The spirit of Sir Hugh Munro walks with us still

LAST month in Fort William the Munro Society held a dinner to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth, on 16 October 1856, of Hugh T Munro, the man whose name is given to the 284 Scottish peaks eagerly climbed by hillwalkers.


Map Ordnance Survey map 41, Ben Nevis, Fort William and Glen Coe

Distance 7 miles

Height 1,300m

Terrain Track and worn path

Start point Ballachulish school at map ref 080578

Time 6 to 7 hours

Nearest villages Ballachulish and Glencoe

Nearest refreshments A good choice in GlencoeIndeed, many of the subsequent changes to the tables were due to more accurate mapping.

Some non-hillwalkers may assume that Munro himself climbed all his listed peaks, but when he died, aged 63, he had still to climb the Inaccessible Pinnacle, Carn an Fhidhleir and Carn Cloich-mhuilinn. It is likely that Munro's objective was to climb all the subsidiary tops before completing the "Munros" and it is to be regretted that many aspirant Munroists ignore these tops in favour of climbing only the highest points. Due to its closeness to Lindertis, Carn Cloich-mhuilinn, now a subsidiary top, was being kept for the final hill.

The Rev AE Robertson is recorded as being the first Munroist. He finished on Meall Dearg on the Aonach Eagach in 1901, having had a vigorous spell of collecting the high tops, particularly in 1899, that would shame many present day Munro baggers. However, this man of the cloth's claim to be the first is somewhat tainted by the revelation that he had turned back on approaching the summit of Ben Wyvis because of adverse weather.

The dinner was a great success and gave me the opportunity to meet up with old friends, Rhona and Peter. Sir Hugh was also present in effigy form, resplendent in a new kilt, but somewhat inscrutable - what he made of the goings on he kept to himself. The only appropriate way to spend the next day was to go hillwalking. Having been to Meall Dearg just a few weeks before, I opted for the delights of the twin-Munro Beinn a' Bheithir above Loch Leven, climbing first Sgorr Dhearg, then Sgorr Dhonuill.

You will need Ordnance Survey map 41, Ben Nevis, Fort William and Glen Coe. From the village school in Ballachulish at map ref 080578, follow the track that goes south high on the west side of the River Laroch to enter Gleann an Fhiodh. Stay with the track, with its base of crushed slate, pass a small, almost hidden, quarry, and half-a-mile later strike up the hill for the NE ridge that leads to Sgorr Bhan, a subsidiary top. The ridge is a grassy shoulder at first but becomes more defined with a developing path. The latter section, on the by now narrow ridge, requires hand to rock in places but then it is easy walking to Sgorr Bhan. That lies at 947m so it is quite a pull up over one and a half miles from almost sea level.

It is then a short walk SW, and then west, along a curving ridge with steep slopes falling away on both sides. The 1,024m summit of Sgorr Dhearg has a cairn with remnants of a trig point.

To continue to Sgorr Dhonuill, it is important on a misty day to check the map as it would be all too easy to descend on the north ridge. Descend south-west on good scree, leading to a grassy path, then west to the 757m bealach beneath Sgorr Dhonuill. The old fence and stile at the bealach now lie on the ground.

Climb west, with a good path zig-zagging on scree, to the second Munro, craggy and sharp on approaching its summit. Return to the bealach and descend south, then south-east, on steep grassy slopes for the path in Gleann an Fhiodh by the edge of the forest to return to Ballachulish. The path, vague over grassy stretches, soon leads to the initial track.

On the connecting ridge to Sgorr Dhonuill I realised that conditions were ideal for a Brocken Spectre, and sure enough, on the very summit the low bright sun was casting shadows on to a bank of cloud. Walkers were waving to their projections on the cloud, but I was waving to a rainbow-enshrouded figure that could easily have been Sir Hugh Munro and saying to myself... thank you Sir Hugh, thank you.

Back to the top of the page