“If you slip and send a rock hurtling down the hill, shout ‘rock below'”. This was the advice from our guide Pete Thomasson as he took us on a week long hiking trip bagging Munros in the Scottish highlands. All of a sudden being the last in the line of hikers taking my time and admiring the scenery around me didn’t appeal so much.
As a hiker, I can’t get enough of mountains. I travel far and wide to find some of the best mountains. So when an opportunity came for me to bag my first set of Munros, I couldn’t pop my hiking boots on quick enough. The new walking trip is the latest offering from HF Holidays and as bagging Munros has been on my bucket list for a while, I decided to put my right foot forward. After a long train journey, plus a coach transfer to my base at the country house in Glen Coe, I was ready to stretch out my legs.
Munro bagging has been a popular hobby since the 80s but it was almost a century earlier that Sir Hugh Munro wrote an article with a definitive list of all the mountains in Scotland over 3,000ft. The list was created using maps and by taking barometer readings at the top to check mountain heights whose summits were of “sufficient separation fro their neighbouring tops. There are 282 Munros and as I reached the summit of Beinn Sgulaird at 3074 ft (pronounced byn sgoolart and means the mountain of the large old hat), I did a mini fist pump. Through heavy legs, over six hours of walking and scrambling and at times on all fours, I had bagged my first Munro of the week.
Day two and I was rearing to go and bag two Munros on the same day. I was surprised my legs were still in tact but feared that delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS) would kick in 48 hours later. But for now I kept focused on climbing up to Stob Ghabhar at 3576 ft (pronounced Stob Ghowar and means Goat Peak) and Stob a’ Choire Odhair at 3100 ft (pronounced Stob a Corryowa) and means Peak of the Dun-Coloured Corrie).
The beauty of wanting to bag the Munros is that you really get to see some of Scotland’s incredible outstanding and dramatic landscape. Luckily Pete insured we took time out to actually take everything in, by taking regular stops and being updated on the areas history. From looking behind where we had travelled from, to the steep shoulder of the foothills we were about to ascend, the utmost beauty surrounded us. The environment felt empty yet alive with the odd animal movement. A deer eyeing us up in the distance before trotting off and a ptarmigan taking flight over the hills, were mainly what we had for company.
My suspicions were confirmed when I awoke on day three and I felt the DOMS kicking in. My legs ached all over and I wasn’t sure how I was going scale a mountain let alone the few steps from my bed to the bathroom. Still, I had committed to bag 10 Munros on this walking trip and I wasn’t about to give up that easily.
Weather can turn very bad very quickly in the mountains and it was on this day that we felt the full force of nature as we attempted to hike Binnein Mor at 3707 ft (pronounced beenyan moar and means The Big Peak). We were battered by seriously strong winds and sideways rain that stings your face. In fact several times I felt I was going to be blown off the hill which was scary especially as we had to pass up some narrow sections with a vertical drop on either side. My fears that this hike was a tad on the dangerous side was confirmed when Pete said we were heading back down again as conditions were unsafe. Despite missing out on bagging Na Gruagaichean (3461 ft) (pronounced na grooageechan and means The Maidens), I was secretly happy. I seriously wasn’t enjoying the hike in those conditions. I was cold and miserable and had to to sit in an extra hot bath for a very long time before I was able to feel my hands and toes again.
It’s amazing what a day of rest can do both for your mental and physical well being. With a day off mid week included in the program, it not only allowed me to relax and rejuvenate from three days of walking but also enabled me to spend some quality time at the Alltshellach country house I was staying in. This stunning house is cosy and makes the most of the wonderful views from its three lounges, dining room and even the swimming pool. And the food is seriously delicious which we would choose each evening from a menu. Think home cooked food without having had to cook for yourself. I couldn’t fault it one bit.
Back in the mountains the next day and I had a spring in my step as if my fitness levels had improved ten fold having had had a rest. Today’s walk was the longest of the week at 13.5miles and we were on a mission to traverse three Munros and six other tops. We ascended along a narrow path at first then onto open hillside to reach Carn Liath (3300 ft) (pronounced carn lyeeu and means The Grey Cairn). We then tackled Stob Poite Coire Ardair (3455 ft) (pronounced stop potsha kora aardar and means Peak of the Pot of the High Corrie) before reaching our final Munro Creag Meagaidh (3707 ft) (pronounced krayk megeeand means Bogland Rock). It was a hat trick!
As the week went by I realised how much relaxed I felt in the mountains. Nature has a way of doing that even when the weather is bad. But it’s the simplicity of life and living in the moment and practising mindfulness that puts your mind at ease. When figuring out where to place my foot pretty much every step, I didn’t have time to mull over any of my problems. They seemed to have taken momentarily leave and I was happy with that. In fact when I bagged the last two Munros – Aonach Beag (4049 ft) (pronounced oenoch bayk and means Little Ridge) and Aonach Mor (4006 ft) (pronounced oenoch moar and means Great Ridge) – I was little sad the experience was over. But bagging the nine Munros has ignited a love for them and well I have a long way to go and bag all 282 of them. I am as they call a Munroist in the making and in true form I’m already planning my next one.
HF Holidays offers 7 night Munro Bagging holidays at Glen Coe, Scotland. Prices start at £845 per person and include full board en-suite accommodation, a full programme of guided walks with all transport to and from the walks, the services of experienced mountain leaders and light-hearted evening activities. The next departure is in June 2018. To book call or request a brochure call 0345 470 7558 or visit here.
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