The Munros – Ego or enjoyment ? The joy of books – “Hamish Brown’s – Mountain Walk and Climbing the Corbetts” It gets better and better the more often you read it?

The weather has been pretty wild recently and though I managed a wander in the afternoon with my nephew in the Cairngorms it has been raining hard and the hills to wet for me just now. It’s great that I do not have to get out on the hills and a local walk is sufficient along the Moray Coast even though I got soaked last night. I have been reading a lot and still trying to downsize my book collection but it’s so hard, they are much-loved. I have kept my SMC Journals a marvellous history of Scottish mountaineering and most of my guide books and walking guides and still have a big library.

The Classic Munros Tables SMC .

The Classic Munros Tables SMC .

The old Munros Guide lovingly battered by weather and even soaked after a trip in the hill is still there, so many days and then the joy of ticking these great hills after every trip. When I completed in 1976 it was a great day with my mate Tom MacDonald, we did not drive hitched a lot and got so many done with the RAF MRT. Even then the hills were not busy and there were few paths and knowledge was scant apart from the SMC District Guides and the old Munros Tables.  I still have it with each page ruled of and ticked for the Munros and tops and every ascent marked. This is what Pete McGowan wrote after myself and my mate Tom MacDonald completed in 1977.

1976 First Munro wtite up T&M2

1976 First Munro write up – PRESENTED TO ME AND  TOM MACDONALD by Ben  Humble and Pete McGowan.

It was even banded along with all other mountaineering books from my bedroom by a long-lost partner! Nowadays there are so many great guides books to the Munros, all with maps, gps routes,grid references, even car parking and routes it’s all changed since these simple guides and have we lost something with them ? The routes up that most follow are now huge paths that need care and work and some use the hills as “a gymnasium for their  egos” In the past if you had completed your Munros you were on your way to becoming a mountaineer now many complete, bucket list done a rarely go out again on the hills. Is this just my opinion or am I a bit out of it with that view?  Yet it is great to see so many on the hills and enjoying them like I did.


Hamish Mountain Walk and Climbing the Corbetts.

Hamish Mountain Walk and Climbing the Corbetts.

I was away in Masirah in the Persian Gulf in 1973/74  and did not realise that Hamish Brown and his dog had completed his great traverse of the Munros in 1974 in one journey. I was really getting into the Munros and had looked at a complete traverse of them whilst away but getting time of 3 – 5 months would have been a no goer at the time from the RAF. When I returned and found out it had been done I was very jealous and heartbroken and when Hamish’s book came out in I think 1978. Yet it was a wonderful tale of the mountains, the history, geology, folklore of the journey by Hamish . It is a book I love as dearly as any and still re read it after a day in the mountains, I look up the mountain and always learn something new.  The maps and diagrams of each area are what I used to tick my hills of along with my battered Munro book and what enjoyment I have had from this book. I have bought a few copies over the years and love to give them to pals who have the Mountain/ Corbett or Munro bug to show them that there is so much more to the hills than a list of hills.

Hamish Brown  – On 4 April 1974 he set off on his trip to complete all the Munro mountains in one trip. He completed the journey on 24 July, a journey of 112 days during which time he covered 1,639 miles, climbed 289 peaks and wore out three pairs of boots. He only used the Mull and Skye ferries and a bicycle as transport.

His 1974 journey was documented in the book Hamish’s Mountain Walk and this made him a household name among the walking fraternity, the book won an award from the Scottish Arts Council. He followed his Munros walk with the longest trip over the English, Irish and Welsh peaks, told in the book Hamish’s Groats End Walk. Brown also thought up the Ultimate Challenge (now called the TGO Challenge, after The Great Outdoors Magazine, not to be confused with the Australian series, which sponsors and organises the event), a fortnight-long endurance walk from coast-to-coast across Scotland – the book Scotland Coast To Coast is an account of a typical Challenge walk. Great Walking Adventure covered some of his more distant treks to Corsica, Norway, the Andes, Atlas and Himalayas.

Hamish did this walk in the days before all our great gear, he travelled light and basic and at times read a book whilst walking. I tried that on my walks and nearly killed myself. Chris Townsend another great walker wrote a wonderful piece on Hamish which tells the tale of the book far better than I can and is well worth a read.

Poems of the Scottish Hills.

Poems of the Scottish Hills.

There were a few who said that the Munros were not mountaineering but I have had so much joy from them over the years. It has opened up so much of Scotland for me and many have become old pals. There is no rush now and like a good whisky enjoyed and taken slowly, gone are the huge days and rush.

1972 a raid down into Leuchars area with Tom Mac what hill are we on. Hats were the thing then?

1972 a raid down into Leuchars area with Tom Mac what hill are we on. Hats were the thing then?

I hope I will be able to complete another round and maybe complete my Corbetts at last to fullfill my ego?

Any thoughts?


About heavywhalley.MBE

After dinner speaker Lecturer and Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 36 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 4 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer and loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Books, Corbetts, Enviroment, Equipment, Hill running and huge days!, History, Mountaineering, Munros, Poems, Views Mountaineering, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Munros – Ego or enjoyment ? The joy of books – “Hamish Brown’s – Mountain Walk and Climbing the Corbetts” It gets better and better the more often you read it?

  1. Terry says:

    Cruach Ardrain, Lomond.


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