I was intrigued to know what are the most popular ‘last munros’, the final hill of an epic adventure to climb all of Scotland’s peaks over 3000ft.
For many people, climbing all 282 munros is a lifetime achievement typically taking anywhere between one and 30+ years to complete (I would guess that most take around 10 – 20 years). Those who have achieved this are called “compleatists”. The final hill is an opportunity for a party on the summit. Most people drag their family, friends, relatives and workmates up the hill to share in a glass (or two) of champagne and if you’re lucky, some fruitcake or shortcake.
The Scottish Mountaineering Club holds the official list of “compleaters” (you have to submit your application by writing to The Clerk of the List). Very official. I couldn’t find anywhere a record of the most popular last munros but by reviewing the information for compleaters who have submitted photos, it’s possible to get a reasonable estimate.
It’s becoming a longer list these days – there are 5,219 compleaters at the time of writing – and so in the interests of time I only looked at records for those during 2011 and 2012. I also only included those who had submitted a photo since it’s not possible to identify the last munros from the SMC website list for other compleaters.
It’s commonly acknowledged that Ben More in Mull is the favoured ‘last munro’. This is true (17 people made this their last munro), but I was surprised that Beinn na Lap, near Loch Ossian, is joint most popular. If Ben More is a traditional last munro (it’s the only munro on Mull and only island munro excepting Skye) then Beinn na Lap ticks a number of other boxes: it’s a short walk (3-4 hours up and down), easily accessible via Corrour Station (and a novelty to take the train to climb a hill), and you can make a weekend of it at Loch Ossian Youth Hostel.
A few other hills in my list of most popular last munros below probably come as no surprise, either because they are close to population centres (Ben Lomond, Ben Chonzie, Schiehallion, Ben Vorlich) or because they’re among the shorter climbs (Ben Chonzie, Fionn Bheinn). All of these are therefore accessible for friends and family and good hills to ‘keep back’ as last munros.
More surprising perhaps are those that take a bit more effort, either since they involve a long walk or because they’re distant from most towns and cities. This includes Sgurr Choinnich Mor (Grey Corries), Ladhar Beinn (Knoydart), Sgurr a’ Mhaoraich (Loch Quoich) and Sgurr nan Gillian (Skye).
During 2011 and 2012 I’ve therefore calculated that there were 171 ‘compleaters’ who submitted photos and who left 81 different hills as their last munros. (Note: In the list below I have only included hills where there were 3 or more ‘compleaters’).
No. compleaters / Last munro
17 = Ben More (Mull)
17 =Ben na Lap
10 = Ben Lomond
8 = Ladhar Bheinn
6 = Sgurr Choinnich Mor
3 = Slioch
3 = Ben Vorlich (unclear which Ben Vorlich)
3 = Beinn Sgritheall
3 = Fionn Bheinn
3 = Beinn Dorain
3 = Sgurr nan Gillean
3 = Ben Chonzie
3 = Schiehallion
3 = Sgurr a’Mhaoraich
It’s worth a quick browse of the SMC list to get a feel for the experience of climbing all of the munros. With only a couple of exceptions there’s a look of absolute elation on people’s faces. Setting aside the young boy who can’t be more than 10 years old (what an achievement !), almost everyone has a glass of champagne in their hand ! There are many husband-and-wife and father-and-son compleatists, several shaggy dogs and – unfortunately – a fair few rain-soaked camera lenses … My favourite is the picture of the chap in jeans, an absolute no-no in hillwalking circles. It turns out he’d split his proper walking trousers on the backpack in, so had to borrow some jeans for the ‘last munro’ shot to keep himself respectable ! Great stuff.
My final munro will be in mid-July 2013 when a party of family, friends and relatives will be joining me, followed by a celebratory party in a local hostelry. The munro ? Beinn Sgritheall, the hill Sir Hugh Munro was reported to have said has the finest views of any munro. Fingers crossed for a cloud-free summit then …