The Final Munros

I climbed my 224th Munro at the beginning of the year, on the final day of the annual JOK winter trip to the Highlands. Poor weather conditions and a lack of unclimbed Munros for me in the area (Lochaber) meant that there was only one new one climbed during the trip. The map shows I have 58 remaining, here’s a possible plan for them:

Northwest Highlands (South): 27 Munros, 14 days

  • 12 around Loch Monar – there are lots of Munros accessible from this remote loch, accessed from Glen Strathfarrar, best suited for a summer 3-4 day multi-day trip with wild camping. It’s been a long while since I did this.
  • 3 more from Strathcarron – these are all easy ones, good for winter, climbable in two days.
  • 6 around Glen Affric – Alltbeithe bothy is a long walk in but potentially a very useful base for doing these in 2-3 days.
  • 5 around Loch Quoich – another remote loch although with a road at least. Includes the westernmost of the South Glen Shiel Ridge which is normally climbed from the other direction. Three days in the summer or four in winter.
  • 1 near Loch Hourn – Beinn Sgritheall.

Northwest Highlands (North): 9 Munros, 4 days

  • 5 in The Great Wildnerness. A good, very long summer’s day.
  • 2 on An Teallach – 1 day. The most technical ones remaining.
  • 1 – Seana Bhraigh – very long walk in/out.
  • 1 – Am Faochagach.

Southern Cairngorms: 13 Munros, 6 days

  • 4 from Glenshee in a day including Cairnwell, the easiest one of all.
  • 1 awkward one south from Linn of Dee.
  • 2 very remote ones from Linn of Dee, to the south-west.
  • 2 very remote ones from Linn of Dee, to the north.
  • 2 more from Linn of Dee, to the north-east.
  • 2 more from Braemar itself (head of the Linn of Dee).

Southern Highlands: 9 Munros, 5 days

  • 1 from Corrour station – Sgor Gaibhre. Could be a good final one if the train timings work.
  • 2 from Tyndrum – although rather awkward to get to, in one day.
  • 1 from Loch Tay.
  • 4 from Loch Tulla – a long-anticipated big mountain day.
  • 1 from Loch Creran.

That makes 28 more mountain days. I’m planning on doing all the Southern Cairngorm ones in late July/early August, to coincide with the Scottish 6 Days orienteering event which is near there.


A Trio of Munros in the Ben Alder Forest


I climbed three Munros in the Ben Alder Forest area yesterday. This is the eastmost part of large tract of wilderness in the Scottish Highlands, stretching from Loch Ericht (between Dalwhinnie and Rannoch) all the way over to Glen Nevis (near Fort William). No public roads cross the area, and just one railway line, the West Highland Line. Ben Alder itself is a Munro of considerable bulk and height (1148m), it is hard to get to, requiring a long walk eastwards from Corrour station, northwards from Loch Rannoch or southwards from Dalwhinnie. I took the last option, taking advantage of a newly upgraded estate road to cycle the first 14km of the route to Loch Pattack (450m elevation), which took around 50 minutes – the well packed track generally passable on my road bike, apart from a sandy section near the end.

Shortly after crossing a wobbly suspension footbridge (pic above) across the loch inflow, I left the bike and climbed onto and up the easy-sloping ridge of Carn Dearg (1034m) from where there were fine views, both to Ben Alder and more immediately the Lancet Edge, a sharply pyramidal ridge leading up to another Munro I had climbed a few years before. I dropped down below the Lancet Edge, traversing a corrie and a valley at 600m before climbing up 100m to the Long Leachas. This is one of a number of ridges leading onto Ben Alder and it is in a spectacular location. The ridge offers easy scrambling, always with a bypass path. It is scenic and so makes the climb up to 1050m almost effortless. Near the top, it narrows, and keeping to the crest of the ridge offers numerous short and easy scambles over various boulders. From the top of the ridge, it is a 1.5km walk across the plateau to the summit of Ben Alder itself. Just below the summit lies the ruins of a small house – built by the team of the original Ordnance Survey surveying expeditions. Shortly after is a small lochan – at 1100m altitude, presumably one of the highest bodies of water in the UK.


The best views are from the ridge following on from the summit (see pic above), particularly looking north down the cliffs to a large loch and over to the Monadhliath Mountains. Looking the other way, Loch Ossian, with its wonderfully remote youth hostel, is also visible.

It is best not to follow the ridge eastwards too far from Ben Alder’s summit, as it curves around to the north and then ends in cliffs on three sides. So I came off the ridge early, aiming for the high bealach (840m) and then it was a quick ascent up Beinn Bheoil (1019m), the last of the three. There is a small top just to the right, on the way up, that has a fine view over Loch Ericht – the loch is a reservoir, dammed at both ends as it crosses over Scotland’s east/west watershed.

After Beinn Bheoil, I continue northwards along the largely flat and easy ridge, then coming off it to the left and hitting a well made stalkers’ path, that leads down to the river, to a bridge across it near Culra Bothy (now closed) and finally back to Loch Pattack and my bike, exactly six hours after I left. I’d walked 22km and climbed 1450m. The return along the estate road, to catch the evening train home, was done with care, as it was by now twilight.



The Munros: 2 – Mayar & 3 – Ben Lomond

Mayar is a bump on the high ground between Linn of Dee and the Angus Glens, not a classic Munro by any means but it was conveniently close to my school’s outdoor activity centre, Blair House, which made it a good hill to introduce to people. It was my second Munro, climbed sometime in March 1994. Being part of a Geography field trip, our route to the Munro was rather interesting – rather than taking the normal path up from Glen Doll (at the head of Glen Clova), we climbed into a hanging corrie – Corrie Fee – which is one of a number of distinctive features in this heavily glaciated area. I remember a walk through glacial moraine in the corrie itself, before a challenging exit up through the head – more a scramble than a walk, I remember. The high plateau was then reached, and the Munro was some way behind.

I was perhaps starting to get the Munro bug though, and a month later I managed to persuade my dad to drive over to Loch Lomond, to climb Ben Lomond, my third. The most southerly Munro, and easily accessible from Glasgow, it is one of the most popular. I was expecting an easy climb, and the first part was – up a very eroded path through woodland and then along a broad ridge. I however wasn’t expecting the quite sharp summit itself. It was also quite icy, and, although there was no view from the top, I got a sense of being on top of a real mountain – certainly one more sharply defined than Mayar a month earlier. Ptarmagen, the neighbouring top, would have made for an interesting extension and a more novel way back down to the shores of Loch Lomond, but instead I think we simply retraced our steps. We might have been a bit tired. The loch being at just 50m above sea level meant that it was a relatively large amount of climbing for a single peak.


The Munros: 1 – Ben Vorlich

This is the first in an occasional series of chronological posts about Munros that I have climbed. I have so far climbed 206 of the 284-odd Munros – these are mountains in Scotland that are at least 3000 feet (914m) high, with a distinct (but, curiously, not defined) drop between each one and the next. I’m planning to go through the 69 (so far) expeditions where I successfully made it up the the summit of at least one Munro. I’m been keeping track of the Munros I climbed on a Google Map (v2 API – old!) here. The page is old, but has somehow survived my current infatuation with all things OpenStreetMap and OpenLayers. Red pins are climbed Munros and blue ones are those still to do – generally these are well away from the south of Scotland or convenient railway stations.

Expedition 1 – Ben Vorlich


Ben Vorlich was my first Munro, climbed on 3 May 1992. It was one of the nine trips, carried out once a term in a three-year cycle, by the Junior section of my school’s active and popular Mountaineering Club. Most of these trips didn’t involve Munros, but a couple did, and this one, being right on the edge of the Highlands, was judged OK for kids aged as young as 10 to ascend (I myself had just turned 12). I had been up a few hills before – the 454m Ben A’an in the Trossachs, aged 10, being a highlight, but Ben Vorlich was obviously quite a bit bigger.

I don’t remember too much from the trip, except that, despite an intermittent view at the top, it was a cold, wet and windy day, and I didn’t have a proper outer shell, just a single-layer nylon thing. I developed mild hypothermia (going beyond the shivering stage and into a slightly zen-like state), on the long walk back down the glen to the north of the mountain. This has not happened to me since, but it was scary experience and thankfully one of the adults spotted me in a bad way and gave me a proper cagoule to shelter in for the remainder of the descent. The traditional stop in Callander for fish and chips soon cheered me up again (50 school kids piling off a coach and into the local chippies – so “locking out” the locals for a good half an hour).

One other thing I remember is that one of the kids had this high-tech device, called a GPS receiver. It was a Magellan (Garmin hadn’t really got going with consumer GPSes back then, I think) At the time, the GPS signal was still degraded by the US military – it was just after the Gulf War – so it was only accurate to around 100m. It also had a short battery life, so my friend switched it on every hour or so, waited to get a fix, recorded a waypoint and then switched it off again. Such a device seemed amazing – suddenly, we could “cheat” and find our location on the OS map without having to mapread. But the whole switching on-and-off thing was cumbersome and at the time I thought it was not a practical tool to have.

I don’t have any pics from the expedition unfortunately.

Cycling Leisure Munros

Montrose to Mount Keen – Journey to Munro #200


A week up in Scotland, with my road bike, and settled weather, was the ideal chance to pick off some slightly more inaccessible Munros.

Mount Keen is the most easterly of all the Munros, and well isolated from the other multi-Munro ranges around Glensheet and Cairngorm. It’s firmly in the middle of the Angus glens area and 25 miles from the nearest station, Montrose. Ideal for cycling then, particularly as I always wanted to cycle up the 15-mile dead-end road through Glen Esk. The Munro can be climbed from the north or the south – I picked the latter, which starts at Invermark, near the head of the glen.

The cycling section was pleasant, with quiet roads the whole way and a notable 6km section through Edzell Woods that was flat and straight as an arrow, while still being almost free of traffic. Crossing the A96 was daunting but a useful old road fragment makes this easier. The road through Glen Esk climbs steadily, but it’s only 300m in all.


The walking was also straightforward, with undoubtably the best Munroing path I’ve ever been on, probably laid and drained virtually to the summit. This was especially good as, having forgotten to bring my walking boots, I was in my regular road running shoes. I was up and down quickly, covering the 18km distance (with 700m climb) in less than four hours including breaks. Route map.


On the way out, I stopped at the Queen’s Well (top photo), a monument which was laid to commemorate a journey by Queen Victoria over the nearby Mounth Road, an old droving route which is just a track and climbs to 800m. I also visited an old fort which was by the start at Invermark, built high to keep an watchful eye on illegal cattle movements!

The cycle back was pleasant, arriving just as it got dark. I was quiet tired by this stage, so a smoked sausage supper, and Irn Bru, were quickly consumed while I waited for the last train back home. It was 4h40 of cycling, and 90km altogether.

Nice to have got #200 out the way, even if it has taken me 20+ years to get this far now. Only 82 more to do!

Photo gallery


Leisure Munros

A Day in the Mountains

One day last February, I stepped out of work and onto a sleeper train up to the Scottish Highlands with a friend, did a day’s hillwalking from Corrour, an outstandingly remote place, then got the evening train down and the sleeper back to London, rolling back into the office at an unusually early (for me) hour.

Last month I did the same thing again, this time with Dan and James. This time we got really lucky with the weather, so I decided on an ambitious (for winter) trek over two Munros to the south of Tulloch. We had just six hours between the morning train arriving and the evening train leaving, so we kept up a good pace. The snow depth wasn’t as bad as expected, with a 10-15cm layer of hoar frost sitting on top of some well-packed snow. Towards the end of the day we saw a front creeping towards us, that was to give a very heavy snowfall and avalanches in the area the following day.

Finding a good, straight path, we took a direct route up the ever-steepening slopes to the first summit (very boggy and nasty in summer apparently), then a pleasant and fast ridge-walk to the second Munro (again rough in summer) and finally a steep descent back down to the Narnia-like forest – the track being overgrown with trees bent double under the weight of the snow – and back to the station.

The area was a bit sparse on OpenStreetMap but I’ve gone back over the area and traced in the details, with the help of my GPS log, Landsat imagery and Scottish Popular Edition mapping that is now available in Potlatch (more on that soon).

A grand day out.

Route – for the full 3D experience you need the Google Earth browser plugin.

Munros Orienteering

JOK New Year in Glen Coe

Once again I was up in the Scottish Highlands with JOK. We were staying in Onich, on the Glen Coe to Fort William road, but most of our mountaineering was in Glen Coe itself, apart from one day in Ardgour. It was generally cold but clear, with a decent amount of snow on the hills, and a biting northerly wind at times, so days were generally quite short but very scenic.

Here’s the GPS “shapes” of my walks over the six days – these are created by OSM automatically when uploading the GPX files.

Attackpoint log. Photos to follow…

Leisure Munros

Hogmanay in Torridon


I had an unusual Hogmanay this year – up in Torridon with JOK. We stayed in Kinlochewe, by Loch Maree, and celebrated New Year itself at the Kinlochewe Hotel.

It turns out that quite a few JOKers are closet Munro-baggers. It was great to get out on the hills and climb some Munros, my first multi-day Munroing trip for nine years, I think. I climbed six new Munros, and also climbed Beinn Alligin again – this time, it was misty on the ridge, but still an exciting walk. I decided not to accompany some of the more dedicated Munroists on one of the days, when they climbed five of the Fannichs – not a bad round for midwinter. We didn’t have much in the way of snow, apart from on the way back on the last day.

I definitely need to get back and starting climbing Munros on a regular basis again. Why? Because “they are there.”

Photos from the trip – mostly taken with my cameraphone.
Day reports for the week – on my Attackpoint training journal.

I’m currently building a website that maps my climbed Munros, I will post about it in due course. I hope to eventually make it usable by anyone for tracking their Munro climbing.

Here’s some pseudo-3D geovisualisation of some of the routes we took. The pictures are screenshots from Google Earth, with my route shown in red, having been recorded with my Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS receiver. Not entirely coincidently, I spent Christmas evaluating a dissertation, an assessed part of my MSc course. The topic – Use of 3D geovisualisation to plan hiking routes. It was written before the days of Google Earth, so was quite prescient.

Beinn Alligin: December 31st

Our horseshoe route.

Our steep route down from the first Munro.<br /

Moruisg: January 2nd

Our route around Moruisg and the neighbouring Munro.

Looking along the ridge from the first summit.

Beinn Tarsuinn: January 3rd

Our route, looking from the A9 towards the summit.

View from above the summit, looking back along the approach route.