Our stunning Scottish mountains were named after Sir Hugh T. Munro, the first man to catalogue them. Hundreds of hiking enthusiasts travel across the country each year to tick new peaks off their list, but these climbs are no walk in the park. If your new year’s resolutions include conquering some of them, make sure you are prepared. With the help of Mark Spence, Munro bagger and founder of munrodrone.com , we created a beginner’s checklist for those of you who are hearing the call to adventure, but are not entirely sure where to start.
If you do not go hiking regularly and are only now thinking of starting your journey towards Scotland’s highest peaks, the first thing you need to keep in mind is: do not be too ambitious. Our bodies are not invincible, so start easy, train regularly on easier paths beforehand, familiarise yourself with the equipment (break in your boots!), and do some research on the route you have picked.
Choosing the right equipment to suit your needs can be a stressful experience, so here are a few suggestions. To avoid carrying non-essential extra weight, make sure you pick a right sized rucksack: 30-35 litre is good for summer day trips; 35-70 litre is good for winter day trips and lightweight overnight work (when you will need to carry extra gear based on weather and terrain conditions, such as ropes and crampons); 70+ litre is usually used for multi day trips and expeditions. Make sure the shoulder padding fits your body size, and as far as the stitching is concerned, avoid a straight stitch one pass on high stress areas (shoulder straps and waist belt), it will fail eventually. Never forget: map, compass, fully charged mobile phone, whistle, torch, survival bag, small first aid kit, spare clothing, high-energy food for emergency use only.
There is one word you need to keep in mind when buying your climbing attire – waterproof. As you might know, the best way to wear you clothes is in layers: over trousers and a hooded jacket; then a warm, insulating layer such as down or synthetic jacket; hat and warm waterproof gloves or mitts (do not forget spares in case you rip them/lose them to high winds etc.).
The most important item to have with you at all times is of course water, which can be quite heavy. You will need to consume about 3-5 litres, so if you wish to avoid carrying too much extra weight, in the summer you can bring one water bottle with you and fill it from mountain streams (always check upstream for animal carcasses and other potential sources of contamination), or in winter you can add clean snow in the fluid already present in your flask. Remember: never eat snow in cold conditions when thirsty, it will lower your body temperature at a rapid rate. As a beginner, you will need to consume at least 4250 calories on your hike, even more in cold weather conditions. It is up to your personal preferences what kind of food you should consume, however a good general rule to remember is that fats provide more energy than carbs, but it is not available for instant use. Carbs provide less energy, but they are ideal if you are feeling a little lightheaded and need a quick pick-me-up.
Mountain safety rules
Scotland’s moody climate makes for unforgiving terrains. Remember, this is not a hike in the woods, Munros can be dangerous, especially in adverse weather. This is why it is essential to inform yourself on the route, seek local advice, learn about potential hazards and their likelihood (e.g. avalanches, whiteouts). These dangers are also the reason why you should not go Munro bagging by yourself: you never know what could happen, and having someone with you can make all the difference in the unlucky event of an accident. Also, remember the international distress signal: six blasts on a whistle over a minute (the response is three blasts on a whistle over a minute).