A beginners guide to Munro bagging
More people than ever are taking-up the challenge of bagging Scotland’s mountain Munros. For some however those first steps are the hardest and knowing how to get started isn’t always obvious. So for those who are desperate to join in here’s a simple step-by-step guide as to how.
What is a Munro?
There are 282 Munros in Scotland. A Munro is a mountain over 3000-feet (914-metres). The list of mountains attaining this height was originally compiled by Sir Hugh Munro. Where there is a list there are tickers or in the case of Munros – baggers.
How do I get started?
First of all get fit enough. Munros reward the bagger with awesome views and a sense of achievement. They do however take quite a lot of effort – even the easy ones. So if you don’t walk much, start! Walk everywhere and anywhere.
Check out some scenic walks to get you started in our ‘Coastal walks in Scotland’ blog here
What about something smaller?
There are thousands of hills that are often overlooked in favour of Munros but this is where to get started on your first foray into hill-walking.
From Edinburgh there are the Pentland Hills – shapely and easily linked they give a flavour of the big mountains to come without so much of the effort. For Glaswegians the Campsies or the Kilpatricks are ideal.
What equipment will I need?
In the early days use what you’ve got. A stout pair of walking shoes or boots is always a good first purchase but maybe hold back on the expensive rucksack and Goretex jacket. If you get the bug you’ll spend as much time surfing the net for gear as you will do on the hills.
Should I buy a map and compass?
Right from the start buy the map. Even although the smaller hills are heavily tracked with paths and rarely in the mist it’s a good idea to get familiar with contours, landmarks and pinpointing exactly where you are. Before setting-off get into the habit of turning the map so that it lines up with north and what you can see around you. A compass helps with this but isn’t essential.
Check out these Ordnance Survey maps- make sure you buy the correct map for the area you are covering.
What about something a little bit bigger?
There are other lists of peaks that aren’t Munros.. Corbetts for instance are those hills between 2500 and 3000ft. And Donalds are hills in the south of Scotland over 2000ft. People also tick these off but usually only after they have bagged all the Munros. Among the best are Goatfell on Arran, Hart Fell and White Coomb near Moffat, Ben Ledi, Merrick in Galloway, Ben Vrackie near Pitlochry and Ben Venue in the Trossachs. All of them are fantastic viewpoints and worthwhile in their own right.
I think I am ready so what should be my first Munro?
There are lots of straightforward Munros. Ben Lomond the most southerly Munro is easily the most popular as are Munros such a Ben Vane and Ben Vorlich in the Arrochar Alps; the other Ben Vorlich near Callendar; Ben Lawers – a big one at nearly 4000 feet – but you start from the car park more than halfway up and there’s a bonus Murno, Beinn Ghlas, en route.
I think I am becoming an addict so what’s next?
By this time you’ll have bought all the kit and will be telling people just how much your jacket cost. So, to get full value for money the next step is to start linking Munros and tackling groups of peaks. This is where the navigation gets tricky. Avoid relying on electronic devices or your phone in the early days as they can promote over-confidence
The best options are to seek out a more experienced friend, join a club or sign up for a course. Finding the correct ridge or spur and counting paces in poor visibility requires a compass, a detailed OS map and lots of practice. Getting lost is all part of the experience and its best to start with the more rounded grassy hills such at the Drumochter Four or the Carn Mairg group where the only thing getting bruised is your ego.
There are lots of social-hiking clubs all over Scotland, check out Ramblers to see when the next social hike is taking place.
This is easy where can I get more?
Once you’ve got 50 or so under your belt and you have acquired an extensive collection of maps you might want to try the biggest and most complex Munros such as Bidean nam BIan in Glen Coe, the nearby Buachaile Etive Mhor or really put your navigational skills to the test in the Cairngorms. This is also when the lure of a multi-day Munro bagging trip to remote and inaccessible areas becomes irresistible.
Can I do them all?
Most certainly. There are however a few that are a real stumbling block on the road to achieving this ambition. Mountains such as An Teallach, the two Munros on the Aonach Eagach, the Torridon hills and the Cuillins all require a very good head for heights and comfort with scrambling including picking a safe line. Again, this is where friends, clubs, courses and guidebooks come-in handy. Some baggers never quite feel confident enough to tackle the Cuillins, which do involve the use of a rope, and hire the services of a local mountain guide. No matter what remember that all 282 have been conquered by thousands of people just like you.
About the Author
Paul Lamarra is one of Intrepidus’ experienced guides. A qualified mountain leader he has climbed, cycled and explored extensively in Scotland. He is also an award winning writer and author of several books on Scotland. His work has also appeared in many publications throughout the world.
MY Adventure and Intrepidus Outdoors are adventure tours and outdoor experience providers, both based in Edinburgh, Scotland. We specialise in private and open canyoning, coasteering, mountain biking and hill walking tours, and deliver these adventurous experiences across Scotland. We are also a provider of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Expeditions where we run bronze, silver and gold level awards for young people.
- Eight Scottish Wonders- by Paul Lamarra here
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- High and Mighty- Bouldering in Scotland here
- Top tips for backpacking Scotland here
- 6 steps to being happy like a Scot here
- You’ll never get bored in Edinburgh here
- Best Budget Hotels and Hostels Edinburgh here
- Hen Party Adventures Edinburgh: here
- Stag Party Outdoor Adventures Edinburgh Essentials: here
- SUP, A Buying Guide: here
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