BAGGING is a dirty word to some hill goers. It conjures up images of someone running up one peak to get another tick while ignoring the further delights of the mountain.
But those who show such a single-minded approach to running down their list as quickly as possible are in the minority. I don’t really know of anyone who would go up Buachaille Etive Mor just to reach the main summit, Stob Dearg, then turn their back on the other three peaks on this magnificent ridge.
When the SMC tinkered with the Munros list in 1997 by upgrading seven more peaks, it didn’t phase any true hillgoer. These extra summits on the Glen Coe giants - Buachaille Etive Mor and Beag, Bidein nam Bian - the Torridon trio of Liathach, Beinn Eighe and Beinn Alligin, plus Sgor an Lochain Uaine in the Cairngorms and Sgurr na Carnach on the Five Sisters ridge were part of the day out . Similarly with the demoted peaks, it often takes more effort to miss them out anyway.
Most walkers I meet are working their way through a mountain list of some sort, whether it be Munros, Corbetts or Grahams, but it’s never just about the ticks.
Having a target is what pushes you on. When I started out I wanted to do all the Munros. Not because I was desperate to become a ‘compleatist’ but because I wanted to see all these magnificent places. The SMC guide to the Munros was our Bible, the pictures of those far-off ridges and peaks whetting the appetite, driving us on to new horizons.
For me, it started as a hobby and quickly built up to an obsession. The ache to take my place in these pictures was one of the reasons I started to climb the hills at night. It was free time, and sometimes the only time, I could find to get out.
It helped me explore my own country, to find all those hidden gems that lie in every corner of the land. I’m constantly amazed, and slightly saddened, by the sheer number of Scots who have never seen beyond their own backyard. For instance, many of the sports reporters I worked with had never ventured north of the Perth/Aberdeen line until Inverness came into Scotland’s top flight.
The question is often asked: What do you do after you have climbed all the Munros? For anyone who loves the mountains it’s simple - you keep going. Like many others, I first turned my attention to the Corbetts, the peaks between 2,500 and 3,000 feet.
They may be smaller hills but a lot of folk reckon they are just as tough, if not tougher, than the Munros. The official total of Munroists is now approaching 6,000, whereas Corbetts finishers are around a tenth of that.
Now, at the same time as closing in on my third round of Munros, I’m also working my way through the Grahams, the hills between 2,000 and 2,500 feet. Even smaller hills but again they can be just as tough. At the moment I climb them mainly in winter, usually when the weather puts the higher peaks off limits.
Eventually, health and fitness permitting, I hope to climb them all. By the time I get to the end, my days on the bigger hills may be limited anyway.
And if you have done the lot there’s always the Munro, Corbett and Graham Tops - secondary peaks on the main hills - and many more lists below that. These extra peaks often present a fresh way to tackle some of the more popular hills, new routes from quieter glens.
We may be a small country but there’s always something new to see, somewhere different to visit. Scotland really serves up a baggers’ banquet.
(First published Daily Record, July 17, 2014)