I never set out to complete the round of the Munros when I started walking the hills.
My first hills walked as an adult were the Cobbler and Beinn Donich done over a weekend spent at Ardgarten YH just after I graduated from Uni. There was a guy in the hostel that I talked to enthusiastically about what an amazing hill the Cobbler was. He said he wasn’t interested in doing it as it wasn’t a Munro. I thought “You are an idiot. I don’t want to be a Munro-bagger if that is what it turns you into”.
Fast forward several years and I’m approaching Munro number 250. By now I’ve ticked all of Skye, done Beinn More on Mull, walked the Five Sisters, the Brothers, the South Glenshiel Ridge. Done the Fannaichs and hoovered up all but one of the Cairngorms. Been stunned by the beauty of Torridon and all of those pinnacles. The Crianlarich, Bridge of Orchy and Tyndrum hills were a distant memory. I’ve done the Ben in Summer via the CMD and climbed it in winter via the NE Buttress IV/4 route. Glencoe is long gone – The Buchaille, Bidean three times, the Aonach Eagach (where I met a guy who got me into rock climbing), the Beag, Glen Etive yomps. I’ve been up Beinn an Dothaidh four times (once walking in Summer, once walking in Winter, and twice via winter climbing routes).
By 2009 I only had 33 to go. But then I hit problems…
Do you notice the references to climbing? Something new had got my attention. I was climbing now, not just walking. In 2006 I climbed my first mountain multi-pitch route – Agag’s Groove on the Rannoch Wall on Buchaille Etive Mor – on a glorious sunny day. We came down Curved Ridge parched and starving as we’d left our rucksacks at the bottom of the climb – rookie mistake no.27. But the climbing bug had got me and the pull of Munro-bagging was starting to fade.
All of those long days; solo walks (cos none of my mates wanted an early start when a hangover was a preferable option); those infrequent days when spectacular views more than made up for the frequent days with no views; the increasingly long drives to ever remoter hills.
Or now an alternative of easy drives to local crags and a new kind of ticking – filling up a UKClimbing logbook.
So the Munro bagging slackended off. My peak year (ha) was 2002 when I did 49 Munros! Since then the numbers per year have dwindled. Joining SHAG has seen me tick off a few more and I am getting closer to being a Completionist. But the end is still a long way away.
But do you know what, the past three months has seen something strange happen. I’ve started walking again, and I’m not even really ticking new Munros. I’ve started to revisit old ground and I’m enjoying it! I always enjoyed the effort required in walking up hills. I liked the feeling of putting on boots and stepping away from the car and heading up. I lost the motivation to drive the long distance to tick those elusive Munros, and thought I had lost the joy of walking. I figured that they went hand in hand.
I was wrong.
This past couple of months I’ve taken my kids up Geal Charn and Beinn Udlamain at Drummochter; and Carn Aosda, the Cairnwell and Carn a Gheoidh in Glenshee- all hills I’ve not been up in almost 20 years. I first walked the Five Sisters in Kintail in 1995, and I repeated it last weekend. It was brilliant. Yesterday I walked up to Coire Ardair on Creag Meagaidh in foul weather with Jacqueline and a friend visiting from China. I haven’t been there for years either. It was lovely despite the rain and wind. I’ve even managed to get to Knoydart this year – claimed two more ticks in horrible weather and chose to climb a Corbett in sunshine and forego another (very remote) Munro in equally horrible clag. I have to go back with all of the logistical problems that causes, and I felt good with the decision.
I still love climbing, and I’ve managed to continue adding to my UKC logbook, including this year doing two long mountain routes I’ve wanted to do for years. I am still planning on completing the Munros. I’ll get there one day.
But what is best is that I’ve re-discovered my love of walking without the restrictions of a list to bound me. I hope that the guy I met in Ardgarten has completed his round. I also hope he has seen past the Munro list and gone and done the other amazing hills that surround them. We live in an outstanding country with a range and choice of wild lands that is both accessible and inaccessible. We can walk three Munros one day in 4 1/2 hours or choose to lose ourselves in wild land for days on end and not see another person. It’s all there – we just need to see the possibilities.