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There are 282 mountains of over 3,000ft tall in Scotland.
Collectively they are named after the guy who first catalogued them all in a pamphlet in 1891 – Sir Hugh Munro.
There has since been a challenge to climb every one for the proud title of being a ‘Munroist’.
This is no easy feat and can catch even the most experienced mountaineers unawares. Scotland is prone to foul weather, and even more so at its highest peaks.
You can find snow laying on the ground at almost any time of year on these peaks and as such you need to be prepared for all weathers even in the height of summer.
Let’s take a walk around these stunning mountains and look at what you will need for a week or two of Munro Bagging.
Getting Started – Single Munro Walks
If you have set yourself Everest as an ultimate challenge yet are just about fit enough to run for the bus, then a spot of Munro bagging could take you to the next level before attempting an easier major mountain like Kilimanjaro for altitude experience.
If you want to start easy then it may help to do what is widely held as the easiest Munro chain of all – the ones around the Glenshee ski centre.
Over two hours you can bag your first two Munros – Carn Aosda and Cairnwell.
You will have climbed 430 metres by the time you get to your car, roughly double the height of a climb from sea level to the South Dorset Ridgeway, to put that in perspective.
If you want to see some snow in summer, then Cairngorm could be an entertaining walk.
The summit is 4,000ft above sea level but the ascent nothing of the sort at just 625 metres.
Britain’s highest ski resort, the Cairngorm Ski Centre is the starting point and in just four or so miles you can reach the top.
Up there you will find that the weather isn’t always amazing and even for a short run up the mountain it will pay to have a set of warmer clothing, food, and to wear boots that can take wet and dry well.
At the other end of the scale, An Teallach is regarded as Scotland’s most remote and challenging Munro.
You need to hike for a day to get to the base and camp overnight.
This is one of seven in the area so the very fit could do it in a day or two.
For aspiring mountaineers, it is a challenging mountain with some very good navigation required to summit safely.
Thanks to its remoteness you need to know what you are doing to even consider this option.
Multi-Munro Routes Do-able in a Day
If you’re fit you can do a number of Munros in a day.
You won’t be ascending and defending 3,000ft plus per climb either as many peaks are quite closely linked and while different mountains you could just descend a thousand or so feet before ascending again.
Glenshee is again widely considered one of the easiest of peak chains with nine Munros do-able in around 10 hours.
That’s 10 hours at either 600 metres an hour in ascent or 4km/h on the flat.
You need to be a fit walker and capable of 19 miles on difficult terrain at times – though not a hard chain by any means you need to know what you are doing in the mountains to even consider this one.
You start on Creag Leacach and via Glas Maol, Cairn of Claise, Tom Buidhe, Tolmount, Carn an Tuirc, Carn Aosda, and Carn a’Gheoidh you come to your final descent on the day on The Cairnwell.
At the very other end of the multi-Munro chain are the Munros of Skye’s Cullin Ridge that require good climbing skills as there are sections where you will have to use ropes to climb and abseil to get along the route.
The Cullin Ridge is widely held as the most challenging parts of the entire Munro catalogue where only those who are competent at climbing can achieve their aims.
Many of the world’s best mountaineers have cut their teeth in the Scottish Highlands and when you look at some of the climbs above you can understand just why!
Munros Are Hard!
Though accessible for people all over the UK, Munros are still challenging.
The easiest ones we touch on above like Glenshee with its relatively benign climbs and well-signed routes can still turn nasty with little notice.
Keep an eye on the local weather forecast before you go and be sure only to go if it is in weather you are confident you can handle.
Beware also that weather forecasts from national suppliers like the Met Office and BBC can be inaccurate when it comes to local conditions.
Mountains create their own weather so a beautiful morning in the hotel/campsite says nothing about what you will see up there.
You could end up in a snowstorm on Ben Nevis or Cairngorm.
Bogs are common on some walks.
The biggest ones will be labelled in your OS map but you could end up six inches deep in muck.
This is why you need gaiters in your backpack, as well as warm clothing and waterproofs.
Let’s now look at some of the kit you should bring for a day or two’s Munro Bagging.
Equipment You Need
Even on easier climbs, at the very least you should pack a set of wet weather gear and a warm jumper with your lunch for a shorter jaunt.
Good footwear is always going to pay for itself on the mountain.
Unless you are hill running, always choose boots over those sturdy looking ‘mountain like’ shoes where possible.
Boots will stop ankle sprains from a wrong-footed step on scree and rocks.
Jeans are poor choice clothing as they get wet and stay wet – investment in layered clothing that dries quickly will pay you back.
It pays to start simple with Munros and to bring a map and compass with you so you can get your head around navigating on paper should the weather turn and you lose your way.
Make sure the OS Map you’re carrying is in a waterproof case. These just cost a few pounds but in driving rain you may be thankful for having spent the money!
Local experts always advise against purely relying on electronic navigation aids.
There are some great apps like Viewranger for your mobile device but if it gets cold and the battery loses power, how do you get home without a paper map?
Finally for a more challenging route, consider bringing a tent and emergency sleeping bag as well as a stove and high-carb snacks with your gear.
In most cases it’ll be added weight but one day you may well be thankful you packed it.
Wear mosquito repellent and have an insect net handy for longer stops as the blighters will lunch out on you at every chance.
Never mind the weather, the midges can make Munro bagging a very challenging experience indeed!
Camping Not (Always) Necessary
Munro bagging is not a new thing and many B&Bs and hotels recognise that they are close to where many of their potential guests will want to walk.
Looking at the internet, we at Trek Addict have seen a number of hotels where it is possible to climb as many as 30 Munros using the same place as a base.
The Crianlarich Hotel for example claims that it is possible to climb any one of 16 Munros without using your car to leave the village.
That can mean for a few hundred pounds you have a base with a bath to boil off the pain in your legs and some hearty food cooked by expert hands to refuel you for the next day.
Could You Become a Munroist?
In around 129 years since they were first identified, just 6,500 or so people have laid claim to having bagged every Munro.
Even expert mountaineers have taken decades to quietly achieve their goal.
It can be an obsession and addiction but unless you get blasé about mountaineering – and Munro bagging is mountaineering – there are few healthier addictions to have than climbing several thousand feet in a week!