – 451m

Dumyat has a place close to my heart. Located just off campus at the University of Stirling, where I did my degree, I spent many an afternoon exploring its slopes. Some of these can be quite steep, but if you start from the bottom of the well trodden path, the hill is quite friendly all told. The views into the heart of the Ochills and Ben Cleuch are brilliant, and looking south/east/west from the prominent view point is one of the best in Scotland.

A great hill for a beginner, a couple of hours up and down (or quicker depending on your route) is a great way to spend an afternoon.

Sclad Law – 579m

Credit: getlostmountaineering.co.uk

I walked this hill in conjunction with 9 others in the Pentlands – it was an epic day out, and a whole heap of fun. Beginners will like the broadness of the ridge leading to Scald Law, as well as the views across the Pentlands and its reservoirs. The going is not arduous, but as with all the hills on this list, its always good to be prepared for anything when tackling a walk in Scotland.

Ben Ledi – 879m

Ben Ledi is located near Callendar, making it very accessible to the majority of people living in the Central Belt. The usual route takes you from the carpark up a relatively well trodden path, rising through various levels of forest and trees to pop onto the ridge. A short walk over several false summits to the true summit and the memorial cross.

I’ve included it here as the path is quite easy to follow (when not covered in snow) and the terrain is really not too bad underfoot. It is quite high, and there is a lot of climbing to do (over 750m) for a hill that is not a Munro. Be prepared for some rough weather due to its altitude and for some reason every time I have been up there, its been super windy!

Munro Bagging Log Book – Update

In my recent post on the 7 Best Ways to Track Your Munro Bagging, I reviewed this book using a friends copy and asking their opinion on using it. I now have my own copy and thought it would be a good idea to add my own thoughts on this book and using it myself. I am going to review the book focussing on each constituent part, in order so that I can be sure not to leave anything out.

Munro Bagging Log Book – Foreward

The first page in the book is dedicated to a sort of foreward. It covers some basic safety information and a short guide to what Munros are and what Munro Bagging is. I found it quite basic, in that there is a plethora of information that could have been included and I do think that it has been ‘dumbed down’ a bit. Maybe I am a bit more knowledgeable about the Munros than the target audience for the book, but I though this first section could have more in it, especially if people get the book that are new to Munro Bagging. I want people to be excited by the idea of being out in Scotland’s hills and wild places, this would have been a great place to start that relationship. I would have liked to have seen more.

Munro Bagging Log Book – Munro Finder

This section is again one page long and it almost serves as a contents page for the book. Each Munro is listed by height as per the main section of the book, with the relevant page number attached. As a reference piece I can see why it is included, however I question whether the person looking up a Munro (usually by name or location) would automatically know its height?

Having the Munros listed like this does make sense to a point though. After a hill day, you want to log your achievement in your log book, you can easily find the Munro you have climbed, by height as you will have been looking at it on your map all day, find the relevant page and complete the information in there.

However, if you were thinking that this could be used as a planning tool, this is not what this book is for. It is very much a climb a hill, tick it off type of book, which absolutely has its place in the Munro Bagging community. I talk a little about planning for a hill day in my earlier post How to Start Hillwalking – Before you go which looks at some of the key planning tools I use when planning a day in the hills.

Overall, this section is useful to those completing the log book, but not much more than that.

Munro Bagging Log Book – The Munros

Now we come to the main part of the book. 282 pages of Munro listing good-ness. The Munro’s are listed in height order, starting with Ben Vane at 915m all the way through to Ben Nevis at 1345m. Each page features the name and altitude of each hill, space to enter the start, summit and finish times for each hill notes on who you walked with, ascent and descent times and a section for your walk notes. I imagine that I would but things like the going under foot, any key happenings from the walk and other bits and pieces in here.

There is also a section for the weather on the day, and a grading section for difficulty, views and enjoyment. Altogether is has space for all the basics that you need to log for your hill day. Its a great little tool. I did find that sometimes there isn’t a huge amount of space in the notes section, mainly due to the one page constraint for each hill, but I did find that it was sometimes a bit of a squeeze.

Also, we all know that Scotlands hills are beautiful places – could the authors have found some space in the book for some imagery showing the Munros at their best. I am sure that this was an editorial decision to not have that and keep the book really clean and simple, however, in my opinion, it would have been nice to have some pictures of some of the key summits to whet the appetite.

One cool little thing that I quite like, is that there is a tick icon in the top corner of each page for you to tick when the hill is climbed. I know its not a big thing, but its a nice touch that will allow me to quickly see, at a glance, if the hill has been climbed or not.

Munro Bagging Log Book – Notes and Emergency Numbers

I have had a bit of a think about this section and I cannot figure out the reason for it. Why would you need a list of emergency contact numbers in your log book. Perhaps the authors were envisaging this book being in a car or a hikers pack on a hill day? For me it is too large to fulfil this function, which makes this section redundant in my opinion. I can’t quite figure it out.

Munro Bagging Log Book – Munro Finder A to Z

This section fulfils the need I outlined above, for a list of the Munros ordered by height or alphabetically. It will allow those people that don’t have the recall to remember specific heights to find the appropriate page for their hill. In my opinion, this would have been better in place of the previous Munro Finder section at the beginning of the book to assist people in finding the correct hill.

Although, the fact that it is there does help somewhat, as even though it is in the back of the book, the resource is still available to those that need it.

Munro Bagging Log Book – Conclusions

Overall as a simple way of logging your hill climbing and Munro Bagging exploits, this book is great. It gives you everything you need to track a complete round of the Munros. For those readers looking for something a little more, perhaps to assist in planning or to serve as a fully fledged walk diary, this book is not it.

To be fair to the book, it does not claim to be so. It is designed to be a logbook and nothing more. I personally feel it fulfils that brief admirably.

You can buy your copy of the Munro Bagging Log Book and Journal by clicking the link.

How to Pack a Rucksack – Beginners Series, Part 2

How to start Hillwalking – Beginners Series

Ok so if you are coming here directly, you need to go back and read my previous post on the things to consider when planning a hill day. You can click here to access that post. There we talked about the planning that goes into a hill day to ensure everyone in your group is as safe and enjoys the day as much as possible.


In this post, we will look at one of those points raised previously, how to pack a rucksack. It is important to pack your equipment, clothing and food for your hill day appropriately, to not only avoid potential injury, but also make it easy to find and grab the item you need when you need it. Having one side heavier than the other or the weight too high/low on your back is a quick way to hurt yourself. You could be carrying the bag for 12 hours+, so it’s worth getting it right. There is also nothing worse than beautifully packing a balanced bag, and then dragging everything out of it when you realise your waterproof jacket is at the bottom (trust me!).

A poorly packed rucksack starts with the rucksack itself. It’s about selecting the right bag for the day you anticipate. I have a range of packs which I choose from depending on what I am doing. I have three main packs that I use relatively regularly. First off, I have an old military patrol pack that I picked up when I was at university. It’s a rough, tough pack that has an internal capacity of 30 litres. The main body of the pack is one piece with 2 zipped pockets in the lid. There are also two zipped side pouches offering easier access to those urgently needed items (reference waterproof jacket above…). I use this pack when I am out for anything from an hour to about 6 hours, usually with the dog and I know the conditions mean I am going to get muddy. It’s great for slinging about and since the design hasn’t changed much from the 1980’s, it really is tried and tested. I love it.

30L Patrol Pack
30L Patrol Pack

It does have its downsides though. It’s not the most comfortable pack I own, and the low number of pockets offers little by way of flexibility in packing. You can pick up a similar pack here: link
The second bag that I use is a lighter weight day pack. It has an internal and external lid pocket, 2 side zipped pockets (not pouches like the patrol pack) drinks bottle holders, an internal drinks bladder sleeve, ice axe loops and padded straps. It’s a 25L pack. I’ve used this pack extensively on low and high level day walks in all weathers and seasons.

25L Day Pack
25L Day Pack

Things I like about this pack are it’s size, it’s perfect for me for anything up to a full day and I know I can carry it for that long, fully packed. I also like it’s fit, the padded straps and waist belt.
It does have its short comings too though, it is only 25L which in the dead of winter can be a squeeze. I also find that the lid zips have a tendency to lean meaning that whatever I put in the outer lid pocket needs to be separately waterproofed. You can buy a similar pack to mine here: link


Lastly, my largest pack. I have had this for years. It’s older than my oldest child and we have had many an adventure together. It’s a 55+5L pack, which enables me to do multi day or overnight trips. It’s set up quite similarly to the 25L pack, but bigger (obviously) and has the added separation of a 5L compartment at the bottom. I couldn’t find a good picture of this pack, so here’s one of me wearing it on the top of Ben Lawers:

Top of Ben Lawers
Top of Ben Lawers

That was a good day out that. Here is a link to where you can purchase a similar pack: link


Anyway, select the right type and size of bag for your planned trip. that way you won’t end up taking too much equipment or run out of space leaving vital items behind. Once you have done that, you can pack the relevant equipment into it. As a minimum I will always carry the following. In the depths of winter and the height of summer:
Map

Compass

Water bottles

Food

Waterproof Jacket

Fleece – here is a link to a review of the one that I use most regularly

Spare Socks

First Aid Kit

Head Torch (here is a link to my new Head Torch Review)

Spare batteries for Headtorch

Phone, Keys, Wallet, Cash (All bundled as one)

Woolly Hat

Thin gloves


I will then add specific items depending on my planned route, likely weather, terrain/conditions underfoot etc. This is things like gaitors, over trousers, ice axe, goggles, ski gloves etc. The list could potentially be endless.


There are thousands of resources online as to how you then go about putting the chosen equipment into the rucksack. Here are some of my favourites.


Winfields Outdoors

Much Better Adventures

The British Mountaineering Council


Once you have selected the bag, the right kit and packed the kit into the bag, you’re ready to rock. In the next in this series, I will be looking specifically at the kit I take with me on my mountain days and why I think you should consider them too. As always, comment below on the things you think I should have in my bag or missed from the article.

Thanks

Dave

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How to Start Hillwalking – Beginners Series, Part 1

How to start Hillwalking – Beginners Series

So you’re here to find out about hiking in Scotland from someone who’s had a fair few hill days, some big, some small. You’ve checked out a few walk reports, you’ve seen photos of the beautiful scenery that Scotland has to offer and you’re thinking about giving it a go. You’ve searched for “hillwalking for beginners” and ended up here. So, where do you begin? Here are my top tips for things to do before setting off into the wilderness on your first hill walk.


1) Do your research

For a hill fanatic like me, this isn’t as much of a chore as it sounds. As you grow to love the hills and wild places in Scotland, you’ll start looking forward to this part of the trip and even plan multiple trips all in advance! 

Research is key to any successful hill day, it allows you to consider all the variables from the comfort of home, so when you’re making decisions on the hill, you‘re prepared with the knowledge beforehand. 

First off, you need to consider and select which hill you are aiming to bag. You’ll need to think about the distance it is from home and your travel times, safe parking spaces if travelling by car, the abilities of those in your group and the sort of walk you are looking for. Do you want a close by afternoon in some low level hills, or are you looking for a monster day encompassing multiple high level summits? Does your group have the skills to tackle airy ridge walks or are they more suited to a path or track all the way to the top? 

Once you’ve selected your hill, the next thing you want to do is look at your route. Route selection is maybe the most important key to an enjoyable walk. You can look at walk reports from other walkers (like me!) or from another site such as walkhighlands.co.uk. There are literally thousands or reports on there for all manner of hills and walks to choose from. I’ve spent many an afternoon lost in others reports envisioning walking in their footsteps. They also have a handy grading system to help you select the right route for your skill level. 

Make sure you also check your maps to identify your chosen route and that the terrain and relief is something that you can handle. Map reading and the ability to relate what is on the paper to the ground is a key skill that every hill walker should have and practice regularly. There is no point packing a map and compass if you don’t know how to use them. You can get a great starter compass here.

Once you’ve selected your hill and your route, make sure you check the weather. Weather in Scotland is notoriously fickle, and even a weather forecast from the Mountain Weather Information Service can sometimes be inaccurate. Saying that, these guys are the best in the business as far as I am concerned and my go to weather reports for all my walks. I’ve explored weather forecasts in another post for you to look at.

With regards to the weather, it is the biggest unpredictable factor in your day. If you select the right hill and consider the time it will take to cross the terrain, the only thing stopping you are the conditions in which you’re walking. Even the simplest route can be turned into a nightmare with the Scottish weather. I’ve experienced snow in August, whiteouts, gales, rain travelling uphill, freezing fog and temperature inversions. Just to mention a few of the less normal conditions that I have faced. Knowing what the weather is likely to do in advance allows you to pack the right kit and prepare yourself mentally for what you are letting yourself in for!

2) Pack your kit in advance

Once you have done your research, you can begin to pack your kit. I plan to do several posts about bags, packing and equipment, so I will cover the detail there. However, you’ll need to consider things like your clothing, how much water you will want to carry, food, first aid, navigation tools and any special equipment you might need for example. 

If you can get the main parts of your bag packed the night before you depart, it takes away a lot of the difficulties on your hill day. In my experience, making decisions about what clothing is most appropriate at 4am when you get up is not the right time to be making that call. You will inevitably forget a critical item that you will be desperate for later in the day. 

3) Plan your travel to and from the hill

Now you are pretty much ready to go, how are you going to get there? Many of the hills in Scotland are quite remote and for many the easiest way to get to the foot of the hill is going to be by car. Try and use public transport wherever possible to reduce the number of vehicles going to these remote places, but sometimes a car is the best way. Plan your route, know where you are going to park and how best to get to that point. How will you recognise that point in the dark? Is your walk a loop back to the start or do you need to consider another method of transport back to your car once you are off the hill? 

You will also figure out what time you will need to leave. My preference is to leave and walk early, so that if anything goes amiss during the day, I am not chasing the light towards the end of the day when I am tired and prone to making mistakes. That normally means an early start, which suits me anyway. 

You should also be able to make a rough guess at what time you’ll get back. It is important to leave your time of departure, arrival and return back to the car with someone who is not coming on the walk. Also tell them where you are going, your planned route and what time you will check in with them if you have phone signal. In the case that something goes wrong or you suffer an injury on the hill, you want someone to send the cavalry to come and get you. If no one knows where you are and that you are running late, getting the attention of someone who can help you could be much more difficult. 

Overall, the more you research and plan, the more enjoyable a day you will have. The biggest factor though is the better prepared you are, the safer you and your walking partners will be. 

Thanks for reading, please leave a comment below if you think that there is anything that I have missed, or if this has been helpful for you planning your first hike in Scotland. Let me know how it goes! To read the next part of the Beginners Series, click here for more information on how to pack your rucksack.

Thanks

Dave

  This page contains affiliate links to products. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, at no additional cost to you.