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Munro’s legacy: The people inspired to walk Munros

Written by Fiona

March 19 2019

Sir High Munro is remembered today, on the centenary of his death, for his list of Scottish mountains. The Munros – summits of at least 3000ft – have inspired many thousands of people to take up a healthy hobby to bag some, or all, in the Table of 282.

I spoke to some of the Munro baggers for a feature published in the Sunday Post.

In highest esteem

When Sir Hugh Munro compiled his list of the tallest mountains in Scotland, he could not have imagined just how famous they would become.

Nor could he have foreseen the passion of so many thousands of walkers for bagging his summits.

On the centenary of Munro’s death, I spoke to some of the people who continue to enjoy the great mountaineer’s legacy.

Young Marcus Tinley.

‘I get to climb and I like to be high up’

Young Munro bagger Marcus Tinley loves running down Munros, climbing ridges and eating lots of food.

The nine-year-old from Bearsden, East Dunbartonshire, said: “Munros are fun. I get to climb up them and I really like scrambling and being up high.

“It’s great when I run downhill at top speed and then I eat lots of food. After I climbed Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis, which took 12 hours, I ate pizza, 20 chicken nuggets, fries and a strawberry milkshake.

“My favourite hill snacks are massive cakes. But it’s fine to eat this food because I am using lots of energy when I am in the mountains.

“If I could meet Sir Hugh Munro I would ask him what his favourite hill snack is.”

Marcus has reached the summit of 30 different Munros with his dad Simon, an experienced mountaineer, although they climbed some multiple times.

His first hill walk was The Dumpling, by Gartocharn, aged two. He went on to walk local hills such as Dumgoyne and Conic before hiking his first Munro, Ben Lomond, aged four.

More recent climbs have included the Aonach Eagach ridge and Curved Ridge on Buachaille Etive Mor, both in Glencoe, as well as the technical ascent of Tower Ridge.

Simon said: “Marcus is very enthusiastic and he wants to try tougher and trickier climbs.

“I am always conscious of his safety but at the same time I think it is good for him to experience some risk.

“Kids are often shielded from risk in their daily lives and I like that being in the mountains helps Marcus to develop self-confidence and awareness.

“The Munros have been great for his physical and mental health so far in his young life.”

Ryan and Sarah are new to the Munros.

‘We like being outdoors and a sense of achievement’

Husband and wife Munro baggers from North Kessock, Inverness, Ryan and Sarah Watson, have walked 13 Munros together.

Their first Munro was the UK’s tallest mountain, Ben Nevis, close to Ryan’s home town of Fort William.

The couple also chose to have their wedding last year in a hotel with views to the Ben.

Ryan, 31, said: “We started walking Munros about two years ago as something to do together while also staying fit.

“We enjoy the planning of each walk, being outdoors in our beautiful country and the sense of achievement when we complete a Munro.

“We started with easier Munros, such as those that have less ascent, and we are building up our experience so we can tackle harder routes.”

The couple keep a Munro journal and they enjoy sharing their trips with other Munro baggers.

Sarah, 26, said: “We are part of the Munroaming group on Facebook which has almost 3000 members.

“It’s great to see how popular Munro bagging is and to share news and gain recommendations from like-minded people.”

The couple hope to reach 50 Munros this year. Ryan said: “One day we will finish all 282 Munros in the list.

“Hugh Munro created a brilliant challenge with his Tables because if the hills were not listed far fewer people would think to walk to so many summits.”

Hazel’s 10th Munro compleation on Cairn an Tuirc. Credit: Craig Allardyce.

‘I love the wildness and the hard-won days’

Hazel Strachan, of Bathgate, West Lothian, is a legend in Munro bagging circles.

The 50-year-old has completed 10 rounds and is well on her way to another round. She has the female record for most rounds and is second only to Steven Fallon’s incredible 15 rounds.

While many people hold Hazel in high esteem, she says it’s Hugh Munro that she admires.

She said: “He must have been a hardy guy. Some of his wanderings in those days before cars would put a lot of us to shame.

“The hills of Scotland would have been quite a different and extremely remote place in 1891 when his list was published.

“I admire the commitment and passion he expressed when compiling his list.”

Hazel enjoys a Munro bivvy.

She is also grateful to Munro for his Tables. She said: “If it wasn’t for Munro, I would not have such a rewarding hobby and I would not have visited so many parts of Scotland.

“I love walking the Munros and I almost always go solo. I like the big days wandering over summits, the wildness of the highest ground, the variety of stunning landscapes, the hard won days in winter and the beautiful sunrises and sunsets.”

Hazel’s first Munro was Ben Vorlich on Loch Earn, while a pupil at Currie High School in the early 1980s. It was the photos in a book, The Big Walks edited by Ken Wilson and Richard Gilbert, in 1989 that inspired her to believe she would one day walk a round of Munros.

Now some 120 Munros into her 11th round, Hazel has no plans to stop.

She said: “Each round surpasses the previous round, with even more memorable moments. One round would never be enough for what my spirit wanted to experience.

“I do enjoy many other hills and mountains and I also like to cycle but the Munros are still my favourite hills.”

The beagles, Poppy and Rosie, chilling on the top of the Munro, Lochnagar.

The Munro mutts

Many Munro baggers are accompanied by their dogs. See The Munroaming doggies.

Beagles Poppy and Rosie are companions for owner Alan Gillies. Nine-year-old Poppy has climbed 98 Munros, while Rosie, five, has completed 58 Munros.

Alan, of Kilbirnie, North Ayrshire, said: “As soon as I start getting out my rucksack and walking kit at home, the dogs get excited.

“They bark, wag their tails and jump about waiting for me to get ready and into the car.

“They just love being out in the mountains. They are always full of energy, sniffing the scents and it’s so great to see their enjoyment.”

Alan, who has bagged 258 Munros, reveals that the walks without his dogs are never as good.

He said: “Some Munros are not beagle friendly so I have to do those alone. I feel sad then that they are not with me. They are the best companions in the mountains.”

Who was Sir Hugh Munro?

Munro was born in London in 1856, the eldest of nine children. His family spent a lot of time on their Scottish estate near Kirriemuir, Angus.

It was a trip aged 17 to Stuttgart to learn German and the sight of the Alps that sparked his lifelong love of mountains.

Back in Scotland, Munro used his hill walking trips and large-scale Ordnance Survey maps of the time to draw up a list of the highest peaks.

The list published in 1891 and later called Munro’s Tables, included 283 separate mountains (Munros) and a total of 538 tops.

The totals are impressively close to today’s figures – 282 Munros out of 509 Munro Tops –  even after a century of improved mapping and more modern measuring technologies.

Sadly, Munro failed to climb all the mountains in his list. He died aged 63 on March 19, 1919, of pneumonia contracted while running a World War I canteen in France. 

But countless other people have ticked off numerous Munros since and a record of almost 6500 “compleaters” – those who have finished a round of all 282 Munros – is kept by the Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC).

Munro was also one of the founding members of the SMC, formed in Glasgow in 1889.

I was also featured in a BBC article about Munro’s legacy.

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