I had a week off earlier in July and the wife and I decided to try and take one of the days off to do a bit of Munro bagging. We spent a while going over a few different routes and tried to find the most suitable day trip for us. We settled on a pair of hills to the south of Crianlarich, Cruach Ardrain and Beinn Tulaichean. I’ve climbed hills either side of this pair before, so I was looking forward to seeing those hills from a different perspective. Our initial idea was to attempt these hills from the south from Inverlochlarig, however when we began to pack our kit the previous evening, we found out that the map that we had of that area actually doesn’t cover much of this approach. Back to the drawing board, we decided to keep the same targets, but approach from the north, on the A82 south of Crianlarich. It was a longer walk, but we both felt more comfortable walking a route that we have a map for.
The morning of the ascent was spent wrangling the children to various grandparents and aunties and we were on the road north by about 8am. After a little faffing about, we were parked up in a layby off the A82 and booted up by 9.30. We struck out into the long grass towards a footbridge over the railway and veered right following a rough track through the woodland. After a time, this lead us to an access road that headed uphill towards our target.
We followed the access road, with Max the dog bounding along, taking a left and right turn at the following junctions. We even stopped for a short while for a photo! Eventually, after about 20 minutes or so we came across the walkers cairn, signalling our deviation from the road and the end of the easy terrain. To be honest, the cairn is quite small, we nearly missed it. Following the bent grass path through knee high grass, we toiled our way up the grassy hill and reached the tree line.
The next section will live long in the memory, and unfortunately not for a particularly good reason. I had assumed that with these hills being fairly far south, the amount of foot traffic would have eroded a fairly well worn path through the trees, coming out the other side to start the ascent of Grey Height, which is the first major obstacle on this route at 666m. However, this turned out not to be the case. What followed was about 20 minutes of boggy scrambling through low hanging branches of immature pine trees. The sort of branches that leave scratches on your arms, whilst trying to avoid losing a boot in the bog. It was a nightmare. Even looking back on it now, it wasn’t particularly fun although it was certainly adventurous.
After what felt like an age, we managed to escape the boggy tree line, and were out onto the hill proper. We began the ascent cursing the previous section, but still in decent spirits. These spirits were to be sorely tested from here on. With the temperatures heading north of 20 degrees and the time of year, we were almost immediately assaulted by clouds of midges and flies, which was certainly unpleasant. We had to stop multiple times on this initial climb to apply insect repellent, which we were sweating out due to the heat.
Making decent time on the initial climb (taking into account our midge repellent application breaks) we achieved the first part of the climb, reaching Grey Height and its lochan. Of course, Max thought this was great and jumped straight in for a swim.
We were now able to see ahead to the second challenge of this trip, Meall Dhamh. Sitting at 814m, this is not an insignificant bump in the road to cross. The path became somewhat clearer after this, easing the pressure on our navigation. We duly headed on and upwards starting to scale the hill ahead. As we were nearing the top of Meall Dhamh, we started to get glimpses of the first summit on the trip, Cruach Ardrain.
The path then veered westwards, taking us across the hillside, contouring along at a reasonable height. Note here, that if you are a little bit wobbly with exposure, you could find this a little difficult. Following the path and turning into the slope, it was about a 10 minute slog up to the top of the summit ridge. We met there the path running along the ridge, we turned left here towards the summit.
We quickly reached the false summit and then on to the true summit maybe 100m further along the ridge. This is a great spot, high, airy and with some great views in all directions. I was particularly taken by the view along the ridge to the next summit, Beinn Tulaichean. It really looked like a bump in the main ridge rather than a Munro in its own right, which is nice. I had figured that we would be doing a lot of descending and reclimbing for the second summit, but that didn’t look to be the case.
We didn’t stay long at the summit, the midge cloud descended on us and we made a hasty retreat back to the saddle where we joined the summit path. This is not the lowest point between the two hills, rather a depression in the descent to the true saddle. We pushed on down to the saddle and looked up to the next target – it didn’t seem far or too much higher than where we standing.
Gathering ourselves, we set off once more to climb Beinn Tulaichean, and actually made it to the top in about 20 minutes. We were getting a little tired by this time, so I think we would usually do this climb a bit quicker, but as I say, we were getting a little tired by this point in the walk. Again, the midges descended whilst we were on the summit, meaning this too was a quick pitstop for the obligatory photo and then we retraced our steps, downhill back to the saddle. We had only left the saddle 30 minutes before, and were already back, having bagged another Munro!
We climbed back up to where our path met the ridge path and took the left turn off the ridge. The terrain here is steep and now we were facing the drop straight in front of us. If you’re a bit funny about that sort of thing, beware! Tracking back towards Meall Dhamh, we covered the ground pretty quickly, finishing the contouring part of the route.
Broadly following our route of ascent in reverse, we headed north back towards Crianlarich over Meall Dhamh and then Grey Height all the way to the tree line. We even bog-trotted down the hill back to the access road before using the easier going to relax and reflect on a great day out in the hills, with another two Munros in the bag!
Hands up here, I had so much fun on this walk, that I forgot to take a lot of photos. Throughout the entire walk, I took a grand total of two photos. Apologies that there are not hundreds of beautiful pictures and panoramas of the Scottish countryside to go with this walk report. The weather was also pants, so even if I had, you wouldn’t have seen anything anyway, just a lot of clag.
We set off early from the central belt, Max and I, and headed north up to the small town of Killin, nestled nicely next to the River Dochart, at the western end of Loch Tay. It was quite a pleasant drive, without too much traffic or anything of note to get in the way. Heading along the north shore of the Loch, we eventually reached the junction for out destination, the Ben Lawers National Nature Reserve.
We parked up and paid for the carpark before getting booted up, checking the kit for the last time and setting out roughly westwards onto the well made hill path towards our target for the day. This was to be Max’s first Munro, so I had tried to think of anything that he might need during the walk. I needn’t have worried, he was off like a shot, exploring all of the new smells and plants along the side of the path. He even had time for a quick dip in the river to cool off. He certainly put me to shame, continually coming back to check on me, to make sure I was alright. Similarly, it was also my first Munro in quite a while, so it was not much of a shock to have lost my hill legs and quite a bit of fitness – although it didn’t help my pride much.
After a few hundred meters of relatively flat, is undulating path, the way head got progressively steeper and more consistent. We headed on up into the clouds, which were hanging relatively low at around 700m.
This part of the walk was a bit of a slog, if I am honest. It was hard enough going, the views over Loch Tay were no more and we still had a fair bit of climbing to do. Eventually, the path meandered more northwards as we crested onto the shoulder of the ridge. I imagine that in good weather, this would be a great viewpoint looking westwards along the loch towards Killin, you could probably also see more of the tarmachan ridge from here – I shall have to go back…
We met another couple at this point, with their dogs, it was nice to see some others on the hill, even if we had caught them up. Thinking back , the car park was packed, so I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I had assumed that most people would be heading towards the Ben Lawers massif and the variety of climbing on that side of the nature reserve.
We made short walk of this slope, encountering our first patch of snow, which Max thought was great. He certainly enjoyed watching me struggle up it anyway. We made our way to where the ground slightly flattens off and had a quick breather, before tackling the final steep ascent to the summit. The wind really started to pick up here, gusting quite strongly at times. We hung around for a couple of photos (THE couple of photos) and then headed back down the way we had come back to the car.
Overall, it took us about 2 hours to get back to the car, which is not too bad at all. I will definitely be back to tackle the whole ridge in future, hopefully on a nice day so I can enjoy some of the views. I also still have a couple more of the Munros in this area to complete, so I will be back to Loch Tay before long.
This was the first outing at this height for a few new bits of equipment, you can read the reviews of them here:
The weekend started off with the bad and the ugly in quick succession (an evening on Buckfast – the bad; and the resulting hangover – the ugly) and was followed by the good, a cheeky trip out to Loch Lomond for some exercise on Ben Vane
After a morning of housework (I had to earn my time out…) I drove up to Inveruglas and parked up at the visitor centre. I was out solo today, so I was kitted up and on the track for 12.45. After the first half a mile next to the road, it was time to get the heart pumping and I made mince meat of the tarmaced track up to the bridge. The views opened up pretty quickly. First views A’ Chrois
It was here that I saw a guy on his own that was navigating using his phone. Now I might not be the most experienced hill waker out there, but if anyone can shed some light on how this is possible/if it safe… I would have thought that if you lost your phone signal you’d be pretty stuffed. Give me a map and compass any day.
Broke track and headed through a bog and up onto the ridge. Looking up at what is to come, I found myself thinking, how the hell am I going to get up that. Usually the closer you get, the more obvious the route becomes, but in this case it was pretty hard to spot.
First of the crags
Now, as I was out to log another experience day for my ML, I was working on my pace and foot placement. What a test! The path seemed to get steeper and steeper and when you thought it could not get any steeper it would throw some more at you and even then there were places that you needed to get your hands on the rock and pull yourself up. It was nice to not have to think about anyone else and concentrate on the goal – if I felt comfortable with it I went for it and there was not much I didn’t go for.
Finally, the views started to open up, with views down to loch Sloy and Ben Vorlich on the right, and A’Chrois and Ben Narnain on the left. Loch Sloy and Dam Over my left shoulder
A quick stop for a drink and to get some calories in me – a new one for me, yogurt and fruit/nut mix. A bit strange, but it did the trick.
Onwards and upwards and I was undone by the same thought that gets me every time. “Not far now, its just there.” Its never there. Ever. Not once when I have been out have I got it right. It was my own fault, it quite clearly shows on the map that there are a couple of false summits to go over before the real summit. And with a small scramble off the main path I was there.
Two summit cairns with Ben Lomond between Ben Ime Beinn Dubh and northwards Loch Sloy and Ben Vorlich 3 lochs
After a quick text to the Mrs and some more of the yoghurt mix, I was off back the way I had come. I am not sure about anyone else, but I find it easier to run down the slopes rather than walk. Less painful on the knees too. You should have seen some of the faces of the people that I went past – quite a picture. I made sure I said hi to them all though.
I was back to the tarmac in under an hour and then began the picturesque but slightly slog-ish walk back to the main road and the car. Overall, a great hill for beginners, not too tough, but a good challenge. To take a look at some other routes for beginners, click this link. Last look back…conquered!
I have selected these hills from the ones I have climbed. I don’t think it would be fair of me to recommend hills for beginners that I didn’t have personal experience of. Whilst these might not be the easiest hills in the whole of Scotland, they are the easiest I have climbed and will all provide a fun, challenging day out to those that are tackling some of their first Munro’s.
Anyway, on with the top 10 Munros for Beginners, in my opinion!
This is probably the most walked Munro. Its proximity to Glasgow (only about 30 miles or so) makes it one of the easiest hills to get to quickly. This proximity and the fact that it has a path the whole way up, makes it many people’s first choice to start their bagging round. I walked Ben Lomond with my wife, brother and a couple of friends, we all had various degrees of mountain experience and it really didn’t pose too many issues at all.
We ascended the Ptarmigan ridge route, which I would recommend if you are looking for something that avoids the super-highway that has been eroded into the ‘tourist route’ that comes up from Rowardennan. This is however a guide for beginners, and the route from Rowardennan heading north east and then swinging northwards towards the summit is a great day out, its relatively easy to navigate, especially in good weather, and there are several great pubs on the way home. A perfect place to start.
One of the most famous Scottish hills, having a fantastic conical face when viewed from Loch Rannoch. It is also famous as the birthplace of contour lines – who knew?! When walked from the west, Schiehallion looks like a broad ridge that narrows and steepens as you climb.
The initial going is relatively easy underfoot, and you will make good time following the well trodden path towards the real foot of the mountain. As you move eastwards, perhaps about 2.5km from the summit, things start getting a little more interesting. It will happen so slowly so you might miss it, but you will end up on a fantastic ridge with fantastic views in all directions (if you are lucky with the weather). As you ascend, the ridge becomes narrower and narrower. I wouldn’t say that you are going to be scrambling at any point, but there are significant boulder fields near the top, so be prepared for a change in terrain as you get higher.
I walked Schiehallion with a friend a few years ago in autumn and the air was lovely and crisp. We were not lucky with views, but it was a great walk. I do remember being surprised by the size and length of the boulder fields at the top, it certainly made things interesting with our footing and extra care was needed.
This was my second ever Munro, climbed in the late spring in perfect conditions. It was the walk where I fell in love with the Scottish hills, hillwalking and Munro bagging. It has a special place in my walking highlight reel. Climbed from the car park on the shores of Loch Long, climb steeply up a zig zagging path towards the Narnain boulders. These things are genuinely massive. Huge lumps of stone sitting in the relatively flat valley between Ben Narnain and the Cobbler. There are amazing views of the Cobbler as you progress forwards and upwards, its like a horned beast rising to the left as you climb.
We then veered to the right, northwards, up broken slopes onto the summit ridge. After a bit of huffing and puffing, we attained the summit and I was absolutely floored with the view and the scenery.
I would suggest that this is maybe not the best route for beginners our naivety led us this way, we could have walked further up the glen and come onto the summit from the north. Equally, we could have ascended up the southern nose of the ridge which would have avoided the broken and difficult ground. Either of these routes looks better for beginners.
Ben Vorlich, Loch Earn
My very first Munro. Tackled with an inexperienced friend, in the winter, with no crampons, axes or clue as to what we were letting ourselves in for. It was extreme. Our navigation was sorely tested and we many many mistakes, some nearly quite serious. It goes to show that even the ‘easier’ Munro’s can pack a punch in the right conditions.
However, with good planning, a realistic outlook on the conditions and more suitable equipment, this hill is perfect for someone looking to start bagging Munro’s. It is easily accessible, being one of the most southerly Munro’s, as well as not massively steep (although it is still steep in places) and has a clear track to follow. The views into Southern Scotland are brilliant too.
To make into a longer, bigger day, this hill can be climbed with Stuc a’Chroin as well. This a different kettle of fish entirely, and is a lot more scrambling and steep across broken ground.
I tackled the highest point in the UK as part of the three peaks challenge, so my visit to the summit of the UK was brief to say the least. However, I have good and fond memories of the hike up. There are two main routes up ‘The Ben’, the first (and not one that should be suggested to beginners) comes in from the north and swings westwards across the Carn Mor Dearg Arete. Not for the faint of heart that route – it is however on my bucket list ;).
The more usual and less mountaineering route is up what is known as the Mountain path. It is this route that I would say is much more for beginners, although not an easy feat in itself. It starts in the outskirts of Fort William, just to the east. The path climbs steeply, pretty much the whole way up to the lochan before it flattens out ever so slightly. The climb then resumes as steep as before (if not steeper) all the way to the summit plateau.
In good weather, the path is easy to follow and there are usually other people around too. However, the weather at the top can change in an instant. I have friends that have arrived on the walk in rain gear, reached the summit plateau in a t-shirt and then got snowed on. Any time you tackle this hill, from whatever direction, you should always be fully prepared for whatever the hill can through at you. In fog, the navigation can be really tricky, people have died falling from the cliffs here.
Ben Vane, Loch Lomond
This is one of the smallest Munro’s, at 914m, it barely scrapes past the minimum height requirement. It is however a tricky little hill if you get it wrong. Being located in the Loch Lomond area, it sees quite a lot of foot traffic in comparison to some harder to reach places. That has lead to a well worn and eroded path up most of the route. Combine this location and lack of minute by minute navigation and this hill is shaping up to be good for beginners.
My visit here was a quick trip out for the afternoon and I was working at a fast pace in good weather. In fact, once I had climbed up the tarmac road, which is good easy going, past the power station, I didn’t need to get my map out again. It was a case of see the hill, climb the hill. The ground is steep on the ascent, really steep. If you are a bit wary of heights there are certain places where turning around to look at the view can be a bit disconcerting. However they are few and far between and overall it’s a short sharp climb. My full walk report can be found here.
I had a clear summit on my ascent, even though I passed a few people on the way up, you get some great views eastwards and into the hills around you. The weather was also in my favour as it was clear and sunny. It was a little chilly on top, but I genuinely enjoyed it. I came down the exact reverse route passing those ahead of me at speed. And enjoyable easy-ish hill in clear weather and as long as there is not snow lying there shouldn’t be any issues with navigation either.
Ben Lawers and Beinn Ghlas
The car park at the visitor centre is at 400m altitude, chopping about 30% out of the total height of these hills. Perfect. This makes each hill a little easier than their position in the altitude chart would suggest. You might think that suggesting a walk with 2 Munro summits on it for a beginner is a little odd, but this is a lovely ridge walk in some of the highest land outside of the large massifs of the Cairngorms and the west coast. In fact Ben Lawers is the highest Munro not in either of these areas and is the 10th highest mountain in Scotland.
At 1103m, Bheinn Glas is the first summit that you would reach on this walk. I remember this walk through the nature reserve being pretty non descriptive and a smooth ascent. As the ridge steepens and narrows, you remember you are heading to unusually high ground. I tackled these hills in the snow, and the weather was on our side from just before the summit. Bheinn Ghlas dominates your views forward, so much so that you cannot actually see Ben Lawers even though it is higher. The ground gets rockier towards the summit but if you’re going for the big prize on this walk, then you barely notice it.
As you crest the summit, you get your first view on Ben Lawers, it looks big, imposing and darn right intimidating. With drops to the southern side, it looks every bit a top ten mountain. The route from the summit of Beinn Ghlas is easy and there is a good path down to the col. A steep pull up from here is only broken by a slightly flatter section which then becomes another steep section over rocky ground to the summit of Ben Lawers. And what a summit. High, airy and exposed it’s a wonderful place.
The return from here (I would not advise heading on to the three other summits on the ridge for beginners) is to retrace your steps back to the col and then veer right along the flank of Bein Ghlas back towards the Nature Reserve and the car park. When I visited these hills, we actually camped in the snow a little way down the road from here. Made for an interesting night out…
These hills are great for those finding their feet as the path is good the whole way, and the height you gain from the car park being so high makes them easily attainable for those that want to climb them.
Another small hill, at 931m, Ben Chonzie is the highest point just north of Crieff. It’s quite featureless, so you’ll need to take care with your navigation both on the way up and down. The path starts out as a land rover track and reduces in size as you progress upward. To the point where in places it can be easy to lose, particularly in bad weather.
I recall slogging up here following the path just head down and getting on with it. There are few other notable hills around to maintain interest, although I do remember thinking that there was a definite sense of solitude and remoteness to it. Perhaps that is due to the lack of other hills around.
The summit it relatively easily attained, without any major drama or cliffs/slopes to be aware of, but as I say, without those features to orientate yourself with, it can be easy to lose yourself here. The return leg is back the way you have come following the narrow path as it widens into the Land Rover track back to your start point.
A good safe bet to include in your first few Munro’s as is is easily reachable from the central belt and there are less hazards around, the normal caveats apply though.
Buachaille Etive Beag
Glen Coe. Have you really climbed in Scotland if you haven’t climbed in Glen Coe? Probably the most famous glen in all of Scotland, surrounded by some of the best summits you will find anywhere. This hill consists of two Munro summits, Stob Coire Raineach and Stob Dubh. Nestled between two monstrous ranges either side, these two relatively small summits make up for their lack of height with their positioning and the views they offer. They make for an incredible day out.
This is a great ridge walk. Most people climb the higher peak Stob Dubh first, which is further from the road. A relatively straightforward walk up the glen between our target and Bidean nam Bian is steep, but there is a good path the whole way up. The ground flattens before a fork in the path, where most will head right towards the further, higher top. That’s the way I climbed these hills at least. Climb to the col and head along the narrow but not too narrow ridge to the summit. Looking south from here is spectacular, into Glen Etive and towards Ben Starav.
A return to the col and then a short rocky scramble/walk up to the summit of our second top on the walk Stob Coire Raineach. Personally, apart from the hills right next to this one, I have not seen a better viewpoint in Scotland. The views up Glen Coe taking in the three sisters and Aonach Eagach as well as more easterly to Rannoch Moor are breath-taking. Well worth the effort and a great walk for a beginner that is cutting their teeth on multi-top days out. Good paths, nothing too insane in the terrain and views that are hard to beat. Kind of makes me want to go back again!
Carn Liath on Beinn a’Ghlo
I’ll be honest, I remember this hill as a slog fest. Nothing more nothing less. I did it a few days before Christmas one year and it was brutal. There was quite a lot of snow about and the winds we ferocious. We had originally planned to tackle the whole ridge, but we quickly decided to admit defeat and head back to the car after the first summit.
The path here is quite clear and easy to follow, it has been repaired recently too, which makes it a bit easier. The approach is quite gentle, until you get on the hill proper. As the lowest point on the ridge, it is a relatively easy climb up following the path and a few grouse butts to the summit. The return leg is the same in reverse. A good day out, but I will be visiting again to tackle the whole ridge, probably in the summer.
And there you have it. My top 10 Munro’s for those looking to begin their bagging career. I’ve had a lot of fun climbing these hills over the years, I hope you do too!
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Simply, a Munro is a hill in Scotland over 3,000ft in height above sea level. However the true answer is a little more complicated than that. For example, many ridges have several peaks over 3,000ft, should you climb them all, or just the highest one? The official definition from the Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC), which is the organisation which maintains the list, is “The list of distinct Scottish peaks of 3000ft (914.4m) and over, of “sufficient separation” from their neighbouring peaks“. I can hear you all cry, what does “sufficient separation” mean? Well, to be honest, it was really up to Sir Hugh Munro, the compiler of the original list way back in 1891. He listed what he thought was a separate mountain, although never defined what exactly that was in his mind.
Sir Hugh Munro (1856-1919)
Sir Hugh Munro was tasked by the SMC to compile a list of all the mountains in Scotland. Before he undertook his work, it was widely believed that there were about 30 or so proper mountains in Scotland, those of above 3,000ft. It was to great acclaim and surprise that when he did release his list, there were nearly 300. Now his work in the late part of the 19th century was conducted by ground survey (on the hills themselves) and the best available mapping at the time, which over time with the improvements in mapping and measuring mountains has led to several revisions.
Sir Hugh Munro never actually compleated (archaic spelling) his own list. It is known that he never summitted at least three summits, two in the Cairngorms, and the Inaccessible Pinnacle on Skye. The first person to have been credited with a compleat round was Rev A.E. Robertson in 1901.
The Munro’s currently consist of 282 Munros and 227 Munro Tops (those points high enough to be Munro’s but not included on the list for a variety of reasons). The most recent update to the list, at the time of writing, was August 2020, where the west top of Beinn a’Chroin was removed from the list, and the eastern top added as it is slightly higher.
Munro bagging is the activity of climbing all 282 summits on the SMC list. There is a wide variety of landscapes, hills, geography and effort involved in compleating the list. From Ben Lomond in the south, to Ben Hope in the North, Sgùrr na Banachdaich in the West and Mount Keen in the east, to compleat the list, takes a lot of time, effort and no small number of failed attempts (usually). Munro Bagging can be conducted all year round, however can be dangerous, particularly in winter. Even in summer, driving rain, fog and freezing temperatures are common. In winter, this can be even worse, with ice, snow and avalanche risks adding to the experience.
Steve Fallon has the most compleat rounds (currently 16), the fastest round is held by Donnie Campbell in 31 days, 23 hours and 2 minutes. On average is takes a person between 8 and 20 years to compleat the list. Using the usual routes, it would take around 150 days walking, 168,000m of ascent (nearly 20 times up Everest!) and you would walk nearly 3,000km – the equivalent of Lands End to John o’Groats and back again.
Most of the Munro’s can be climbed on foot, some will require a little bit of scrambling and there is one that requires a full on roped up rock climb, the Inaccessible Pinnacle (Inn Pinn) on the Isle of Skye. Not one for the feint of heart.
Why do you keep spelling “compleat” like that?
Compleating is the archaic spelling of the more modern complete. It means the same thing, but the SMC who also curate the list of Munroists or Compleatists, uses the old spelling. Sure its a little pretentious, but we are still measuring out mountains in feet off an arbitrary list. Why not? Another word is a Munroist, which whilst a little clumsy, encapsulates the achievement nicely.
Why do you ‘bag’ Munro’s?
Handily, I have a post about that already. However, in short, it is a challenging, energetic hobby that keeps me fit, takes me to new places and of course, I get to tick the hills off a list. What’s not to love?
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.
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.
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…
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?
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.
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.
Munro Bagging in becoming increasingly popular as an outdoor pursuit. So much so in fact, that on warm summer days, there can be many people out in the hills and it can feel crowded. We are not going to debate the benefits or downsides of this here, but suffice to say that with all these ‘baggers’ out there, I thought it a good idea to write up a little about the Best Ways to Track your Munro Bagging and the ones still left to do. I personally use a combination of some of these to track my climbs, and I will show you how I use them.
1) Wall Tick Map
So this is a real simple one. A wall mounted map that shows the entire of Scotland with all the hills noted on it. There are quite a few versions of this sort of map out there, so you will need to select the one that you like the most in terms of style and content.
The Munros are normally numbered and refer to a key with the full list of all 282 Munros. Sometimes there will also be the regions and their respective heights included too.
As you can see from the above images they are clearly defined, without too much topographical information to confuse matters. Generally a good way to keep track of things.
Wall Tick Map – Negatives
There are a few downsides to these maps. I used to have one myself but I found that due to its size, sometimes things got a little confusing and muddled, the distinctions between the hills was quite hard to see. Also, because it is a paper map, it can get damaged as it is used. I had to get rid of mine because it got ripped and torn and generally looked really beaten up.
Wall Tick Map – Positives
These maps are great for keeping track of your bagging in a simple and concise way. If you are not too bothered about any other information other than whether you have climbed a hill or not, these are definitely for you. They are also relatively inexpensive and look great on the wall if you look after them. A real conversation piece that all of your friends will ask about. Who doesn’t want to be asked questions about hiking?!
To pick up a wall tick map, I would look no further than Amazon who have a good selection of the different brands. Just click on the link above to go to the GuideUs.co.uk version featured in the images.
2) Wall Scratch Map
Now I actually have one of these. It is similar to the tick map, but instead of the key on the side, there are little scratch panels that cover the hill names on the map. The idea here is that once you have bagged a hill, you can scratch off the name. Under the scratch panel the name is still there but it is in a different colour.
So you can see, the gold colour are the ones that I have not yet climbed and all the other colours (as separated by region) are the ones that I have climbed to date. On the map that I have, the hills area colour grouped by region and you can also scratch off the region once you have bagged all the hills within it. There is also an individual hill counter along the bottom to measure your progress to 282.
Wall Scratch Map – Negatives
I think that the biggest negative that I have with my map is that I wouldn’t group the hills the way they are on the map, its a bit annoying to think that you have completed (compleated?) a region only to find that there is an outlying hill that has been grouped within it. That aside, having learnt my lesson from my tick map, I also bought a frame for it. The same downsides for damage and tearing that are true of the tick map are true of the scratch map too. Lastly, some of the colours chosen by the manufacturer are quote similar to the gold colour on the scratch panel. I would think that the one thing you would have to do when choosing the regional colouring is to not choose one too close to the gold. But no, there are a few that you have to double check to ensure are climbed.
Wall Scratch Map – Positives
I’m really happy with my map. I like the visual representation on the map and the action of actually scratching off a hill or a region is very satisfying! The map is well made and looks great. Its a neat and easy way to log my successful hill days. I would highly recommend this option if you are looking for that quick and easy reference when planning which hills to tackle next.
You can pick up a scratch map for a decent price in a few places, here is a link to where I got mine – Amazon.
Probably the best known resource for hill walking in Scotland. Walkhighlands.co.uk is the place to go online for anything to do with walking in the UK. Not just Munro Bagging. The amount of information and detail is brilliant for helping with route planning, the images are exceptional and I really don’t have a bad thing to say about the site in general.
Specifically looking at the Munro Bagging elements, once you create an account (free) you can then upload walk reports and images of your hill days as well as mark those hills as climbed. Walkhighlands will then create an interactive map showing all the hills that you have climbed and those left still to visit. I use this site heavily to log my walks and use the mapping tool.
As you can see in the image, it is quite clear which hills are climbed and unclimbed. You can zoom right in to get a close up of the terrain too.
Walkhighlands – Negatives
There is not a lot to say here. The one thing I might say is a negative (and at no fault of the website) is that sometimes when you click on a hill and you see that there are walk reports are available, the detail in them is not there. As I say, not a dig at the website, but it is frustrating when you are trying to research something and you have to scout about for the information that you need. Apart from that, there is nothing else to really say.
Walkhighlands – Positives
You’ll probably have guessed that I am a big fan of this site. I use it extensively. When the walk reports are detailed, they are a great tool to have access to. The mapping feature, all the way to 1:25000 is so useful. I would encourage anyone thinking of collecting any summits (they also catalogue the Donalds, Grahams, Corbetts, Sub 2000s and Wainwrights) to sign up for an account and read the plethora of information available to you. You can also add your own walk reports and images for yourself and others to use in future.
Some of you might laugh that I have included this option in the list – however I am shamelessly a big fan of a spreadsheet. They are infinitely customisable and can help keep track of your hill walking exploits. I started my Munro Bagging with a spreadsheet, but quickly moved to a wall map as it was more visual.
Spreadsheet – Negatives
Spreadsheets are not always as visually appealing as a map or online tool. There is also nowhere to add multiple photos or long form walk reports that you can do with the Walkhighlands tool. However, there is something simple about a spreadsheet, reminiscent of the putting one foot in front of the other mentality that is sometimes required when Munro Bagging.
Spreadsheet – Positives
Spreadsheets are accessible to anyone with a computer (which you probably have if you are reading this). That makes them the base line tool that everyone at least can have. The simplicity of a list with some heights and some dates appeals to me – as that is all Munro Bagging is in essence. Enjoying the hill day is vital, but ticking off the list is important too.
Here is a link to where you can download a spreadsheet for tracking your days out:
This is the first book in this review. And its a great book. Written by Helen and Paul Webster, the minds behind the Walkhighlands.co.uk website. Its a ‘pocket sized’ look at each hill and region in Scotland and is a valuable tool to anyone planning a Munro Bagging adventure. When I read this book for the first time, I tried to read it like I would any other novel – its a bit dense for that – however as a reference guide its brilliant.
It has a space in my planning arsenal when I have selected the hill(s) I want to attempt and I am looking at the terrain, the area and trying to find out what I can about my target. You could use this book by marking off those hills climbed on the relevant pages or folding down the corners of those completed.
The Munros – Negatives
This book is billed as one to put in your pack, in my opinion it is a bit heavy for that. Its also a bit on the small side when planning your day. If your eyesight isn’t the best, I can imagine it would be quite difficult to read all the detail. It also won’t sit flat on the table alongside a map, which is sometimes a little frustrating.
The Munros – Positives
This book is absolutely full of detail. The route maps are useful and I’ve certainly followed a few of their routes over the years. I like the size, even if it doesn’t sit flat on a table and is quite small, but my wife would hate it if I had loads of A4 walking books on the shelf! Its great as a guide, but I wouldn’t pack it in my bag to use on the hill.
You can pick up a copy of this book here. Its well worth it in my opinion.
6) Munro Logbook and Journal
Another book to look at now, although this one is designed to be written in as a log, rather than a reference guide. Honesty here, I do not have this book, but I do have a couple of pals that do, so my opinion is based on what I have been told rather than personal experience. (Update 08-JAN-21: I now have this book and have reviewed from my own experience here).
The inside of the book is a 282 page log of each of the Munros with space to fill in details such as your start time, total time walked, notes about the weather, who you walked with and various other things.
It looks to be a decent way to log the key components of you hill day all in one place.
Munro Bagging Log Book – Negatives
The formatting of the book is quite basic, with not a huge amount of room for detailed notes and verbose text. I would also like to see some imagery of the hills in question of something to break up the repetitive pages. Scotland’s hills are stunning and it would be great to see some of that here. Similarly, there are no suggested routes or maps, which could be useful if you don’t have access to other logging/planning tools.
Munro Bagging Log Book – Positives
The hills are sorted by altitude, so there is a clear order to enable you to find the hill you are logging, which is quite nice, you often see alphabetical lists or by height, highest first, but having the heights ascending feels like you are building up to something as you progress through the book. I can see the appeal also of the simple format – this is a log book and nothing more. It will absolutely keep your bagging log up to date and ordered as you progress towards that magical 282.
You can pick up a copy of the Munro Bagging Log Book here – its well priced and overall is a great tool to keep your bagging exploits organised.
I couldn’t write this list and not include a blog. It would be hypocritical. A blog is a great way to keep things organised and there are very few limits to what you can do with it. You can in essence design your own log book. I don’t think there is any need for me to explain what a blog is, you’ve found this one and read this far, I’m sure you know what one is by now.
Blogging – Negatives
Blogs can be a bit of a pain to set up. They don’t need to be, but if you are not particularly savvy with this sort of thing (including yours truly) it can be tricky. Getting the format exactly as you want it can also be challenging, but perseverance will work wonders.
Blogging – Positives
The thing I like about using a blog to log and chronicle your Munro Bagging is that you really can make it what you want. I have a list of the Munros that can be used for quick and easy reference, as well as a variety of walk reports and posts about all sorts of things. It allows me to get creative with my log, rather than just a quick tick on a map or in a book and moving onto the next.
Blogs are free to set up too, the only one alongside a spreadsheet, which is always nice.
OK, so to summarise, there are so many ways to log your Munro Bagging climbs, I have missed and left out a few from this list I am sure. I think the key is to pick the way that you like the most and give it a go. Remember, the most important thing is to get out and climb the hills, not obsesses over the minutiae of how to to keep track – although sometimes that can be fun too.
This page contains affiliate links to products. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, at no additional cost to you. However, I have not been paid to promote any product above any other, so opinions are my own and un-baised.
Now I know we are all either hoping for winter to go away or come properly and stop all this wet miserable stuff, but here is my walk report on the Ring of Steall last summer to help with the winter blues. Truly special.
Taking advantage of the long summer days is one of my favourite activities, especially as it means I can walk great routes and generally get great views. This trip was to the Mamores for the infamous Ring of Steall and the Devils Ridge.
We set off early and made our way up the west coast to Fort Bill. A short drive from there and we were at the car park. We booted up and headed for the path. Caught a glimpse of this sign, which always makes you feel the fear that little bit more.
We started hiking up the glen towards Steall Meadows and the waterfall. Once we got to the meadow the panorama opened up and we were treated to an unspoilt view all the way up to the waterfall. It’s was pristine and felt really remote and wild. We made our way over the wire bridge and up towards the waterfall.
And what a waterfall – truly spectacular. The pictures speak for themselves.
We couldn’t help ourselves but to stop at the foot of the falls and take in some of the magnificence of our surroundings (and some cool photos)
After a short time, we began the steep climb out of the glen and into the heat of the day. Neither of us had realised just how hot it was and even as we gained altitude the heat didn’t seem to stop, it just got hotter and hotter. The path was good, the air was clear and there is no better feeling that I had then, although I would have killed someone for a cold beer.
Just as we reached the top of the slope, we turned around and right behind us, almost looming across the glen was a glorious sight.
The Ben was there like an elephant sitting on your shoulder looking fantastic in the summer sun. Someone once told me that Ben Nevis is only cloud free for a handful of days a year, and we were here what felt like a stones throw away on one of those days. Lucky or what? Back to the task at hand and it was but a hop skip and a jump to the top of the first Munro – An Gearanach – 982m. Not ones to dwell on our success, we shot off down the other side taking in the views all around us.
Now, I say ‘shot’ but it was with a bit of care and caution that we tackled the descent as it was quite scrambly and airy in places – perfect for us as we aren’t ones to shy away from a challenge. This was proper scrambling, others have likened it to the Carn Mor Dearg Arete, but in my mind, it reminded me of the Aonach Eagach in places. Once we reached the saddle, we realised that we had both drained all the water that we were carrying – not a great situation as we were a quarter of the way through the day and it was only going to get hotter as we progressed. We made a tactical decision to try to find some water from a spring or stream. Not easy at 800m+.
After dropping down to the north side of the saddle, we eventually found water that was running fast enough not to pose us too much of a problem. Dunking headbands and t-shirts into the stream was a quick and efficient way of cooling down and we were able to refill water bottles for the remainder of the journey. Although lesson learned – when you think you are carrying enough, you probably aren’t.
Back on the trail and we were greeted by what looked like an impregnable buttress across our path. From our research, we knew that we could tackle it head on, but neither of us could see the route up it for love nor money. So we made a decision to head over to the saddle on the opposite side of the summit and drop the bags. This was beautifully technical with a bit of exposure thrown in, and all the while, The Ben was looming behind you reminding you that it was still the daddy.
We reached the saddle without too much trouble and dropped the kit. We turned back and climbed the ridge up to the summit of Stob Coire a’Chairn – 981m. This offered us great views into the Grey Corries and the main ridge of the Mamores just stretched off into the distance on both sides – truly epic. But alas, no pictures as I had left my camera in my bag!
A quick jog down the path brought us back to our kit and a bite to eat. We even had snow on the ground here, in August!
After a refuel, we continued around the horseshoe with Munro number three firmly in our sights. The descent was uneventful, but started picking up on the ascent. The ground gets a little tricky, with a few loose rocks as well as the steepening and narrowing of the ridge. However, as you climb, you get that feeling you are in for something special, The Ben looking on over to your right and the ridge narrowing in front of you.
The summit came up on me as quite a surprise, this being the highest point of main ridge, I was convinced we had a little further to go. But we had made in to summit number three Am Bodach – 1032m. After the anticipation growing during the climb, you are rewarded with a view that really shows you the best of Scottish hill walking.
The panorama was spectacular. However, one thing caught the eye unlike any other. The Devils Ridge.
In climbing they would call this the crux of the route, the narrowest, most exposed, most jaw dropping part of the walk. I had been looking forward to this short section the most, and had read up on it before going out. It is as good as people say – sometimes when you really look forward to something, it doesn’t quite live up to your expectations, that’s not the case here!
We descended down to the saddle and climbed over Sgor an Iubhair – which in my opinion warrants Munro status. At 1001m, it is certainly high enough, indeed at one point it was a Munro but has been declassified. Now to the crux, the descent starts easily down a broad ridge to the saddle and then climbs back and gradually narrows to pretty much nothing. We had decided in advance that where we could be would keep to the top of the ridge and try not to take any bypass paths. The first part was easy enough, up and over with good hand holds.
Then came the part that I found the toughest. A large gap in the ridge that on approach looked like you could just step over. In reality, it is a little farther that just a step, and at only 5 foot 6, my legs aren’t the longest! I stopped and had a think about it, and found my way onto a narrow ledge over a significant drop. Heart was starting to race and mind doing somersaults, moving slowly, I found a good hold with my left hand leaving my right side swinging in the breeze. Shuffle the feet along and reach up and round out of sight to find the next hold.
Could I find it? I couldn’t even begin to feel it! Now my left arm is starting to ache a little from holding my weight and I am stuck between two rocks 1000m up. One more try, pull yourself into the rock, stretch and reach – there! I found the hold with my right hand and redistributed my weight. With my hands sorted out it was a slightly disconcerting step blindly around the rock and away we went. Definitely lived up to expectations!
From there, it is a relatively easy walk up the quartz covered slopes of Sgurr a’Mhaim to the summit – 1099m. Munro summit number four. Whew! What a day, by this point we were both pretty knackered physically as well as mentally and it was with a little relief that we made it.
The way down is to take the north-west ridge, which whilst steep is not as fatal (apparently it has taken more than one life over the years) as the north-east ridge. Cross the quartz scree and then onto the grass, picking up the path down to the road. A slightly mind numbing 2 km walk will take you back to the car park and salvation after what I promise you will be a thoroughly enjoyable outing.
The Scarpa Boots performed well here today, would have been an uncomfortable walk without them. Then is was home to check off the Munros climbed today. More info on that here.