Beginners Guide to Munro Bagging
282 is not a particularly memorable number. It doesn't pique the public's imagination, or represent an important date or unique mathematical value. But, in UK mountaineering circles, it is the hallowed pinnacle of Scottish hill walking achievement.
282 is the amount of Munros.
What is a Munro?
A Munro is a Scottish mountain over 3000ft (914.4m) in height. Named after Hugh Munro - a pioneering mountain enthusiast and the first person to list all of these peaks together - they're found across mainland Scotland and the Inner Hebrides, from the most southerly - Ben Lomond - to Ben Hope in the far north. There is no set criteria for the prominence of a Munro, apart from the rather subjective notion that it should be considered a separate mountain to its neighbouring peaks (Attempts have been made to formulate a more scientific reasoning, resulting in 'Murdos' - any Scottish mountain over 3000ft with a prominence of 30 metres). Any subsidiary peaks of Munros that are still above 3000ft are called "tops", and there are another 227 of those!
What is Munro Bagging?
Targeting each one of these mountains with the aim of completing the list is known as 'Munro bagging', and is only attempted by those up for a serious challenge. For many, it is a life-long ambition, with summits accrued on spare weekends and breaks in the weather. But for an unhinged few, it is something to be tackled within a single year.
Very few people set out Munro bagging from scratch. Those enticed by the idea are normally experienced hill walkers who find that they have crossed a few off the list already and made a little dent in this seemingly Sisyphean task. Chances are if you're reading this, you've conquered one or two yourself and have caught the bagging bug...
How to Bag a Munro
1. Gain Solid Hill Walking and Navigation Experience Beforehand
It should go without saying that tackling any Munro should not be taken lightly. Their size alone makes them inherently challenging, owing to the changeable mountain conditions and the rugged terrain that comes with that. Ensuring that you have plenty of prior navigation experience at lower levels or in difficult weather conditions is important so that you're not caught out when the weather turns. Check out our Winter Hill Walking Tips blog for more advice.
Experience breeds confidence, and you will ultimately enjoy your time in the mountains more if you're confident in your ability.
2. Get the Gear and Know How to Use It
This should perhaps be joint first in this list, but ensuring you're properly equipped for Munro bagging is equally as important as having adequate experience. Mountain Rescue teams are called out time and time again due to people attempting to climb British mountains without the necessary footwear, clothing or equipment.
The gear you need will depend largely on the time of year, the conditions, and the length of the route, but will always include a full set of waterproofs, a map and compass, and sturdy walking boots. Scottish mountaineering in winter can take on true technical alpine conditions, requiring crampons, mountaineering boots and ice axes, and snow can linger on some mountains right through to summer. Check out our top winter hill climbing tips and winter hill walking kit list for more comprehensive advice on mountain walking gear.
3. Start Easy
Be realistic in your ambitions and start by focusing on easily-accessed, well-trodden routes, in good conditions and when there is plenty of daylight. Popular summits including Ben Lomond, Ben Chonzie and Mount Keen are popular for a reason, and make a good choice for finding your Munro feet before tackling more technical mountains. Remember that height is no indication of difficulty, but a good level of fitness is essential. Factors such as remoteness, navigation skill and technical ability are far more important when it comes to gauging how tough a route will be.
Some Munros require a day's hike or more just to reach the foot of them, making them difficult for rescue teams to reach should you get into bother.
To summit any Munro is an achievement unto itself, but some summits undoubtedly carry more prestige than others.
- Ben Nevis, Grampians - The highest Munro and the highest point in the British Isles, this mountain needs very little introduction. The lofty summit can be reached via a straightforward and popular track, or via a quieter, more technical scramble on its northern flank.
- Ben Macdui, Cairngorms - Missing out on the top spot by a painful 40 metres, Britain's second highest mountain lies at the heart of Cairngorms National Park. The Tundra-like plateau of Ben Macdui is a tough walk, and finding a window in the weather can be even tougher.
- Inaccessible Pinnacle, The Black Cuillin - The 'In Pinn' is the only Munro that demands actual rope climbing and abseiling to reach year-round, and is widely regarded as the most difficult as a result. The crowning glory of Skye's fearsome Black Cuillin range, it should only be attempted if you are a confident and experienced rock climber and abseiler.
- The Aonach Eagach Ridge, Glen Coe - Oft-quoted as Britain's narrowest ridge, the Munros of the Aonach Eagach arête require a head for heights. The ridgeline includes two registered Munros - Meall Dearg and Sgor nam Fiannaidh, and famously has no escape route, so once you've committed, there's no easy way out.
- The Torridon Giants - Not a single Munro, but a massif of breathtaking and distinctive behemoths: Beinn Alligin, Beinne Eighe and Liathach. All three are scrambles, each with multiple Munros to tackle. Beinn Alligin is the most straightforward, while Liathach's arête is the most technically demanding, but seeing the Triple Buttress of Beinn Eighe for the first time might be the most memorable moment of your Munro-bagging career! Crossing any of these off the list will be a big milestone in your goal.
- Ladhar Bheinn - the Knoydart peninsular is some of Scotland's most pristine wilderness. Arguably the most remote Munro, Ladhar Bheinn towers over the area in splendid isolation, requiring at least one overnight stay and a boat ride from Mallaig to reach it.
- www.walkhighlands.co.uk - perhaps the biggest user-generated resource for hill walking in Scotland. You'll be hard-pushed to find a route or peak that isn't covered.
- The Scottish Mountaineering Club - The SMC hold the official list of Completists, so be sure to record and document each summit you reach.
About the Author:
Mike Humphreys - Online Content
Mike is a keen cyclist, snowboarder, hill walker and Land Rover tinkerer. He has travelled extensively, spending a year living out of a van in New Zealand before joining Ellis Brigham four years ago. Can usually be found walking his dogs or tortoises.