I decided that climbing all of Scotland’s munros would be a lifetime ambition of mine fifteen years ago and am now over the moon that I’ve finally made it !

Compleating the munros is no mean feat. For a start, there are 282 mountains in Scotland over 3000 feet (914 metres). They might seem small in international terms but once you appreciate that many rise directly from sea level (rather than from high passes) then this starts to put things into perspective. The next factor to bear in mind is Scotland’s weather (the UK is a small island and does not have a relatively stable continental climate). As the song goes, it’s not unusual to have four seasons in one day – benign valley conditions combined with hail or snow at Munro level. Finally, Scottish mountain climbing is not without it’s dangers; around ten people die each year in winter conditions.

For me, climbing the munros was a means of getting to know Scotland: my own backyard. I’ve visited peaks, ridges, glens and lochs that most Scots don’t even know exist, and enjoyed wildlife and wild places without another soul to be seen. I was also inspired to climb them by my Dad, who climbed fewer than thirty before he passed away at the young age of 63, and would have dearly loved to have climbed more. So it’s to my Dad I dedicate my round of the munros.

For my final Munro – Beinn Sgritheall – family and a work colleague joined me for a party weekend at Glenelg, on the north west coast close to the Isle of Skye and Knoydart, the remotest corner of Scotland. There is a great variety of ‘last munros’ with Ben More (Mull) and Beinn an Lap (Loch Ossian) being the current most popular (see my post on most popular last munros).

So why did I choose Beinn Sgritheall ? First, it was the mountain that Sir Hugh Munro (the instigator of the Munro list in the 1920s) considered had the best views of all. Second, it’s a fairly short, single hill (on paper anyway … read on …) which I thought would be suitable for non-hill climbing friends and family.

So over the last 15 years I’ve:

    • Climbed 282 summits over 120 days’ walking
    • Walked 145,000 metres of ascent (the equivalent of climbing Everest 18 times) and cycled 160 miles to reach the hills
    • Climbed 76% of the summits alone and 24% with others
    • Spent 22 nights under canvas including 14 nights wild camping
    • Only climbed 2 munros twice (since I set my goal early on and carefully planned out my trips to make the most of the 7 or 8 days I spent walking each year).

A crowd of us celebrated my last Munro with a great weekend walking, camping and wild swimming in Glenelg and Skye. We ended up camping on the front lawn of the excellent Glenelg Inn, with the bar approximately 20 yards behind us and the beach 20 yards in front of us ! We were blessed with fine weather and good views from the campsite over the water to Skye.

The Glenelg Inn

The Glenelg Inn

View of Glenelg

View of Glenelg

Boat moored near Glenelg

Boat moored near Glenelg

Perfect campsite at the Glenelg Inn - equidistant between the bar and the beach !

Perfect campsite at the Glenelg Inn – equidistant between the bar and the beach !

We drove round the coast to Arnisdale, almost at the road end, to the start of the walk, having deposited one car at the end of the walk 3km back along the road. The path soon gained height giving great views over Arnisdale, Loch Hourn and Knoydart. Initially we made good time with everyone in a buoyant mood. After a brief respite it became steeper and the pace began to slow and we stopped for lunch at the bealach beside a lochan.

This is where the walk began to get ‘eventful’. The third section of the ascent became even steeper still which put two in our party way beyond their comfort zone. Not only was it incredibly steep but the loose scree (Beinn Sgritheall in Gaelic means “hill of scree”) and views directly down to sea level were scary for those with a fear of heights.

We finally reached the east summit which gave a good view to the main summit. Unfortunately an exposed, narrow ridge separated the two – only 5 metres or so long – but it was enough to mean that reaching the summit would not be possible for those with vertigo. After making the difficult decision for one group to retrace their steps and miss out on the summit celebrations we took a final group photo then pressed on for the final pull to the top.

Path to Beinn Sgritheall from Arnisdale

Path to Beinn Sgritheall from Arnisdale

View of Arnisdale and Loch Hourn from the slopes of Beinn Sgritheall

View of Arnisdale and Loch Hourn from the slopes of Beinn Sgritheall

Taking a breather on the way up Beinn Sgritheall

Taking a breather on the way up Beinn Sgritheall

View to Barrisdale Bay (Knoydart) from Beinn Sgritheall

View to Barrisdale Bay (Knoydart) from Beinn Sgritheall

View to Eigg (left) and Rum (right, far distance) from Beinn Sgritheall

View to Eigg (left, far distance), Skye (right) and Rum (right, far distance) from Beinn Sgritheall

The final munro party

The final munro party

The summit of Beinn Sgritheall gives amazing views in all directions, from Barrisdale Bay in Knoydart (where I kayaked last year to climb Ladhar Bheinn) to the islands of Eigg, Rum and Skye.

We cracked open the champagne – of course – and enjoyed a selection of celebratory tray bakes, spending a good while soaking up the views. The fog that had clung to the summits had largely lifted and while a little hazy, the views were fantastic. Amazingly there was hardly any wind – t-shirt weather.

We descended northwest down to the lochan at the bealach before taking a sketchy path steeply downhill. Initially this was straightforward but then entered birch trees and waist-high bracken, before we finally lost the path altogether and had to make a beeline to the road down steep, uneven and heathery slopes. For me this was the worst part of the whole walk. However, my nephew who had not been feeling great since morning had to stop several times to be sick on the descent, and my 8 year old son became increasingly exhausted, particularly on the final section. With our many stops and slow pace for much of the descent it ended up being a nine hour walk rather than the six to seven hours I’d estimated.

Ascending the final summit

Ascending the final summit

View to Knoydart (left), Eigg (centre) and Skye (right) from Beinn Sgritheall

View to Knoydart (left), Eigg (centre) and Skye (right) from Beinn Sgritheall

View southwest, heading down Beinn Sgritheall

View southwest, heading down Beinn Sgritheall

After being reunited with the group who had not made it to the summit we drove back to Arnisdale to retrieve the rest of the vehicles and were were more than ready to get back to the Glenelg Inn ! We’d previously organised a buffet tea (which was rather cold by this time…) and tucked in – and enjoyed a few beers and whiskies. The evening was finished off with another fire at our campsite.

So all in all it had ended up being a fairly long and eventful walk. Had I realised how steep and exposed certain sections actually are I clearly wouldn’t have saved Beinn Sgritheall until my last Munro – or at least have suggested that it wasn’t suitable for everyone. However the guidebooks gloss over these facts; there’s a guidebook for Munro climbers and their spouses who suffer from vertigo to be written I’m absolutely sure … Most hillwalkers (me included) relish narrow ridges and airy pinnacles but often forget that this certainly isn’t for everyone.

However, for me at least this was the perfect end to a lifetime ambition and made for a fantastic weekend (look out for my next post on wild swimming in Skye’s Fairy Pools).

4 Comments on “My Final Munro – Beinn Sgritheall

  1. Many congratulations and a fantastic blog post to go with it. I am stuck on 30 as the past few years I discovered the Hebrides and spent most free time there. I have taken your post as inspiration to get some more in.

    • Thanks very much. I’ve had a lot of fun climbing the munros – but largely to the exclusion of other hills and activities. There are many fine non-munros I’m going to climb over the next few years plus I’d like to paddle in to a few also. There’s lots still to do ! I hope you have a lot of fun too.

  2. Hi Caroline,

    Thanks, I really enjoyed climbing the munros and it’s given me a real sense of satisfaction (but as you say, each to their own !). I’m quite happy to move on to another set of goals (that doesn’t involve a tick list) but am in no rush just at the moment. My wife climbed the first 30 or so munros before our first child came along and is keen to climb a few more now that they’re a bit older (if we can persuade them of course !!).

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