The day I fell in love with Munro bagging
Avid hiker and Advnture contributor Fiona Russell recalls a mountain expedition that changed her life
The day I fell in love with Munro bagging was also the day that I met my husband. So, you can see how it was a hiking adventure that I will never forget.
It was in the summer of 2010 when I was invited to join a charity walk for WaterAid to hike a series of mountains known as the Three Sisters. There are in fact many more peaks on this ridge in Kintail, in north-west Scotland, but the main summits are known as Munros.
Munros are all the 282 Scottish mountains with a summit of more than 3000ft (914m).
I already knew about the Munros, but my previous experiences, with my ex-partner, had mostly involved a high ridge in Glencoe with precipitous drop-offs and trying to keep up on various runs to the top of a couple of other Munros. I had decided Munro bagging wasn’t for me.
That day, on the Five Sisters, I realised that there is a great deal more to enjoy while ticking off the long list of Munros. I relished the challenge of a long, but steady, hike and the chance to reach many high points with fabulous views.
I also met some interesting people during the outing and found that chatting and walking make great companions. Then there was Gordie, who I immediately enjoyed talking to and, as it turns out, became my love match.
Three Munros become so much more
After the Three Sisters I spent many more days hiking Munros with Gordie and other friends. Gordie was a very enthusiastic hiker and had walked some two-thirds of the Munros list in only a couple of years. I took to joining him on Munro adventures and so my list of bagged summits also grew.
But, back then, I never imagined I would walk them all because it seemed like such a huge undertaking and also I am not a fan of heights and steep drops. There is small, but significant, stable of very challenging Munros, including 11 on the Cuillin Ridge on the Isle of Skye.
But as the years went by and I saw Gordie complete his first full round of Munros – and I continued to grow in confidence, experience, navigational skills and fitness – my list of 'yet to bag' Munros diminished.
I had discovered that I, too, had become an enthusiastic Munro bagger. Through my outdoors hobby, I travelled to locations I didn’t even know existed and enjoyed many amazing adventures, including more fantastic views than I could ever have thought possible in one small country.
I have been fortunate to be able to write about the Munros as part of my work as an outdoors journalist and blogger, therefore combining my life and work into one rewarding activity.
I also met lots of new people and gained Munro bagging friends. A few years ago I launched a Facebook group called Munroaming, which now has almost 12,000 members. Munro bagging is a very popular pursuit and also wonderfully health-giving.
The Munros have seen me through some difficult spells in life when I have felt sad and been depressed. They have also been the location for some of my best days, such as in April 2022 when I also walked my final Munro in my first round. (I managed to tick off those scary Cuillin Munros thanks to the support of Gordie, who is an experienced climber.)
In March 2018, Gordie and I were married. We chose a ski mountain in British Columbia for the ceremony but we had Scotland in our hearts that day because it was where we had met.
What's next in my hiking plans?
As we go into 2023, Gordie has less than 25 Munros to bag to finish his second round and I am almost halfway through a round of the 222 mountain siblings, the Corbetts.
As well as hiking mountains, I am a keen runner these days and I have completed several classic Munro routes as a run-hike.
We have recently moved from Glasgow to near Inverness, in the Scottish Highlands, and that makes our outdoors pursuits so much more accessible.
The day I fell in love with Munro bagging, I gained a life that I never dreamed possible.
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Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, who is better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favourite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing, both downhill and back country. Her target for 2021 is to finish the final nine summits in her first round of all 282 Munros, the Scottish mountains of more than 3,000ft high. Aside from being outdoors, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy the great outdoors, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.