Guest Author - Asha Sahni
Hike up a tall Scottish mountain.
Outerwear is crucial as
Or driving snow
Blow in at all times of year.
Assess your route for steep
Gradients and climbs.
Arrange to never walk alone.
Mobile, watch, torch, food, water, layers, whistle
Use light items that will not compromise your goal.
Navigate using map, compass, sun, intuition.
Achieve the cairn at the summit. Survey your path
Onwards and downwards, another peak brewing.
In Scotland a mountain over 3,000 feet high is called a munro - named after Sir Hugh Munro who catalogued all the high peaks in Scotland. Some munros are more famous than others – you may have heard of Ben Nevis which at nearly 4,500 feet is the highest peak in Scotland. There are 283 munros in total, and some people have climbed (bagged) them all... There has been some dispute about Munro’s original classifications – one because technology has allowed for more accurate measurements, two because there are differing opinions as to what is a peak and what is a mountain, for a munro is meant to be a mountain in its own right. Other names have been developed for mountains of lesser height – Corbetts are between 2,500 and 3,000 feet high. Grahams are between 2,000 and 2,500 feet; these mountains must have a peak of at least 500 feet to qualify.
Scotland’s fickle weather means that the main munro bagging season has a short window of roughly May to September, during which months you may still see snow on Scottish mountains. I found myself awestruck by the beauty of the Cairngorm Mountains when I first travelled to the Scottish Highlands; the mountains – tall and majestic - were topped with deep snow glittering in pale late April sunlight.
If you would like to start with a small munro try Ben Vane. At around 3001 feet high it just makes munro status. If this is your first munro you would be advised to leave yourself a good day to tackle Ben Vane – if you do it in half a day you can always move on to another mountain! Ben Vane has a path all the way up – sometimes steep, sometimes rocky, sometimes suffering from the ravages of Scottish weather. This is a mountain among mountains, many of which are higher, thus the view from the top is in part blocked by some of Ben Vane’s larger neighbours.
If you are going munro bagging ensure you have the right equipment – good walking boots, waterproof top and trousers, compass, map, food, water, first aid kit, whistle (in case you do get lost or hurt and need to call for help), fully charged mobile (you cannot guarantee you will get good reception), GPS if you have it to help pinpoint your location. For colder weather add ice axe and crampons. I have known people in Scotland, often highly experienced, who go hill walking alone. Whilst not advisable if you do this at least make sure you tell people you know and/or leave a note in your car to say where and when you have gone, so that if you do not return people may have some idea of where to find you. The mountains of Scotland claim the unwary and unprepared – enjoy tackling some of nature’s great challenges but ensure you stay as safe as possible whilst bagging munros.
I have provided a couple of links below to books that may be of interest if you are thinking of exploring Scottish mountains.