Climbing Your First Munro: A Guide for the Unprepared and Unfit

Ben Vorlich
Since I’ve been living in Scotland for a little over two months, I thought it was about time I try one of the country’s favourite national pastimes: Munro bagging.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, this sport involves attempting to climb as many of Scotland’s mountains as possible. But not just any mountains — Munros are mountains that stand higher than 3000 feet, and there are 282 in the country.

Before I could think of attempting to climb multiple mountains, I wanted to see if I would survive climbing one Munro. I consider myself to be a relatively active person, but I’ll admit that I’ve been spending more time indulging in Scotland’s junk foods rather than exercising as of late.

It’s also been a while since I went on a proper multi-hour hike, so you could say I was feeling slightly underprepared before climbing this Munro.

You might find this guide helpful if you decide to hike a Munro last-minute, or if (like me) you’re more passionate about eating your body weight in Galaxy chocolate bars than you are about exercising.

At the very least, this guide will give you an idea of what not to do when preparing to climb your first Munro.

Ben Vorlich
Step 1: Let your friends choose the Munro

With 282 options, trying to choose which Munro to climb can seem like a daunting task. The solution: take no part in the planning process and let someone else choose for you.

If you’re flying solo, maybe just close your eyes, point to a random name from a list of Munros, and hope you don’t land on Ben Nevis.

Ben Vorlich Views
Step 2: Buy the cheapest hiking shoes you can find, regardless of the fact that they’re not your size

I had one requirement when searching for hiking shoes: they needed to be as inexpensive as possible.

I managed to find a pair on sale for £20, but they were a size too large. After trying on one shoe and taking approximately two steps in the store, I declared them to be perfectly adequate and quickly purchased them.

Luckily my laziness and determination to save a buck paid off — apparently you should buy a shoe or boot that is a half or full size larger to keep from injuring your toes when going downhill.

Ahem, I mean that is precisely the reason I bought shoes that were too big…

Ben Vorlich Scotland
Step 3: Buy your hiking shoes two nights before the hike, and don’t break them in

Continuing my pattern of carelessness and general ineptitude, I decided to purchase my shoes two days before the climb, and forgot that it’s best to wear them a few times prior to your hike to break them in.

Luckily my shoes were a size larger and I wore two pairs of socks, so I remained blister-free and pain-free for the duration of the climb. Yay for dumb luck!

Scotland Ben Vorlich
Step 4: Don’t exercise at all during the weeks leading up to the hike

Truth be told, I did exercise a little before the climb, but not nearly enough.

I went for lengthy walks and even attempted to run a few times (read: slow motion jogging interspersed with frequent bouts of walking), but a more frequent and vigorous exercise routine probably would have kept me from feeling like I was hit by a bus the day after the climb.

Ben Vorlich
Step 5: Bring a really disgusting sandwich to eat for lunch

We stopped at a supermarket to buy water, snacks, and lunch on the way to the Munro, so I’m going to blame my poor decision on the fact that I was in a bit of a rush.

Take my advice and don’t buy a prawn, mayo, and rocket sandwich to eat halfway through the climb – especially a pre-packaged one from Sainsbury’s.

Needless to say, the walk down the Munro wasn’t a pleasant experience with a stomach full of luke-warm shellfish and questionable mayonnaise.

Ben Vorlich
A few actual tips…

I hiked Ben Vorlich — which is just under two hours from Edinburgh on the banks of Loch Earn — and I’d highly recommend it for your first climb.

The hike took roughly five hours round-trip, but we made frequent snack stops and took a selfie-style photo shoot at the top for an embarrassingly long amount of time. I’m sure it could easily be done in four hours or less.

Don’t forget to dress in warm layers, bring plenty of water, and wear waterproof clothing!

Have you conquered any of Scotland’s Munros? 


    1. Haha very true! And thank you 🙂 I feel like I managed to capture so many quintessential Scottish things in that photo!

    1. You’re welcome 🙂 Now that I think of it, it does make sense – but apparently I was too concerned with getting a good bargain to take practicality into consideration, ha!

    1. You’re welcome! It’s probably best to pay more for hiking boots that fit well, which I didn’t do, ha.

  1. Haha honestly it sounds like things turned out pretty well for you! I remember going on a full-day hike at Lake Tahoe which I was TOTALLY unprepared for. I wore the wrong shoes too, and ended up with massive bleeding blisters and super sore ankles. Oh, and I got incredibly sunburned and may or may not have briefly cried at one point. SO embarrassing!

    1. Haha luckily everything did end up working out pretty well! Oh God, that sounds like a nightmare! Blisters are the worst, and I probably would have cried as well with a blister/ankle pain/sunburn combo!

  2. Isn’t it nice when a mistake/accidental purchase leads to a wise decision? All’s well that ends well. Plus, I think after climbing anything higher than a few flights of stairs, you deserve an embarrassingly long selfie photo shoot!

    1. I do love when mistakes work out for the best! And thanks – that makes me feel less embarrassed about our selfie photo shoot, ha!

  3. Awesome article! I think we have very similar approaches to hiking Munros unfortunately :D. I live 5 minutes from Ben Vorlich and definitely agree its a great starting Munro for beginners. Ben Chonzie is another easy(ish) Munro that’s about 15 minutes from Ben Vorlich.

    1. Thanks so much 🙂 and glad I’m not the only one, haha. Yeah I’m definitely glad I started with Ben Vorlich! And thanks for the tip — I’ll have to check out Ben Chonzie the next time I’m thinking of climbing a Munro.

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