"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. Bagging Munros is the term associated with a challenge to conquer Scotland’s Munros - Scottish mountains over 3,000 ft - named after Sir Hugh T Munro, who catalogued the mountains in 1891. The highest Munro is Ben Nevis.
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. This 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 - almost a century later than when Munro wrote his definitive list made using maps and barometer readings. There are 282 Munros in total and as I reached the summit of Beinn Sgulaird (pronounced byn sgoolart, meaning ‘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 raring to go, hoping to bag two Munros on the same day. I was surprised my legs were still intact but feared that delayed onset of muscle soreness would kick in 48 hours later. But for now, I focused on climbing Stob Ghabhar (pronounced Stob Ghowar, meaning ‘goat peak’) and Stob a’ Choire Odhair at (pronounced Stob a Corryowa, meaning ‘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 most dramatic landscapes. Luckily, our guide ensured we took time out to actually take everything in by stopping for regular breaks and sharing details on the local history. The environment felt empty yet alive with only the odd animal movement here and there. A deer that eyed us up in the distance and a ptarmigan that took flight over the hills were our only company.
On our third day of hiking, we felt the full force of nature as we attempted to hike Binnein Mor (pronounced beenyan moar, meaning ‘the big peak’). We were battered by seriously strong winds and stinging sideways rain, making for a fearful ascent, which is when our guide made the decision for us to retreat for our own safety. Despite missing out on bagging Na Gruagaichean (pronounced na grooageechan, meaning ‘the maidens’), I was pleased to have a bit of respite from the miserable conditions.
Mid-week through our hiking holiday, we had a day of rest, which was amazing for both my mental and physical wellbeing. I felt relaxed and rejuvenated after three days of hiking and I finally had the time to appreciate Alltshellach, the cosy country house I was staying in, which had wonderful views from its three lounges and the dining room. To top it off, the home-cooked food was seriously delicious and there is a heated indoor swimming pool, which was a lovely treat.
After a day of rest with a renewed spring in my step, we resumed hiking in the mountains. This was our longest walk of the week at 13.5miles, and we traversed a hat trick of three Munros and six other mountain tops, including: Carn Liath (pronounced carn lyeeu, meaning ‘the grey cairn’); Stob Poite Coire Ardair (pronounced stop potsha kora aardar, meaning ‘peak of the pot of the high corrie’) and Creag Meagaidh pronounced krayk megeeand, meaning ‘bogland rock’).
As the week went by, I realised how 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, all of my worries had disappeared. In fact, when I bagged the last two Munros - Aonach Beag (pronounced oenoch bayk, meaning ‘little ridge) and Aonach Mor (pronounced oenoch moar, meaning ‘great ridge’) - I was sad the experience was over. That being said, the experience of bagging nine Munros has inspired me to start planning my next Munro bagging trip, although I have a long way to go to bag all 282 of them! For now I’m proud to say I’m a Munroist in the making.
HF Holidays offers 7-night Munro Bagging holidays in 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. For more information visit www.hfholidays.co.uk.
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