The Munros comprise a defined list of 283 mountains in Scotland that are 3000 feet (914.4m) or over. We won’t go into the detailed history of the Munro story, but suffice to say that the term “Munro” was coined after Sir Hugh Munro’s (of Lindertis in Angus) great plan of climbing all the 3000 feet mountains in Scotland. Sir Hugh’s original list or table was drawn up in 1891 and published in the Scottish Mountaineering Club Journal of the time. Several revisions have taken place over the years: with the latest table including 283 mountains. Sadly, Sir Hugh never saw his own personal completion of “his list”. Despite this, the idea was born and, in September 1901, Reverend A. E. Robertson successfully completed the first round of the Munros. Since then there have been thousands of successful “Munro Baggers”. Some take a lifetime to complete a round, others take a mere 83 days (in winter too). There is one chap who has completed 14 rounds – now that’s a lot of time off work!
But what actually qualifies certain peaks of 3000 feet or over as Munros? Well, unfortunately it isn’t quite an exact science as the original intention of Sir Hugh Munro was to list all of the Scottish Mountains of 3000 feet and over that were of “sufficient separation” from neighbouring “tops”. Apparently, he did not document a precise definition of what he meant by “separation”, though the “character” of the mountain played a part. The definitive list of Munros has changed a bit over the years as modern day surveying techniques have challenged some of the previous altitude ratings. However, that said, although there have been several tops promoted to Munros status and some other Munros demoted to tops, the original list compiled by Sit Hugh remains very consistent with the current Munro list in use today.
The custodians of the Munro list, which currently recognizes 283 Munros, is held and maintained by the Scottish Mountaineering Club – one of the oldest mountaineering clubs in the world.
Below is a summary of some of the more “interesting” Munro-bagging achievements:
- The original list of qualifying 3000 ft (and over) mountains in Scotland was complied by Sir Hugh Munro in 1891;
- The first Munro-bagger to complete a round was Rev A. E. Robertson in 1901;
- In 1974 (4 April to 24 July), Hamish Brown (MBE) became the first person to complete a round of the Munros in a single trip with only a bike and ferries as means of support. Hamish has subsequently completed multiple rounds of the Munros;
- Martin Moran was the first person to complete a continuous winter round of the Munros in 1984/85 in just 83 days. He was supported by his wife and used a motorhome as his mobile base-camp;
- Currently, fell runner Stephen Pyke has achieved the fastest complete round of Munros between April and June 2010 in an astonishing 39 days and 9 hours. Stephen ran, walked, cycled or kayaked between each Munro, with a campervan following him as back-up and as his mobile base-camp;
- 2010 also saw the completion of the 14th round of the Munros by Steven Fallon;
- A total of 4705 Munro’ists have completed a full round of the Munros, as recorded by the Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC) on 1 December 2010. There are likely to be a great many more Munro completers than this number, but who have not bothered, or decided against informing the SMC of their achievements.
So that’s a bit about the Munros. But why are Elaine and I interested in them? I guess that we always have been – especially me [well I was born in the Scottish Highlands under the shadow of Ben Nevis … the highest Munro of them all!]. We’re also both very keen on outdoor pursuits including climbing, mountain biking and skiing. We have climbed in the Alps, the Dolomites and Mallorca, and spent many weekends and holidays mountaineering and biking in North Wales and Scotland. So for us, climbing all 283 Munros seems like a natural extension to what we’ve achieved so far and will be a worthy challenge for our year-long Scottish Odyssey as none of the Munros will simply relinquish their summits to us: they will need to be earned through the physical and technical challenges of climbing to the tops.