In her role as mountain safety adviser, Heather Morning offers training and education to those looking to scale Scotland’s peaks. And in Scotland, those peaks are Munros.
Named after Scottish mountaineer Sir Hugh Munro, the term applies to any mountain in Scotland that is over 3,000 feet (914 metres) tall. The country has 282 Munros and anyone who manages to reach the top of all of them can claim the title of Munroist.
One such Munroist is Morning. She climbed her first Munro (Ben Lomond) aged nine and completed the set 25 years later. She’s also ideally placed to pick out some of Scotland’s finest mountains to hike.
According to Morning, “You have to do some homework before you set off. There’s a list of all the Munros that you can do, with recommended routes and things you may need to take for each. You can also electronically track each Munro that you do and tick them off as you go.”
“I’m based in the Cairngorms, which has some of the highest Munros in Scotland. It has a very distinctive habitat, with land stretching over 1,000 square metres, so the conditions can get pretty Arctic in the winter. There’s Cairn Gorm itself and Ben Macdui, which is the second tallest mountain in the UK (after Ben Nevis). Some like to do the two Munros together, about an 11-mile hike.”
“Skye has the Cuillin Munros, which are probably the most difficult to climb and toughest to link. Because they can be so technical, you’ll definitely need to do some rock climbing and abseiling to ascend. They even have one Munro known as the Inaccessible Pinnacle.”
“It’s definitely worth considering the mountains of Glencoe. Unlike Skye, they’re very accessible and very close to the road, but they still have some steep and rocky parts. While the Cairngorms are roly-poly hills, these look spectacularly sharp and jagged. Different areas have different characteristics.”
“It can get very brutal in the winter. I’ve worked in Antarctica for three years, and the worst conditions I’ve experienced are in Scotland. Mull can get very brutal in the winter, with huge winds, heavy snowfall and low temperatures, but the mountaineering can still be spectacular. You’ll need proper gear like ropes, crampons etc, but these [weather conditions] often produce some of the best days possible.”
“This was my last Munro. I chose it because it’s rolling and not too strenuous. I picked a nice day so it was relatively easy to do. I invited lots of friends and family, whether they were experienced hikers or not, to do it with me and we had a big celebration up at the top. For someone wanting to do their first Munro, this would be a great introduction.”
You can sign up for official training courses before heading into the hills.