The Munros an appreciation July 2017
The Munros 41 years on.
I am looking back on the Munros days what a great way to learn about this wonderful country, the mountains their hidden secrets , friendship on the hills and of course it’s people.
My pal Tom MacDonald and I completed our Munros both on separate hills in November 1976. We were both young members of the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team and were so lucky to have done these great hills before they became so popular. It was a great weekend I finished on An Socach 944 metres and the other two Munros for the rest of the party it was a big day in November. Tom finished on I am sure Beinn Bhreac and we were staying at Braemar with the Team. Most of the hills were done with the team and it was a constant chase to get the summits done with some great characters who taught us lots. I had no car could not drive and on the odd weekend off we hitched to the hills. I learned to plan my weekend hills and had the Munro list with me everywhere I went.
Pete Mc Gowan RAF Kinloss Team Leader and the late Ben Humble a pioneer of Scottish Mountain Rescue.
This was the night myself and Tom MacDonald had completed out Munro’s 1976. This was about a year before Ben passed away. It was a great privilege to meet Ben Humble, what a character that is his great photo behind me of the Ben and Carn Mor Dearg that used to hang in the RAF Kinloss MRT Briefing room.
Pete McGowan the RAF Kinloss Team Leader at the time what a man and gave us both a picture of our day and on the back he wrote these wonderful words. It was signed by Ben Humble a real mountain character and pioneer of Mountain Rescue.
“On behalf of all the members of RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team may I congratulate you on a really fine achievement in ascending An Sochach 3097 feet in Breamar on 13 November 1976. You completed a unique double with Tom Mc Donald to join a small band of climbers who have ascended all the 280 “Munro Mountains” in Scotland.
Yours Aye Pete Mc Gowan Team Leader RAF Kinloss MRT
(Also signed “Congratulations” by Ben Humble SMC )” I was so proud that Ben Humble was there he was some man a hero from another era and he always spoke to me no matter who was about.
It meant so much and still does to me to this day that Pete took the time to make our day special. Pete is incredible man and a true leader who sorted the team out and made us a true band of brothers and ready for anything that Scotland could throw at us. We learnt so much in these few years. There were so many great days in that period it was all fresh and new, the old basic inch to the mile maps, poor weather forecasts, no mobile phones, no GPS and few paths and you rarely met people. There were also no wind farms to blight the views. We had so many friends as the keepers in the glens, great names Mr Oswald at Ben Alder, Mr Mc Rae in Skye, Mr Robertson at Loch Muick so many more, we always addressed them as Mr or Sir they were real characters. From Skye to Ballater we knew so many of them and the advice they gave us was incredible.
The SMC Munro book so very basic back then and there was only one about the SMC Munros Tables it was our bible and how I enjoyed ticking it after very adventure. Each year I was getting in over 130 hill days getting in so many new hills little else mattered? Nowadays there are so many great books on the Munros my favourites are listed below, each have a gem about these mountains.
The Munros SMC , The Munros Tables SMC Guide
The Munros Cameron McNeish and the Munro Almanac.
The Munros in Winter Martin Moran
Hamish Mountain Walk Hamish Brown onspirational.
Some of the epic days are so clear the Skye ridge in one go apart from Gillean in 1973 when I nearly abseiled off the rope and Tom saved my life. Huge days of all the classic ridges, The Mamores, Fannichs, Kintail, Fisherfield, Torridon, Glencoe, Tranters Round, the Etive hills with a Vango Tent and so many more adding to them each year and learning so much. In winter it was hard with the simple kit. The Curly Boots that froze as did the breaches (whatever happened to them) Big rucksack’s were the norm and a rope was always carried along with fairly useless radios. We learnt to navigate with basic maps and limited area knowledge. Learning the hard way from mistakes in the winter traverses of the Cairngorms bothying, camping high, snow – holing and then at the end of the day maybe a call –out. You built up stamina and how often did it happen often coming off a 12 hour day on the hill then out on a night call – out no Health & Safety then. I have hundreds of tales about wild day on the hill, great adventures, near misses that will stay with me forever.
There were a few in the Team in those early days that mocked us Munro baggers they were the so-called climbers. At times they would walk round the summit tops to wind us up. It took a few years in the end for me to understand there was more to life than Munros and I learned whenever I could to mix the climbing and the Munros. After each weekend we would be asked at briefing what Munros, hills we had climbed and had to be able to name them all, a big day like the Kintail/Fannichs/ Beinn Dearg Range would be not easy but you learned the names and the area knowledge built up. My early big Walks across Scotland in the 70’s and early 80’s were a huge influence and we were climbing the Munros by new routes, great knowledge was gained from these walks. We added more and more hills a bit of bravado then and had some incredible days. Many pushed the boat out sometimes nearly to far!
I feel so privileged to have had such an experience in these early days, so many memories of great days and I have been lucky enough to get several Munro round completed over the years. In the end I have slowed down, I take my time and enjoy these great mountains; everyone has several memories for me. It was wonderful taking the new troops out on the big days, get them fit and learn about these hills and climbing so many of the classic days again and again. I had a great dog Teallach a big soft Alsatian who completed a round and I will never forget our two-day traverse of the Skye ridge, one never to forget. We were so lucky that the Munros were a big part of our training in the RAF Mountain Rescue Teams and all the classics big days were done again and again often in wild weather. Navigation and Stamina were the key skills and so many young novice troops learned on these great hill days
Looking back what a marvellous journey from that day 40 years ago who would have believed where it would take me? I have climbed all over the World been on some of the world’”I still feel young, although I cannot climb mountains quite so fast as I could years ago.” John Muir, 1910 (aged 72)”
I have been so lucky that I have climbed all over the world but these great peaks but these early days were the ones that mattered. From the Munros to these wild walks across Scotland the Alps, the Himalayas all opened my eyes to these wild places.
Often my solo days out on the Munros taught me so much they were an ordeal by fitness and navigation at times in a bad day but you gained so much confidence in the end. They were at adventures and I have a plan for another completion but that is another story.
Thanks Sir Hugh and all those who looked after me on the early days. Tom MacDonald, Pete McGowan, Ray Sefton, John Hinde, George Bruce, Tuech Brewer, Bugsy Rabbit’s, John Cosgrove and so many more. To all the young new team members we had some incredible days and often in wild conditions and then the inevitable call out afterwards. A big thanks to all those who made my days so much fun and those who now wait patiently on the summits.
Finally thanks to Sir Hugh Munro for his vision, now let’s talk about that great adventure the Munro Tops?
Munro Compleatists! From the Scottish Mountaineering Journal (SMJ) The Honorary Keeper of the lists. This is only those who register that they have completed I wonder what percentage have not registered possibly 60 – 80%.
1901 – 1970 – 96 Munroists
1970 – 1980 – 211 – (115) number 146 (1976)
1980 – 1990 – 721 – (510)
1990 – 2000 – 2310 – (1800)
2000 – 2015 – 5900) 3590 SMC J 2016
These are only the number who have registered how many are there who have not?
The Munro’s – Thanks Sir Hugh
It was a race to finish
A list to complete
For a name in a book
For years we took you for granted
Like a lover
So many great memories
Now the hills are battered
By so many feet?
Who are we to criticise
we have all used you?
For many the first is
like love,life changing?
So many are now enjoying
what we had when young.
Go and have fun and savour
Those Munro days in the sun.
The Fannaichs – Beginner’s introduction to a big hill day. An Coileachan, Meall Gorm, Sgurr Mor, Beinn Liath Mor Fannaich, Meall a’Chrasgaidh, Sgurr nan Clach Geala, Sgurr nan Each, Sgurr Breac, A’Chailleach.
The Shenavall Five/Six add An Teallach – Summer/winter – Superlative hills in great country, the pull back up on the way home clears the mind. Magnificent, a must for everyone! Beinn a’ Chlaidheimh, Sgurr Ban, Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair, Ben Tarsuinn, A’Mhaighdean, Ruadh Stac Mor and the An Teallach Munros
Beinn Dearg Six. The drop to Am Faochagach is one to remember. Eididh nan Clach Geala, Meall nan Ceapraichean, Cona Mheall, Beinn Dearg, Seana Breagh. Am Faochagach
The Torridon Trilogy. – Ben Alligin – Liathach – Beinn Eighe you can add the CorbettOne of Scotland’s finest, two beleachs of pain to enjoy. The West Coast at its best Tom na Gruagaich – Sgurr Mor, Mullach an Rathain – Spidean a’ Choire Leith -Connich Mhor – Ruadh – Stac Mor – Black Carlins – Kinlochewe.
The Mamores – “An early test for Munro baggers” Sgurr Eilde Mor, Binnein Beag, Binnien Mor, Na Gruagaichean, An Gearanach, Stob Choire a’ Chairn, Am Bodach, Sgurr a’ Mhaim, Stob Ban, Mullach nan Coirean
So many More but that is another tale. Maybe for another blog?
Some comments of FACEBOOK
Mark Hartee comments
“Great article Heavy as usual. For interest and to big up some amazing recent achievements regarding ‘big days’ particularly by women – the record for Tranters Round was broken on 14th July by Carnethy’s Helen Bonsor who beat Jasmin Paris’s previous record in 12 hrs 25 mins. It was skied in full recently in about 22 hrs I think . Jasmin holds the record for the larger Ramsays Round in 16 hrs 13 mins. She also smashed the combined records for the combined time for the 3 big rounds – RR , Bob Graham and Paddy Buckley. Lastly, Jon Broxaps record that stood since 1988 of 29 munros in a day was extended by Jim Mann a few weeks ago to 30 munros in a 22hrs 5 mins in the Cairgorm area covering 88 miles. Of course, these were lightweight trips running and with support. No RAF MR hillbags and big boots! More info on the Carnethy and Charlie Ramsay sites if interested.”
Scouse Atkins – Lovely article Heavs. I’ve had the pleasure of accompanying two troops on their final Munro (Danny on the Inn pin, Raz on the dubhs). One day I’ll tick off the last 50 or so