Wednesday, September 16, 2009

munros by any other name

A more general post about our trip to Scotland to follow later with links'n'stuff, as well as some ramblings about whisky-sampling activities. In the meantime here's a link to some photographs.

One of the principal aims of the trip was to do some walking and bag a few Munros in the process. We managed to do four, bringing my personal total to ten, which I list here as much to ensure I don't forget which ones they are as anything else. They're in very rough chronological order of the date I climbed them (or first climbed them in the case of Ben Nevis, which is the only one I've done more than once). Feel free to refer to this marked-up Google map and/or this numbered list (ordered by height) for reference.
  • Ben Nevis. The highest mountain in the British Isles at 4406 feet (1343 metres). Obviously you've got to do this one, and I think I've been up here three times, most recently on the Three Peaks Challenge in July 2006 (as pictured). Things to note include it being easily reached from Fort William, one of the most "honest" Munro ascents since you start from nearly at sea level, and one of the few Munros on which it's likely that you'll meet a lot of people, especially if you go up by the normal zig-zag "tourist" path up the western face of the mountain. The best route (though significantly longer and tougher) is to start from the same place but go round and approach along the ridge which approaches from the "back" (i.e. the east) - spectacular views and also the opportunity to bag another Munro on the way round. And that Munro is....
  • Carn Mor Dearg. This is just the highest point of the aforementioned ridge. Well, I say "just", but it's 4003 feet high (1220 metres), so it's no picnic. The arĂȘte connecting it to Ben Nevis is pretty spectacular, too.
  • Ben Lomond (3196 feet, 974 metres). The most southerly Munro, and easily reachable as a day trip from Glasgow. Not too demanding a climb; my only specific recollection of doing it (which would have been in about 1999) was that it was a glorious sunny day, which stick in the mind when Munro-bagging as you don't get too many of them.
  • Cairn Gorm (4081 feet, 1245 metres). I think we missed the proper path when climbing this one, and ended up slogging through the ski-lift workings which scar the hillside, which wasn't particularly pleasant. Once we'd negotiated that, the summit is a pleasant rocky dome with views and paths across to most of the other big Cairngorm peaks, including....
  • Ben Macdui (4296 feet, 1309 metres). The second-highest peak in the British Isles, and apparently once believed to be the highest. It's big, anyway.
  • Sgurr nan Gillean (3162 feet, 964 metres). This is the top point on the Black Cuillin on Skye, and a jagged and scary beast it is too - a very different proposition from the enormous domes of the Cairngorms. The Wikipedia article alludes to "exposed scrambling" to a summit which is a "small and airy platform" and they do not exaggerate. I'm pretty good with heights and scrambling but I was mildly alarmed by the whole experience. No trig point on this one, because there isn't enough room. I had originally intended to traverse the Cuillin ridge to do the other two Munros on it as well, but as I couldn't see a way down onto the ridge that didn't involve dying in a jaggedly messy and painful way I decided to head back down the way I'd come up and head back into Sligachan for a pint and a change of pants.
  • Ben More (3852 feet, 1174 metres). This was the first of last week's Munros, and was pleasingly reachable on foot from where we were staying. The 16th highest peak in Britain, also apparently the highest peak south of the Tay - to put it another way, there's nothing south of it in Britain that's higher, if that makes sense. Unrelentingly steep climb, and pathless for the first half of the ascent until a path miraculously appears to take you to the summit, which has a trig point, which is nice.
  • Stob Binnien (3822 feet, 1165 metres). Directly south of Ben More and linked by a ridge path to it.
  • Ben Lui (3707 feet, 1130 metres). Reached from a car park in Glen Lochy via a set of stepping stones across a stream - well, at least it should be, but with all the rain the stream had turned into something of a torrent by the time we got there and there were no stepping stones to be seen. So we had to slog upstream for a mile or so to find a footbridge, climb over the padlocked gate and the various signs warning of dire punishments and fines for trespassing, hop over the Crianlarich to Oban railway line and then slog through some pathless pine forest to get to where we wanted to start from, which was a bit of a pain. OK after that though - another fairly steep and pathless ascent to a narrow-ish summit ledge with a cairn. Then a quick drop down to a short ridge path to....
  • Beinn a'Chleibh (3005 feet, 916 metres). A nice easy one to finish with. The only difficulty was negotiating the flooded ford back down where we'd started, which we did by the simple method of just plunging in and wading across, and then taking our boots off back at the car to empty the water and frogs and trout out of them.
After the recent downgrading of Sgurr nan Ceanniachean this means that I've got just the 273 left to do. I have no expectation of ever doing them all, incidentally, but there are lots more within easy reach, so I reckon I can get the list expanded a bit before I'm too decrepit to bag any more.

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