Mountaineers and climbers all over the world, more often than not, are obsessed with lists.
I used to think that this was a priority only for the poor, pitied souls who become obsessed with climbing all of Colorado’s 54 (+/-) peaks that rise above 14,000 feet, colloquially known as Colorado’s 14ers. I still have the hope that I will reach the summits the 15 peaks left on my list (but who is counting?) in the San Juan and Sangre de Christo sub-ranges of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains to accomplish this feat someday.
One could say that the main reason I got into mountaineering and ski mountaineering is because of Chris Davenport’s Ski the 14ers project in 2006, when he skied all of Colorado’s 14ers from the summit in a single calendar year. This was a primary part of my inspiration to summit all of the Colorado 14ers and ski as many as possible, especially the more technical ones. My goal has inadvertently lead me atop summits on three continents and with dreams to climb up and down many more mountains everywhere.
In addition to the Colorado 14ers, the only summit combinations I consider to be on my “bucket list” would be the Seven Summits, or the seven highest points on each continent, and the Snow Leopard Summits. Unfortunately, as the Seven Summits become more popular, the price tag of each summit is becoming further and further out of reach for average mountaineers. In Central Asia, I learned of the Snow Leopards, or the five peaks that rise above 7,000 meters in the former Soviet Union. These were the peaks that Soviet Climbers could summit to earn national recognition, and is an accomplishment still recognized by the Commonwealth of Independent States (essentially former Soviet Union members). I attempted Peak Lenin earlier this year hoping to get one of the five, but was shut down by adverse conditions.
Colorado’s 14ers, the Seven Summits and the Snow Leopards are as far as my dreams of collective mountain bagging currently go, but that does not stop others from creating infinite lists of accomplishments to achieve in the mountains beyond single summits. Some might know of the bigger feats, such as reaching the summits of the 14 peaks that rise above 8,000 meters or summiting the “Big Three” in the Alaska Range (Denali, Sultana, and Begguya, also known as McKinley, Foraker, and Hunter). But one mountaineering list I was completely unaware of, until I was standing on a summit in Scotland, is the Munros.
Munros are peaks above 3,000 feet in Scotland. They were named after Sir Hugh Munro, who created the first list of these peaks in 1891. Not unlike Colorado’s 14ers, there is a website devoted to Munro-Baggers, where one can find an incredible amount of information about each and every Munro and create a digital tick-list of climbs they have accomplished.
Of course, did not know of this back in early July, when I went for a hike with James, Mack, Tristan, Davinia, Viki, and Ben in the Corrie Fee National Nature Reserve, at the southeast end of the Cairngorms National Park in Scotland. We braved the July midges for a hike to an amazing waterfall at Corrie Fee, and then hiked up to a broad, round summit, which I now know as the Munro called Mayar.
There had been talk of the “Munros” in the group during the ascent, plus talk of the rad ice and mixed climbing in winter, and the ski mountaineering in other parts of the Cairngorms. I asked Davinia how many Munros there are, already planning in my head the best way to summit them all (perhaps out of habit of being a mountaineer?).
Davinia, who is in my eyes all-knowing of everything in the United Kingdom, answered fairly confidently that there are maybe thirty or forty. I unwittingly believed her until she made the mistake of asking James, who has been on many of them. James’ reply of “around 280” was much closer to the official tally of 283, and permanently erased my blind confidence in any of Davinia’s answers about the United Kingdom from there on.
Well, if it is any consolation, I have no current intentions of bagging the 282 remaining Munros on the list. This was expounded when the group, including myself, decided not to go up to the summit of Driesh, a stone’s throw from Mayar, but a “there and back” detour from the loop trail we were walking. Of course, if I find employment in Scotland, this non-goal might change, and I might just try to summit some on the Isle of Skye or near Glencoe, which was where Davinia, Mack, Ben and I were planning on driving to that afternoon.