Looking towards the Fisherfield Hills from the summit of Fionn Bheinn

I’m always intrigued to understand what motivates people to climb Scotland’s munros, mountains of 3000ft (914.1m) or over.  With 282 to climb it’s not exactly an insignificant challenge (!) but clearly, not everyone you meet up a hill is aiming to climb them all.

You literally meet all sorts out on the hills – from all ages and backgrounds – all enjoying the outdoors for their own reasons.  Gone are the days when ‘bagging’ munros was deemed the preserve of bearded anoraks (literally).  There are now over 5,100 compleatists, the oddly-spelled name given to those who have climbed all 282 munros, and the number is growing rapidly given the increase in popularity over the last 20 years.

So who do you meet in Scotland’s mountains, and why do they do it ?  This is a light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek attempt to develop a typology of munroists based on my own competely subjective observations over many years*.

The Occasional Hill-goer

  • Climbing munros for this type is merely an occasional activity, something they might do whilst on holiday, a charity event or when tagging along with a friends’ outing.  It’s not something they necessarily consider as one of their hobbies, just something they take part in from time to time.
  • Most likely to say: “Where’s the nearest pub ?
  • Key characteristics:  Sometimes wear ‘unconventional’ clothing (eg jeans, tennis shoes, charity costumes), especially on the “tourist path” up Ben Nevis.  Seldom found beyond the most popular munros near population centres, especially Ben Nevis, Ben Lomond, Arrochar Alps, Ben Wyvis.

The Laid-back Bagger

  • These people like walking and getting out into the outdoors.  They’re aware that they’ve probably climbed a few munros but they’re not keeping count (or at least not until they’ve got to 50 or so !).  For them, they’ll climb a munro if the opportunity is there but they’re just as happy to do a low-level walk – they’re not motivated by ticking them off.
  • Most likely to say: “I might get around to climbing them all at some point
  • Key characteristics:  None particularly – most seem to be reasonably well-adjusted, normal people !

The Club Rambler

  • Usually spotted as part of a larger group, all with obligatory walking poles and gaiters and map cases hanging around their necks.  These people are part of an organised Walking or Rambers’ Club.  They choose to attend a pre-arranged walk, usually every fortnight or so.  They do not walk quickly.  It is like following elderly people around a supermarket when you’re in a hurry.
  • Most likely to say:  “So who are we supposed to be following ?”
  • Key characteristics:  Always clustered in groups.  Slow.  Walking poles, map cases etc as described above.

The Focused List-ticker

  • These are the goal-getters who tend to arrive in the car park at the foot of the hill bright and early before anyone else.  They don’t mess around.  They put on their gear (they normally have all the latest stuff) and head off at pace since it’s all been meticulously planned in advance.  They tend to have a high annual munro-quotient and will often camp or stay in bothies to maximise their bagging potential.
  • Most likely to say:  “I’ll have compleated in 3 years, 9 months and 6 days
  • Key characteristics:  All the latest gear !  They’re fit, outdoors-y types.  High proportion of solo walkers (since they often don’t have patience to put up with anyone else).

The Serial Compleater

  • There aren’t many of these types around.  They may be on their second or third round of the munros, or may have branched out to climb the Tops, Corbetts, Marilyns or one of the many other hill lists.  There are some who are very driven (for them, mountains are a career or a way of life); others perhaps have no friends or family to occupy the remainder of their existence.
  • Most likely to say:  “I don’t know what I’d do if I wasn’t climbing mountains
  • Key characteristics:  Usually loners (they’re part of an elite group and/or have no friends).  Always knowledgeable – these types are a real mine of information and can usually describe individual hills (and pronounce their Gaelic names) in great detail.

The Purist

  •  To accuse a purist of being a list-ticker is utter sacrilege.  To them, mountains are ‘a way of being’ and not there to be ‘conquered’.  They will climb summits but reject any notion that it is part of any wider goal.  They tend to write about mountains in very long sentences with big words, making lots of references to other writers who are similarly elitist.
  • Most likely to say:  “Being at one with nature gives me a connection to the land.  The feeling of self disappears into a blend of the elements.  My spirit soars connected to the majesty of the mountain and all that surrounds“.
  • Key characteristics:  Long-winded, know-it-alls.  Most people can only suffer them in small doses.

The Independent Backpacker

  • You’ll sometimes encounter this type lugging an impossibly large rucsac and wonder where on earth they’ve come from, or where they’re going, for they don’t tend to follow the usual routes.  When you’re sitting on the summit cairn admiring the view, these people are the ones who emerge from the opposite direction to everyone else.  They’re almost always solo walkers, and tend to be on a multi-day trip tackling an unconventional route.
  • Most likely to say:  “Just four more wild camps until Blair Atholl
  • Key characteristics:  Usually solo backpackers, mostly male.  Don’t follow the mainstream.  Design their own routes.  Strong (big rucsacs).  Always seem content, in spite of not having seen anyone for the past three days.

I accept all responsibility for any inaccurate representations (but welcome any suggested improvements or additions to the typology) and no offence is intended to anyone – even Club Ramblers and Purists.

Have you recognised any of these types on the munros recently ?  And which type are you ??

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