In 1891 Sir Hugh Munro published the first comprehensive list of summits in Scotland over 3000ft high. He distinguished separate mountains, known now as the Munros, from their less-significant subsidiary summits, known as the Munro Tops. There is no definite criteria for this distinction, but it is generally accepted to be based on the drop in height, the distance between summits, their character and the character of the intervening ground. If you climb all the Munros you can rightly say you've climbed all the 3000ft mountains in Scotland.
Since Munro published his Tables, the Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC) has revised the list based on more accurate height measurements. The SMC has also attempted to rationalise the distinction between Munros and Tops, to address the perceived inconsistency as to which peaks qualify for Munro status. This has lead to some controversy. In the SMC's 2012 revision of the Tables, there are 282 Munros and a further 227 subsidiary Tops.
I'd climbed the fifteen 3000ft peaks in Wales as a single day walk in 2004 and was looking for a new challenge. Having not done any walking in Scotland previously, a list of the highest peaks looked to be a methodical way of exploring all the corners of the Highlands. I'd already done some lightweight backpacking and wildcamping in Wales and had developed a taste for long multi-day trips through remote country. This style of expedition would be an ideal way of climbing the Munros - I could stick to the ridges and camp high-up at the end of each day.
Living in Southampton and not having a car meant that I would have to rely on public transport to reach Scotland. The most expensive aspect of each trip was the long-distance transport; once there, costs were very low. I found it worthwhile to stay up for two weeks, then find some way of replenishing food supplies at the end of the first week. The challenge was not only physical, but also a logistical one based on designing a route around the constraints of available shops and transport at the start and end. It was great to have this Munro-climbing project to work towards over a number of years, each year making progress towards completion.
Many people who climb Munros these days drive to the nearest car park and take the shortest, often heavily-eroded, route to each summit. Some argue that this form of peak bagging devalues the experience of hill-walking in favour of the achievement of reaching an arbitrary point on a map. By climbing the Munros as a series of treks I shifted the focus from the summits to being more about the journey and the landscape. Reducing life to the most basic elements of food, warmth and shelter is incredibly restorative and at the end of each trip I returned to normal life feeling refreshed. By traversing the highest ground in Britain I experienced the landscape as it has always been, barely altered by the presence of humans.
The series of treks climbing the Munros have been some of my most enjoyable and memorable holidays. Hopefully this website will provide information and inspiration to encourage others to go backpacking over the hills in Scotland. You don't need an especially high level of fitness; you just need to pack light and take only the essentials.
More importantly I wanted to communicate the beauty of the Scottish Highlands and what a precious resource this is in the modern age. The wild areas of Scotland are increasingly under pressure from construction of wind turbines, bulldozed estate tracks and lines of pylons marching across the landscape. Wind turbines have already been erected within sight of Munros. We must take care to preserve the wildness of the Highlands for the benefit of future generations. If this unique wilderness is lost, it will never be regained. In the words of the great John Muir:
Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.