BACK in 1971, there was an unusual Munros completion on Sgurr Alasdair which led to a bit of stir in certain circles.
The name Kitchin San appeared briefly on the Scottish Mountaineering Club's official list of Munroists until it was discovered that Kitchy, as he was better known, was a dog.
Kitchy belonged to Hamish Brown, who had submitted his name as a joke. The SMC were not amused: they made a firm statement that they did not record dogs, Hamish was admonished and the Shetland collie's name was removed from the list. Still, Kitchy, who also managed to collar a round of Furths, was a dog way ahead of his time, a trailblazer for canine completers.
With the number of registered Munroists now more than 7,000 and interest in our mountains growing increasingly popular year on year, it's perhaps no surprise that the doggy contingent is also growing.
Many people enjoy hillwalking accompanied by their four-legged companions and several of these dogs have gone on to complete their own rounds of Munros, Corbetts and Donalds. Now The Munro Society, with the blessing of the SMC, have set up a webpage which aims to record the dogs who have completed a full mountain round alongside their owners.
One of the founding objectives of The Munro Society was to ‘maintain an archive of material relating to Munros and Munroists’ and the dedicated site is a fine compromise between those who believe the SMC list should be strictly for humans and those looking for some form of recognition for their dogs' achievements.
So far, the page includes 13 dogs who have completed the Munros, and one who has summited them all except the Inaccessible Pinnacle, but it's likely there are more out there. There are also two Corbett completions and one for the Donalds.
Needless to say, multiple Munroist Hamish had two dogs who did full rounds, the aforementioned Kitchy and then Storm, another Shetland collie who finished on Beinn Eibhinn in 1985. And mountain rescue legend David 'Heavy' Whalley's dog Teallach finished rather appropriately on Bidein a' Ghlas Thuill, one of the two An Teallach Munros.
Then there's Penny, a terrier cross belonging to Graeme Morrison and a double doggy Munroist, completing first in October 2014 on Ben More, and then again on Ben Wyvis in August 2015 some ten months later.
The project has been driven by The Munro Society's current president Anne Butler, who also has two collie completers: Molly who finished the Corbetts in 2012, and current companion Ralph, who has done the Donalds and is heading towards a Grahams finish.
The biggest challenge – and perhaps the stumbling block for many owners – are the peaks of Skye's Black Cuillin where the dark, coarse-grained gabbro can take a severe toll on feet, never mind paws. Some owners have sourced special boots for dogs which help protect the pads, but they are not cheap and a few pairs may be required.
There's also the not insignificant factor of scaling the Inaccessible Pinnacle, that impressive rocky fin which looms above its attendant summit of Sgurr Dearg. This is where size really does matter: small dogs can fit into a rucksack, bigger ones are hoisted up in a harness. There's no record of any Great Danes or St Bernard's making it up yet.
There may be some whining, but I don't suppose it's much different to some of the humans who are hauled up, eyes squeezed tightly shut, while clinging on for dear life to a guide's rope. Obviously, our faithful friends don't have much say in the venues for their extreme walkies, but I do love the idea of dogs sitting at night in front of a roaring fire poring over maps to decide which mountain they will climb next.
We were accompanied on many of our earlier mountain exploits by the remarkable Scoop, and we often wondered if he would manage to complete his Munros. That became irrelevant after Malcolm sailed off for a new life in the USA and Scoop retired to an idyllic life with his 'girlfriend' on a farm. No more freezing paws, or battling through blizzards.
I do wonder, though, if this new list might open the door to some bright spark thinking they can take their pet rat or hamster or goldfish up the 282 summits to claim they are the first of their species to do a full round.
If you spot someone abseiling off with a python coiled round their body, you'll know I called it right.
• If you would like to register your dog’s completion of any of the Scottish Mountaineering Club lists (Munros, Munro Tops, Corbetts, Grahams or Donalds) please contact Anne Butler (President, The Munro Society) via email email@example.com