1976 The Munro’s – 46 years on. A few thoughts.

Munros- 46 years on. Big changes but still a great way to get to know Scotland.

In my early wa liking days the Munro’s was a huge ambition. I completed them in 27 Mov 1976! It was recorded in the lists as Munro no 148 along with my pal Tom MacDonald.

We all have great memories of the Munros I will never for get the day I finished on An Sochach ( Braemar) The same day my pal Tom Mac Donald finished on the same day on Beinn a Chaorainn (Glen Eye) on 13 November 1978. The Munros have always meant a lot to me and a great way of enjoying and getting to know the Scottish hills. I have had so many great days with so many folk to mention but thank you all.

1976 my last Munro on my first round. An Sochach.

This was on the picture that my Team Leader Pete McGowan gave me and Tom all these years ago. It was also signed by the late Ben Humble of the SMC that made my day.

Petes note

“Dear Heavy

On behalf of all the members of RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team may I congratulate you on a really fine achievement in ascending An Socach 3097 feet in Braemar 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.

Many thanks for your hard work with the team, for you can be rightly and justifiably proud of your efforts. Well done and best wishes for many happy and enjoyable days in the mountains.”

Another great day was when my Dog Teallach completed his Munros in 1988 on An Teallach in winter. He was a great companion and our two day ascent of the Skye ridge was incredible and remains with me for ever. He never let me down loved the mountains and was a joy to go out with. Yet I trained him hard out most weekends of the year and he became an accomplished mountain dog. If you are taking your dog out especially in winter please be aware that he/she like you has to be able to cope with the weather and terrain?

Teallach round on An Teallach

When I started my Munro mission in 1972 I was on a long journey to plan my weekend hills and had the Munro book and my own list with me everywhere I went. I was with the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team at Kinloss in Morayshire. We were lucky and would train in a different area every weekend and I was keen and fit. It was a wonderful way to learn about the mountains and their secrets. There were few about and Munroists were rare. Every weekend after I got back I would mark them off in my Munro bible with a story about the weekend it was so much fun and what a way to get to know Scotland. The hills were quieter then and there were few paths away from the honey pots of the popular hills.

The week was spent at night pouring through maps and planning my next trip what a way to learn about this country. There was no quick fix like apps and the books and guides were pretty vague. The hills were a bit of exploration as it should be and all the time you were learning.

I learned to navigate and worked hard getting to hills on buses, trains and hitching. I had no car then and it was an all-consuming journey. It was a great day when Pete McGowan the RAF Kinloss Team Leader and the late Ben Humble a pioneer of Scottish Mountain Rescue presented me with a photo on our completion of the Munros at a party at RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue.

This was the after myself and Tom MacDonald had completed our Munro’s in November 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 of the Ben and Carn Mor Dearg that used to hang in the RAF Kinloss MRT.  

Some of the epic days are so clear even today my first attempt at the Skye ridge in one go apart from Gillean in 1973 when I nearly abseiled off the rope and Tom saved my life. I was fit but lacking in climbing skill and that nearly ended my Munro quest. Huge days of all the classic ridges, The Mamores, Fannichs, Kintail, Fisherfield, Torridon, Glencoe, Tranters Round, light and slow in running gear, the Etive hills with a Tent and so many more adding to them each year and learning so much. In winter it was hard with the simple kit. Big days in the Cairngorms in mid-winter on Beinn An Beinn A Bhuird with troops training for the Himalayas arctic or polar trips, huge cornices and dead reckoning navigation.

Gear :

The Curly Boots that were issued with froze as did the breeches ( 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 days 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 too far! We rarely met folk in the hills especially mid-week and we met many we knew.

I had a great dog Teallach a big soft Alsatian who completed a round and I will never forget our solo two-day traverse of the Skye ridge. 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 46 years ago who would have believed where it would take me?

I have climbed all over the World been on some of the big mountains on so many expeditions over 40 over the years. I have been so lucky 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 in my beloved Scotland.

Another round in Knoydart.

Often my solo days out on the Munros taught me so much they were an ordeal by fitness, weather and navigation at times in a bad day but you gained so much confidence in the end. They were at adventures and I still have a plan for another completion but that is another story.

So many now are on the hills running round them and ticking so fast that they see little, may use them as a training run. I hope as they get older they stop and appreciate these great hills and their history. Things never stay the same but the mountains and wild places are still a great arena for us all . Please let’s look after them and pass on our enjoyment to others.

Let’s talk about that other great adventure the Munro Tops?

The Munros are a great way to get to know Scotland and despite the heavy use on the footpaths compared with my early days it is still a fun way to get fit and see Scotland. I have enjoyed so many days and hopefully will still get another round in.

Thanks to all those who accompanied me on my travels and the great company.

If you have completed your Munro’s the Munro Society does a lot of good.

Founded in 2002 membership is open to anyone who has climbed all the Munro summits as listed in Munro’s Tables at the time of compleation – currently there are 282 mountains of Munro status with a height of 3000ft or more above sea level. Many such Munroists, who are often said to have ‘compleated’*, register their detail with the Clerk of the List. This official list is maintained by the Clerk on behalf of the Scottish Mountaineering Club and now exceeds 6,000 names. However, some of ‘compleaters’ do not register their details for a variety of reasons.

The Munro Society welcomes all Munroists who have compleated whether or not they have registered with the Clerk of the List.

The Society exists to bring together the wealth of mountain experience that members have accumulated and thus provide a forum in which to share interests and concerns as well as creating opportunities for convivial gatherings.

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Articles, Books, Friends, Gear, Mountain rescue, mountain safety, Mountaineering, Munros, Well being. Bookmark the permalink.

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