Tuesday 19th March saw the 100th anniversary of the death of Sir Hugh Munro, the first person to accurately survey Scotland’s highest mountains, the results of which were published in the first edition of his Tables of Heights over 3000ft in 1891.
Up until that point, it was widely believed that only around 30 of Scotland’s hills attained or exceeded 3000ft in height, but Munro’s work showed there to be no less than 283 separate mountains and a further 256 subsidiary summits reaching the significant height. Sir Hugh had, albeit unintentionally, just invented the uniquely Scottish sport of “Munro bagging”.
To celebrate Munro’s achievement, on Sunday 17 March a party of 12 hillgoers from the Inverness Mountaineering Club set off to mark the momentous occasion with celebratory ascent of Ben Wyvis, before meeting up with other members and guests in the evening at the Inchbae Lodge Hotel at the foot of the hill for a Sir Hugh Munro “Anniversary Wake” followed by an excellent bar supper.
We chose Ben Wyvis as the hill is held in great affection by all those who live in the Easter Ross, Black Isle and Inverness areas, being the dominant feature of the Inner Moray Firth landscape for many miles around. The Ben is unique among Munros as being the only high mountain that stands on the east coast, and though not, as was once thought, the highest mountain in Ross-shire, is still impressive in scale, with no less than four 3000ft tops spread out along the length of its five mile long summit ridge.
Unfortunately the weather proved uncooperative on the day, with high winds gusting to 40mph+, sending clouds of spindrift racing over the flanks of the hill, and forcing the party to turn back before reaching the summit. Not to be outdone, most then elected to summit Little Wyvis, the Corbett, by way of compensation.
A special guest on the day was Dingwall resident and Munro completist Dave Broadhead of the Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC), who for eleven years up until the end of 2018 was the SMC’s Clerk of the Munro List, maintaining the official record of all those who have climbed all the Munro summits. At the end of Dave’s tenure the number of complete Munroists had reached 6464 in number.
Interestingly, there is some doubt as to whether the first person said to have climbed all the Munros, the Rev. A E. Robertson in 1901, did actually manage to summit Ben Wyvis. His hill diary for 1892 records that he turned back due to bad weather before reaching Glas Leathad Mor, the principal summit of Wyvis, and there is no record among his papers of him ever having returned.