Helene Diamantides Whitaker Interview | The Ultra Marathon Runner on Why Gender Doesn’t Matter

Our writer took on the gruelling Dragon’s Back Race so he could interview one of its most famous ever winners

Words by Mark Brightwell | Lead image, Neil Talbott tackling the infamous Crib Goch ridge, by Ian Corless

I’ve been running for five days and my body is breaking down. I’ve covered almost 300km and ascended nearly 15,000m by the time I hit the final range of hills, the Black Mountain of South Wales. They’re the final barrier between success and failure, completion and a DNF (Did Not Finish).

I lean heavily into my running poles, push hard through my shoulders and arms and try to find a way of moving which avoids the shin twinges, each one of which elicits an involuntary whimper of pure pain response. My head is strong but my body is failing. Will it last? Will it carry me to the finish? There is only one way to find out.

It’s 2017 and I am running the Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race, billed as the toughest five day race in the world. It’s an endurance challenge so gruelling that it was cancelled after its first iteration, partly out of fear for competitors’ safety, and wasn’t contested again for 20 years. Remarkably that first iteration was won outright by a woman, Helene Diamantides Whitaker, who took the trophy as part of a mixed pairing with Martin Stone back in 1992.

“My physical capacities are regularly surpassed by women and my ego has learned that that’s ok”

For most of this year’s 232 starters this is as much a journey as a race: a personal quest or challenge – the value derived from the uncertainty of the outcome. For Helene, Martin and the other elite pairs on the start line back in 1992 there was less doubt however: “It was definitely going to be a race. Just knowing who was involved; we all wanted to win. It was never not going to be a race,” says Helene, laughing.

And what a race it was. Remarkably, in a field of around a hundred, of which only three were women, it was the mixed pair of Diamantides and Stone, after much trading of position, that took the finish line. For TV show Trans World Sport this was great: “If another man had won another long race it wouldn’t have been as interesting.”

But Helene didn’t necessarily think it was anything unusual. She says: “I was aware that Sarah Rowell had won The Seven Sisters Marathon outright. I’d run a few of the big rounds in the fastest overall times, so I guess it was outsiders looking in that took most interest in the gender thing. I knew women were winning outright…

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Helene Diamantides Whitaker and Martin Stone cross the finish line of the inaugural Dragon’s Back Race in 1992 – Photo: Rob Howard

“I think if you’re good enough to be there, it doesn’t matter whether you are in your sixties or female. The good thing about fell running is that everyone stands on the start line and does the same thing in the same conditions on that day.”

But it wasn’t always so. Growing up in Greece, Helene describes an environment where women weren’t allowed to do anything that involved sweating, let alone stand on the same start line as men and embark on an endurance test in which being aggressive and competitive were essential to success. She recalls her father being asked how many children he had.

“I have two daughters,” he replied

“No, how many sons?” came the response.

Luckily Helene’s father did not think like the person who asked him that question, and encouraged his daughters to pursue their goals – a progressive outlook that saw Helene study at Durham University, where she discovered fell running.

“That was just about the time that women were being allowed to do long distances. I think the first time I raced Ennerdale was the first time we were allowed to do the long course.”

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No treadmill in the world can prepare you for the Dragon’s Back Race – Photo: Jon Brooke

We take a lot for granted now. And even though of the 232 starters in this year’s Dragon’s Back Race only 31 were women, Helene points out that this is a lot better than just three out of a hundred in 1992. But how can we make it more?

“Perhaps it’s about how we bring women up. Women need to be prepared to have a go at something, even if they feel they’re going to be out of their depth and they’ve no idea what they’re doing. Men are more willing to have a punt, whereas I don’t see any women having a punt, not in a five-day mountain race. It takes a huge amount of confidence to think: ‘Right, I can do this – I can stand on the start line day after day and get through it.’”

But it’s not just about instilling confidence in ability. Women have to be given a license to be themselves, even if this flies in the face of male-driven ideas of what femininity should look like.

Helene cites some of the current top female runners, saying: “These people are probably fairly aggressive in the way they run, and as a woman, it is not ok to acknowledge that you are competitive and fiercely so – it’s not a very feminine trait – we discourage girls from being aggressive and competitive, although less so now… so if you are looking towards who’s going to do well, it is going to be the more masculine females.”

All of which is a healthy challenge to the patriarchy, and in my own case, to a macho ego integral, or so it seemed, to my former role as an infantry officer in the Gurkha regiment. In the new, happier world I inhabit, that of mountain running, my physical capacities are regularly surpassed by women and my ego has learned that that’s ok.

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Photo: Alastair Lee

Photo: Jon-Brooke

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Helene Diamantides Whitaker in 2012 Photo: Jon Brooke

Helene Diamantides Whitaker in 2012 Photo: Alastair Lee

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The piece’s author Mark Brightwell racing the Dragon’s Back in 2017 Photo: Guillem Casanova

From her younger days as a runner I bring Helene forward twenty years. The 1992 Dragon’s Back was “niche even in the niche world of fell running”.

The dropout rate was so high and it was so hard in every respect that it was not repeated until 2012 – by which time Helene had evolved into a 47-year-old mother of two. But that wasn’t going to stop her lining up on the startline once again. What on earth motivated her to go through it a second time?

“Part of it, I wanted to see if I could. And part of me wondered whether it had been luck to do so well first time around. So I wanted to see how fit I could get – to do it to the best of my abilities. I desperately, desperately wanted to finish it second time around. I just wanted to run the best I could run.”

“You make friends with everyone who’s around you, who are suffering just as much as you are”

I am reminded again that value derived is proportionate to uncertainty. If this were easy, everyone would do it. If the outcome were certain, where would the fun be?

From Helene this sounds perhaps like a shift in mindset – a focus more on the personal journey than purely on racing. It’s the same race, but different, and she’s the same woman, but different.

In terms of the race, no longer a pairs event, it is more personal. In 1992 she had won as part of, and because of, the strongest pairing. She and Martin Stone had raced before together in tough events and knew how to help one another through the peak and trough flow of a hard endurance race. How did she manage second time around without a teammate?

“You make friends with everyone who’s around you, who are going to suffer as much as you are, who are running the same pace as you, who are doing exactly the same thing as you. Different reasons maybe motivate them but ultimately, everyone is out there running alongside and not against you.”

This sounds very familiar, as I think back to my own Dragon’s Back.

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Yet another ascent for our writer Mark Brightwell on this year’s Dragon’s Back Race –
Photo: Guillem Casanova

By the 15th hour of the fifth day, the remaining kilometres are few in comparison to what I have already done. But where as many of those earlier kilometres glided by, I am now wading through treacle. My knees and ankles are so swollen that bending them is difficult, descent is excruciating and crossing styles has become unfathomably challenging. My ego departed a long time ago.

I am not the runner I have been over the past four days. I’m no longer proud of how I move through the hard mountain terrain. I am slow and pitiable. And I am ok with that.

As I reach the final few kilometres, the descent to Llandeilo, I know that I do not have to move quickly. I just have to move. Move without stopping. I’ve been on my own and inside my own head for hours and the thought of the people I’ve made friends with over the past week motivates me. I know they are at the finish, wondering what has happened to me and willing me on.

It’s nearly dark as I reach the finish and enter a world of bright light and an eruption of applause. I’m so late in fact that the post race dinner has happened and prize giving is well under way.

I’m just processing things when my name is announced and the marshals usher me to the stage. As I hobble forward to shake hands with the Race Director and receive my ‘Dragon’ (the race’s medal equivalent) I look out and feel a special warmth. These are the friends I have made over the course of five days, 315km and 15,000 vertical metres of climbing. From the top of the field to the bottom, we’ve all done the same thing. As Helene says: “Right foot, left foot and keep repeating”

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The spoils of conquering the Dragon’s Back Race – our writer collects his ‘Dragon’
Photo: Ian Corless

It turns out she’s still pretty good at this. She did not simply finish the 2012 Dragon’s Back: Her left and right feet repeated their way to the finish line faster than any other woman and all but three men.

To find out more about the Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race head here

To read the rest of the July ‘Journey’ Issue head here

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The post Helene Diamantides Whitaker Interview | The Ultra Marathon Runner on Why Gender Doesn’t Matter appeared first on Mpora.

Best Outdoor Gear 2018 | A Sneak Peak at Next Summer’s Jackets, Backpacks & Boots

A guide to the most exciting new products from this year’s OutDoor Tradeshow in Friedrichshafen

This week, the entire outdoor industry descended on the sleepy German city of Friedrichshafen, nestled on the banks of the stunning Lake Konstanz. The sun shone brightly as exhibitors gave us all a sneak peek at their upcoming products at one of the biggest shows on the calendar; The Outdoor Show 2017.

Hundreds of brands from around the globe filled the massive, hangar-like halls, displaying their best waterproof jackets, tents, walking boots, base layers, climbing gear and more.

Here are a selection of some of the products we saw – highlights of the best outdoor gear that will be in the shops in 2018.

Fjallraven

Fjallraven Greenland Half Century Jacket

Fjallraven Greenland Half Century Jacket

In 2018, Swedish outdoor specialists Fjallraven will be celebrating a very special anniversary. It will be 50 years since they released their first ever Greenland Jacket, way back in 1968. To celebrate, they’ll be releasing their Greenland range.

Above is the Greenland Half Century Jacket. It’s a superb jacket that combines functionality with style, so you’ll be just as at home on the hills of the Peak District as you would drinking gin from anything other than a glass in Shoreditch.

The Greenland Shirt Jacket is also rather stylish indeed, and ideal if you’re the kind of person who wants to roll straight out of dress-down-friday into the woodlands for a weekend in the wilderness.

Fjallraven Greenland Shirt Jacket

Fjallraven Greenland Shirt Jacket

Another Fjallraven classic with a contemporary twist is the Zip pack. The Kanken is the classic Fjallraven cube-like pack that’s well known the world over, and the 2018 Zip pack takes a lot of its style cues from it. The Zip features padded straps, making this timeless looking piece a little easier on the shoulders in the hustle and bustle of modern day.

FjallravenGreenland Zip

FjallravenGreenland Zip

Primus

Primus have well over a century of experience making stoves, and what they have in knowledge they match in innovation, as the new Kuchoma grill proves. The rectangular grill is ideal for whipping up some sausages while you’re out in the field, but would work just as well in your back garden, or even on the tiny balcony of a city dweller lucky enough to have some outside real-estate.

The one pictured here was on the stand, and Germanic health and safety regulations no doubt stopped it from being fired up, but they a chef using one at an outdoor area of the show one evening, and we can confirm it’s more than capable of rustling up a smashing bit of grub.

Primus Kuchoma grill

Primus Kuchoma grill

Rab

Rab have a strong heritage in sleeping bags, so it’s maybe no surprise that they know how to make a pretty special sleep sack. On show was the incredible Mythic 600 sleeping bag. If you’re into camping in cold places, then you can be safe in the knowledge that the Mythic 600 will keep you warm and toasty when outside the mercury drops down as far as minus 32°. And yet, this bag can pack down to the tiniest size, meaning it won’t take up excess room in your pack.

Mythic 600 sleeping bag, modeled by Rab's very own Hetty

Mythic 600 sleeping bag, modeled by Rab’s very own Hetty

Another item of theirs that can come in a tiny package when needed, is the new Cirrus Flex jacket. It moves with you, and will keep you snug and warm, but will pack down small enough to fit in the left pocket of the coat, so when you haven’t got in on, you can forget it’s even there.

Rab Cirrus Flex

Rab Cirrus Flex, modeleed by somebody a little more wooden

Arc’ Teryx

Arc’ Teryx are well known for producing high-quality goods, and the range on display at the Outdoor show this week was no different. The Arc’ Teryx apparel design team and hardgoods design team normally work separately, but on the Norvan, they collaborated. This meant that the apparel people ensured the running vest fits perfectly like a shirt, increasing comfort and reducing fatigue on a long run, and the hardgoods folks ensured that it also functioned like a backpack.

The flap pockets on the front ensure that you don’t need zippers, and the super versatile hydration system comes complete with a two litre source water bladder, but you’re free to swap that for flasks, if they’re more your thing.

Arc' Teryx Norvan Running vest

Arc’ Teryx Norvan Running vest

The V80 Rolling Duffle is a large bag that has an external frame which not only means you can carry it from just about any angle, but it also gives it a superior carry capacity to weight ratio. The internal compression system means you can get a load of gear in it without putting pressure on the zippers, and when you’re not using it, it packs down nice and flat.

On the jacket front, Arc’ Teryx showed us their new Cerium SL down jacket. This clever coat uses synthetic coreloft insulation around the shoulders, cuffs, and anywhere you’d expect moisture, but then uses conventional down around the centre, giving you the very best of both worlds

Arc’ Teryx V80 Rolling Duffel

Arc’ Teryx Cerium SL down jacket

Keen

Keen had one of the most eye catching stands at the entire Outdoor show this year, which included an ice cream man, a robot making Keen shoes and, one night, a barbecue cooked on a giant metal Keen shoe. But while all of this was obviously amazing, we’re here to talk about the products they had on the stand.

Their EvoFit has a really nice sock-style upper for comfort and an excellent fit. This is overlayed on the outside to make it abrasion resistant, while the inside has an anti-odour lining. The fact that these won an award at the Outdoor show rather speaks for itself.

The award winning Keen EvoFit

The award winning Keen EvoFit

A sandal version of the Terra Dora Ethos has been introduced, which is ideal for watersports enthusiasts, be that canoeing, sailing, stand up paddling, kayaking, or whatever else takes your fancy.

Keen Targhee approach shoe?

Keen Terra Dora Ethos, shown in two different colourways

Keen are, of course, known for their well established Uneek range, and their Uneek o2 sandals featured in our Winter Outdoor 100 in 2016. For Spring/Summer 2018, they’ve added the Uneek Exo to the family. It takes its cues from the Uneek o2 sandal, and adds many new features, including the water repellant mesh that protects the foot and wicks unwanted odours away, while strategically placed ventilation areas ensure it remains completely breathable.

Our favourite part was the free-moving cord system that adjusts to the shape of your foot, ensuring a comfortable and snug fit, wherever you go, and whatever you do.

Keen Terra Dora?

Keen Uneek Exo

Jack Wolfskin

Jack Wolfskin features their Texapore Ecosphere range, which included the new Sierra Pass and Sierra Trail jackets. Straight from the off, the jackets look super stylish, and would be equally at home ordering an avacado bagel in a coffee shop as it would hiking in the Lake District.

But, if you pardon the motoring analogy, it’s what’s under the bonnet that’s really exciting. The jackets are made from the special Texapore material, from which the range gets its name. This features the world’s first 100 per cent fully recycled membrane.

Jack Wolfskin ?

Jack Wolfskin Sierra Pass and Sierra Trail jackets

This unique feature means that, aside from the zippers, the Sierra Pass and Sierra Trail can claim to be the first completely recycled jacket, showing Jack Wolfskin’s commitment to protecting the environment.

The North Face

The North Face are one of the most recognisable outdoor brands in the world, having made high quality mountain wear for 50 years now. In 2018, they’re producing some excellent distance running gear. They’re been working with world renowned ultra runner Rob Krar to design the Fast Foam Flight RKT. It’s not only the lightest shoe ever made by The North Face, but it also has super bouncy energy returning foam in the midsole to keep you running for longer.

Ultra runner Rob Krar helped to design The North Face's new Fast Foam Flight RKT

Ultra runner Rob Krar helped to design The North Face’s new Fast Foam Flight RKT

We love the Apex Jacket from The North Face so much that we included it in our Outdoor 100, and we’re pleased to see this superb piece of kit has now got even better. This evolution of the Apex is lighter than the one featured last year, and every single one is hand made, utilising seamless technology for greater water resistance.

The Apex Jacket by The North Face is lighter than ever before

Montane

We’re long-standing admirers of Montane, who’s Mountain Equaliser jacket features in our Summer Outdoor 100, along with their Endurance Pro jacket and Primino base layer featuring in the Winter Outdoor 100 in 2016.

2018 sees the launch of Montane’s VIA trail running range. We particularly liked the Razor trail running backpack. At just 350 grams, it won’t slow you down when you’re banging out the hard yards, but that light weight doesn’t mean Montane have missed any features.

Montane’s VIA range includes this Razor trail running pack

Montane’s VIA range includes this Razor trail running pack

The Freelight Chassis vest ensures a comfortable, ergonomic fit, while two Montane SoftFlasks ensure you can stay hydrated on the move. There is also an edition called Claw, which is designed specifically for women, taking their different physiology from men into account in its design.

Aku

The Aku Tengu Lite GTX boot really is lite.

The Aku Tengu Lite GTX boot really is lite.

Family ran business, Aku have been making boots for 40 years, and have picked up a thing or two in that time. The fact that 80 per cent of their products are hand made is testament to this craftsmanship.

At the show they unveiled their Tengu Lite GTX boot. And at just 510 grams per boot, they aren’t kidding when they call them Lite.

Aku Air 8000

Aku Air 8000

Part of the Dynamic collection, the Air 8000 range are made from the same excellent proprietary fabric used on the women’s Ljbra trekking shoe from Aku. Aku’s own special sole also adds extra support when you’re wearing it, minimising the possibility of rolling your ankle.

Nikwax

Just part of Nikwax's extensive range of cleaning and protective products

Just part of Nikwax’s extensive range of cleaning and protective products

Nikwax and their extensive range of products have been keeping your outdoor gear clean and protected from the elements for 40 years, and you can’t be that invested in nature without sparing a thought for the environment. As such, Nikwax have committed to being completely carbon neutral by the end of 2018. But that’s not just current emissions, but historic ones as well.

The had their new BaseFresh range on display, which has been created specifically for keeping your base layers clean, fresh, and protected against whatever you can throw at them.

Paramo

British company Paramo had some new pieces that really stood out from the crowd, among the hangars of the Outdoor show 2017.

Paramo weren't kidding when the called the new Alize jacket 'ultralight'

Paramo weren’t kidding when the called the new Alize jacket ‘ultralight’

The Alize ultralight jacket that will be out for Spring/Summer 2018 is an update of the Paramo Alize that we featured in the Outdoor 100 earlier this year. It’s the perfect jacket for getting around the trails and mountains in the hotter months, and just 106 grams, it virtually felt like we weren’t holding anything at all. Quite incredible.

The new Kili shirt also caught our attention. The design walks the fine line between being bright, but also earthy really nicely. But it’s not just a looker. It’s also super tough, which is ideal if you’re scrambling up some spiky rocks, and it’s also insect proof, and avoiding those bites can be the difference between a good time and a bad one.

Paramo Kili shirt?

Paramo Kili shirt

Berghaus

Berghaus has plenty of innovative new gear on display at the Outdoor show, and their new GR20 Storm jacket really caught our attention. Berghaus say it’s the most breathable three-layer jacket ever made from Gore-Tex , so you know it’s going to keep you both safe from the weather, but also just the right temperature.

Berghaus GR20 Storm jacket

Berghaus GR20 Storm jacket

The secret of its success are body mapped storm vents – essentially strategically placed holes in the jacket that regulate your body temperature. However, the jacket still passed the rigours of the Gore-Tex Storm Test, so you know it’s going to be superb.

The Berghaus team were also really excited about their new range of Fast Hike packs. Coming in a range of sizes – 45 litre for multi day hikes, and the smaller 32 and 20 litres for shorter treks, the packs have actually been inspired by running vests, and are designed to spread the load across the body, as opposed to just a few contact points. The largest of the bags weighs in at 930 grams, which is impressive for its size, but it can be stripped down to just 530 grams if you need something with a little less bulk.

Berghaus’ new Fast Hike range of packs come in 45, 32, and 20 litres sizes

Lifesystems

Lifesystems were displaying some smart new innovations, not least the Heatshield Thermal bag. Weighing in at only 100 grams, and packing down to a tiny size, it’s a bit like a waterproof bivvy bag, so ideal for those wild camping missions.

LifeMark Heatshield Thermal bag

Lifesystems Heatshield Thermal bag

Their new UltraLight survival shelter also caught our attention. At just 215 grams, it weighs next to nothing. But it packs a lot of power for a shelter its size. It has a 5000mm hydrostatic head, meaning it can hold a column of water five metres high and still remain waterproof. Amazing.

LifeMark UltraLight survival shelter

Lifesystems UltraLight survival shelter

Mammut

Swiss mountain masters Mammut had this bright Neon Smart climbing pack on show which caught our eye for more than the obvious reason of it having that really nice green interior. It’s a climbing bag that’s big enough to fit all of your climbing kit in, but can flatten out completely, giving you easy access to all of your kit when you’re at the rock face.

Mammut Neon Smart climbing pack

Mammut Neon Smart climbing pack

We also really liked their Alnasca Knit Low shoe. Ideal for bouldering or running light trails, it features a base fit lacing system, which wraps around the bottom of the foot, lifting if from beneath for excellent comfort and stability in the shoe.

Mammut Alnasca Knit Low shoe

Mammut Alnasca Knit Low shoe

Hanwag

Hanwag Tara 2 GTX boot

Hanwag Tara 2 GTX boot

Hanwag are known for making durable mountain boots, and the Tara 2 GTX more than lives up to that reputation. It features hard wearing metal work in its construction, and a locking point mid way up the lacing system. It also features a more cushioned sole than its predecessor, which will make for a comfortable, snug fit. It’s also available in wide.

Hanwag were also exhibiting female specific boot, the Tara Light. It has a unique Vibram sole, designed especially for this particular boot, which features prism studs on the bottom for assured foot hold, and lateral flex technology (or LFT) with extra reinforced areas on the boot to minimise the risk of rolling your ankle.

Hanwag Tatra Light boot

The unique Vibram sole, designed specially for the Hanwag Tatra Light boot

Osprey

Osprey are known to inspire fierce brand loyalty among those that use their packs, such is the quality of what they make. As such, it’s maybe no surprise that their flagship large pack for 2018, the Levity 60 won the Best Pack award at the Outdoor show this year.

The Osprey Levity 60 won the Best Pack award at the Outdoor show

The Osprey Levity 60 won the Best Pack award at the Outdoor show

Having looked at it closely, its success is little surprise. At a huge 60 litres, it’s big enough to fit just about everything short of a nine foot surfboard in. But this isn’t just a big old tank of a bag. It’s incredibly light for its size and is made from a special material that’s stronger than steel. All in all, a worthy winner.

MSR

The team at Mountain Safety Research, or MSR for short, have been making head-turning outdoor gear for almost 50 years now. We’re a big fan of their cooking range (possibly because we’re big fans of eating what we can cook using it), with the MSR PocketRocket 2 stove featuring in our Summer Outdoor 100 earlier this year.

This stove set from MSR is brilliantly designed to save you space, but maximise options

This stove set from MSR is brilliantly designed to save you space, but maximise options

At the Outdoor show, among their innovative 2018 product range was this selection of cooking pots. Designed to work perfectly with the PocketRocket, it’s a series of eight pots and pans, which is easily enough to either cook for a large group or, should you be so inclined, cook yourself the kind of feast that would make Louis XVI blush.

What’s more, the pans are cleverly designed to fit into one another, meaning that for the space taken up by two pans, you’re getting eight. Amazing.

The post Best Outdoor Gear 2018 | A Sneak Peak at Next Summer’s Jackets, Backpacks & Boots appeared first on Mpora.

Best Munros in Scotland | Hiking Munros, Walking Munros and Munro Bagging

Looking for the best munros in Scotland? Here’s where to start your bagging…

Best Munros in Scotland | Hiking Munros, Walking Munros and Munro Bagging

Best Munros in Scotland? There are a few to choose from. But whether you’re looking to get into Munro bagging or just want to do some hiking in Scotland and are looking to climb some of the most spectacular hills in the country, we can certainly point you in the right direction.

But first thing’s first. What is a Munro in Scotland? A Munro is any mountain with a peak over 3000ft. They are named after Sir Hugh Munro, the man who produced the first list of these hills in 1891. There are 282 Munros in Scotland and 227 further subsidiary tops. The tallest Munro is of course Ben Nevis, which at a height of 4409ft is also the highest peak in Great Britain.

‘Munro bagging’ is not at all, err, sexual, and is just the term used by hikers and walkers in Scotland who keep a list of all the Munros they have climbed, and are trying, not unlike Pokèmon, to bag them all.

Now we know that some people will just be looking to walk the best Munros in Scotland during a short stay, some might be looking for the best Munros near Glasgow or the best Munros near Edinburgh – if you’re walking in Edinburgh or walking in Glasgow you can still make your way out to the Munros easily, particularly in Glasgow – and there’s a good chance you want to know what the best Munro for dogs is as well.

So, we’ve put together a list that explores of all of the above options and will give you a starting point for your all Munro bagging adventures. It’s worth remembering though that with 282 Munros in play – there’s always more to discover.

Best Munros in Scotland | 6 Hiking Routes to Do Before You Die

gettyimages-514456265 ben nevis hiking munros in scotland

The peak of Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis, Lochaber

Ben Nevis is the obvious Munro with which to start this list. It’s the biggest mountain in the United Kingdom and the King of the Munros in Scotland. In the eponymous Nevis Range, most visitors hiking in Scotland head up the “tourist route” or “pony track”. You might reach the top covered in fog and wondering why you bothered, but when you look out over the North Face from well over 4000ft the answer will be staring you right in the face, and we swear you won’t forget it quickly. You’re likely to see snow from up there even in the middle of August.

Benn Eighe, Torridon

Benn Eighe is possibly the most beautiful of the many stunning mountains in Torridon. There are two Munro-status peaks on the mountain. The most stunning views of Benn Eighe come from the north, where you’ll see the Triple buttress of Coire Mhic Fhearchair. If it sounds like something from Lord of the Rings, it looks like it too – a stunning quartzite rock face jutting out of the Earth.

An Teallach, Ullapool

An Teallach consists of the higher point Bidean a’ Ghlas Thuill and the lower Sgurr Fiona. The view of the mountain itself is incredibly dramatic before you’ve even stepped foot on it. The huge sandstone mountain face looms over the surrounding area, and both the aforementioned peaks are actually a Munro summit. Why not head along and bag both on a five hour hike from Dundonnell? If you’ve got longer take the circuit of the ridge above Loch Toll an Lochain. You’ll need to be able to scramble and keep your head up high, but if you’re keen for a challenge, this is the route for you.

Bla Bheinn, Isle of Skye

We couldn’t write a list about hiking in Scotland and not include the beauty of the Isle of Skye. Truth be told more than one of the best Munros in Scotland can be found on the island, but the pick of the bunch is perhaps Bla Bheinn. The mountain rises up from the banks of Loch Slapin and provides stunning views of the famous Cuilllin Ridge and the islands around Skye if you get lucky with the weather. The two summits are separated by a narrow ridge, and both provide panoramic views of the surrounding areas. This is one of the most finely regarded climbs in the country.

Bidean nam Bian, Glencoe

We’ve put together a list that explores of all of the above options and will give you a starting point for your Munro bagging adventures. It’s worth remembering though that with 282 Munros in play – there’s always more to discover.

Glencoe, Scotland.

climb, with an abundance of narrow ridges, caves, buttresses and corries, so it’s maybe worth getting a guide if this is your first time heading up. There are some simple enough routes up though, and a descent through the Lost Valley path will leave you with a story to tell.

Braerlach, Cairngorms

The best Munro in the Cairngorms is a question often asked and not easy to answer. Braerriach is the third highest mountain in the UK, and as such will offer you a beautiful view over the rounded, rolling hills of the Cairngorms. Your arrival at the base of the mountain will take you on a path through some beautiful forest greenery, and when you’re at the top the whole majesty of the mountain range will be in sight.

Best Munros near Glasgow | The Best Munro Routes in Reach of Glasgow

beinn-chabhair-wiki hiking in Glasgow walking in Glasgow routes ben lomond

Ben Lomond

Ben Lomond is the most famous Munro near Glasgow and one of the most famous Munros in the country – largely thanks to the old Scottish ballad which shares its name with the loch.

The huge mountain is just over an hours drive from Glasgow and is a great climb for beginners as well as offering some more challenging terrain for the more experienced climber should they wish to seek it out.

The song of the same name has made Loch Lomond and Ben Lomond the most popular Munro to climb in Scotland. Around 30,000 people make it to the top of Ben Lomond each year, and as a reward they are treated to stunning views spanning over the hills to north, to the Trossachs to the east and of course over Loch Lomond itself.

Is Ben Lomond the best Munro in Scotland? Probably not. It’s busy on the weekends. But it does offer stunning views and a great day out. It’s certainly one of the best options for those walking in Glasgow and looking for a hiking day out.

So if Ben Lomond isn’t the best Munro in Scotland (though it’s damn nice) what is?

Beinn Narnain and Ben Ime

These mountains are in with a shout of being the best Munros in Scotland, or near Glasgow at least, and they’re actually both closer to Glasgow city centre than Ben Lomond.

This climb is about a 50 minute drive from the city centre and is even more scenic, but it’s not nearly as busy because there isn’t a song about it – or not one that we’ve heard recently anyway. We’ve not been keeping track of what Justin Bieber is up to though, so we might be wrong. If he’s got a song out called ‘Beinn Narnain and Ben Ime’ featuring Pitbull just let us know in the comments.

Climbers taking on Beinn Narnain and Beinn Ime will find themselves gazing at one of the most beautiful climbs in the Southern Highlands.

The mountains are part of the ‘Arrochar Alps’ which while known for their rocky, steep terrain, does not effect Beinn Ime, the highest peak in the range, which can actually be reached by a pretty gentle slope. Beinn Narnain on the other hand offers a much rougher and rockier prospect.

beinn-chabhair-wiki hiking in Glasgow walking in Glasgow routes

The Cobbler

The view of the nearby Cobbler is the one you’ll remember in the months and years after you’ve completed this climb. Remember to bring your camera.

Beinn Chabhair

Beinn Chabhair is about 10 minutes further drive from Glasgow than Ben Lomond. The climb up Beinn Chabhair rewards the walker with memorable views over Loch Long, as well as of Munros An Caisteal and Beinn a’ Chroin.

The start of the ascent is simple but can get a little boggy if the weather doesn’t play nice. The climb up the ridge that follows is brilliant though. You’ll find yourself following a rocky ridge to the summit of the mountain. It’s not too difficult but don’t be scared of a bit of a scramble.

At the top you’ll get those beautiful Scottish views that anyone climbing a Munro in Scotland would expect. Look forward to lochs, rolling hills and mountain peaks galore on the skyline.

Best Munros near Edinburgh | The Best Munro Routes in Reach of Edinburgh

We’ve put together a list that explores of all of the above options and will give you a starting point for your Munro bagging adventures. It’s worth remembering though that with 282 Munros in play – there’s always more to discover.

It’s worth noting first of all, for the sake of those hiking in Glasgow who are thinking about overlooking this section but haven’t already scrolled on, that almost all of the Munros listed below are also closer to Glasgow than they are to Edinburgh.

Edinburgh isn’t geographically located to favour Munro getaways like Glasgow is, but there are still an abundance you can get to. You’ll just need to travel a couple of hours.

Stob Binnein

Stob Binnein offers one option for those walking in Edinburgh who fancy a bigger challenge. If you drive for around two hours, you’ll find a quiet route up the mountain past Balquhidder. An incredibly steep start will take trained calves, and will carry you up to a wide ridge. From there though it’s plane sailing right to the top.

From the top you’ll look out over Crianlarich and see a view covering Ben More and spanning across endless rolling hills.

Ben Vorlich and Stuc a Chroin

These climbs are an hour and three quarters in the car from Edinburgh. Right on the banks of Loch Earn, Ben Vorlich is a simple climb. It’s a gradual increase and there’s nothing particularly challenging. You’re still rewarded with a great view of the Loch beneath.

Stuc a Chroin is a different prospect. It’s steep and rocky. This is one best left to those with hiking or mountaineering experience.

Best Munros for Dogs | Munro Routes That Your Dog Will Love

munros for dogs

The vast majority of Munros in Scotland are dog friendly, but we understand that you’ll want something wide slopes and a gradual increase rather than a scramble.

The aforementioned Ben Vorlich is great in that regards, and Ben Challum is another straightforward Munro for you to check out with your dug.

Mount Keen near Angus is another option. The climb is on a track and a hill-path, and is wide but very exposed – so best saved for sunny days.

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Walking in Glasgow | 5 of the Best Hiking Routes in Glasgow

There’s an abundance of walks in Glasgow and hiking routes waiting to be discovered…

beinn-chabhair-wiki hiking in Glasgow walking in Glasgow routes

Walking in Glasgow is a world of opportunity. The city’s close proximity to so many Scottish munros (a munro being any peak over 3000ft) actually means that you can do some serious hiking in Glasgow with less than an hour travel from the city centre.

Glasgow has the highest population of any Scottish city and is often affectionately known – even if only by its own natives – as the real capital of Scotland. It might not have Edinburgh castle, Arthur’s Seat or the Pentland Hills but there are a lot more serious mountains closer to Glasgow than there are in Edinburgh.

beinn-chabhair-wiki hiking in Glasgow walking in Glasgow routes

Basically, if you’re coming to the UK to go hiking in Scotland and want to base yourself in a central belt city, Glasgow is you’re best bet. You can always get to Edinburgh in 53 or so minutes on the train as well.

Of course, there’s also plenty of more family-friendly, inner-city walks in Glasgow for those not looking to hit the peaks of the country in their stay in Glasgow. Let’s look at a few of the options from either end…

Walks in Glasgow | Cathkin Braes

beinn-chabhair-wiki hiking in Glasgow walking in Glasgow routes

The highest point in Glasgow is Cathkin Braes at 200m above sea level. The hills are a staple of the southern skyline of Glasgow for any local and its renowned in the city for its panoramic views which look out not only over Glasgow but the Gleniffer Braes and Kilpatrick and Campsie ranges. You can even see Ben Lomond on a clear day.

The place is drenched in history as well. It’s said to be the place where Mary Queen of Scots watched her troops fall to defeat at the Battle of Langside in 1558 (though quite a lot of other hills also claim this story).

At 199 Hectares you won’t struggle to find a walking route around Cathkin Braes that suits you, though some areas are exposed to the conditions so remember to bring your coat!

There’s also mountain biking trails there which were used for the 2013 British Champs and 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Walks in Glasgow | Pollok Country Park

beinn-chabhair-wiki hiking in Glasgow walking in Glasgow routes

Glasgow in rich in parks and greenery but possibly the nicest you’ll find is Pollok – which was voted the best park in Britain in 2006 and the best in Europe in 2008.

That’s when you know that you’ve got a park and a half on your hands. This place is legitimately award-winning! And not without merit. You can take treks through beautiful woodland paths and parkland both casual and challenging.

The tall trees that line the park are signature to Pollok, and also make sure you keep an eye out for Pollok house. The 360 acres of the park offer all kinds of opportunities for walking in Glasgow and hiking in Glasgow, and you’ll pass prize-winning Highland cows on your walks as well, so get those cameras and Instagram hashtags at the ready.

Munros Near Glasgow

Hiking Near Glasgow | Ben Lomond

beinn-chabhair-wiki hiking in Glasgow walking in Glasgow routes ben lomond

The signature stop on any feature about hiking in Glasgow is Ben Lomond – the huge mountain that towers over Loch Lomond, just an hour drive from Glasgow city centre.

The climb is immortalised in the famous Scotland ballad, ‘Loch Lomond’, which starts: “By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes, Where the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond, Where me and my true love will never meet again On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond.”

To be fair, it’s an absolute tune, and as such, the place has become the most popular munro to climb in Scotland. 30,000 people made it to the top of Ben Lomond each year, and are treated to fantastic views spanning way into the north, to the Trossachs to the east and of course back across the loch.

This is particularly busy on weekends, but the wide paths aren’t particularly challenging – though there are some rocky sections and an alternative, rougher path back down the mountain from the top.

Why don’t you take the high road, we’ll take the low road, and we’ll see who gets down first. If you don’t know the song, that was probably a weird sentence.

Hiking Near Glasgow | Beinn Chabhair

beinn-chabhair-wiki hiking in Glasgow walking in Glasgow routes

Beinn Chabhair is about 10 minutes further drive from Glasgow than Ben Lomond, and offers amazing views of Munros An Caisteal and Beinn a’ Chroin, as well as looking back down on Loch Long.

It’s an ascent with a fairly simple start but a bit of a rocky finish. The summit ridge is a gathering of knolls and big rocks, but it makes for a beautiful walk when the weather permits. The ground on the lower section can get quite boggy.

  • We know this is quite information heavy, so here’s a joke to break it up: we met two rocks by the shores of Loch Long. One was shy. The other was a little boulder.

When you reach the top though, expect sweeping views worthy of fiction, looking back over the beautiful greens and greys of the Scottish hills.

Hiking Near Glasgow | Beinn Narnain and Ben Ime

beinn-chabhair-wiki hiking in Glasgow walking in Glasgow routes

Beinn Narnain and Ben Ime are actually both closer to Glasgow city centre than Ben Lomond, are possibly even more scenic, but aren’t nearly as busy because (as far as we know) Runrig don’t have a song about them.

Climbers taking on Beinn Narnain and Beinn Ime will be rewarded with one of the most beautiful climbs in the Southern Highlands. Part of the ‘Arrochar Alps’ which are known for their rocky, steep terrain, Beinn Ime, the highest peak in the range, can actually be reached by a pretty gentle slope. Beinn Narnain is much rougher and rockier.

The views along the way and from the summit are absolutely spectacular, with the view of the nearby Cobbler – pictured – particularly leaving a mark. This is one hike that you won’t be forgetting any time soon.

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Hiking in Scotland | 17 of the Best Walking Routes in Scotland

Looking for hiking and walking in Scotland? Here are some of the best routes around…

hiking in Scotland walking in Scotland

Hiking in Scotland is a beautiful thing. You could walk for 500 miles, and then you could walk for 500 more. That’s how beautiful it is.

Whether you’re scaling a hill in the centre of the capital city and looking out over Edinburgh Castle or hundreds of miles north taking on Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the United Kingdom, you’ll be treated to spectacular views, fresh air and that feeling of freedom that comes with walking or hiking out into the wild.

Scotland is a hotbed for hiking routes and walking routes. The country has the most mountainous terrain in Great Britain and a massive 284 munros – munros being any peak over 3,000ft. It has become a challenge for many hiking enthusiasts to go “munro bagging” and attempt to climb every single one of the peaks in Scotland, and some of these routes are truly stunning.

There are also a lot more leisurely walks and hikes in Scotland of course – hikes near Edinburgh, hikes near Glasgow, hikes in the Scottish Borders and hikes in the Highlands all vary from between relaxed to hardcore.

Let’s take a look at some of the options in each of these categories, and some of the best munros to take on if you are planning to get yourself bagging!

Best Munros in Scotland | 5 of the Most Beautiful Munro to Hike

hiking in Scotland walking in Scotland 2

Munros Near Glasgow: Just an hour drive from Glasgow, Ben Lomond is a relatively easy climb and a beautiful one looking down over the famous Loch Lomond. It’s busy on weekends and the walk itself is pretty simple.

Beinn Chabhair is about 10 minutes further rive from Glasgow, and offers amazing views of Munros An Caisteal and Beinn a’ Chroin. It’s an ascent with a simple start and a rocky finish.

Munros Near Edinburgh: Edinburgh isn’t as well located geographically as Glasgow for munros, but if you head towards Callander and then towards Balquhidder you’ll find a quiet route up Stob Binnein. It’s about a two hour drive. It’s steep at the start but there’s a lower path, and once you get up the worst of the steeps you’ll be following a wide ridge right to the top.

Ben Vorlich and Stuc a Chroin are also relatively close to Edinburgh, though still about an hour and three quarters in the car. The former is a gradual climb and the latter a more challenging scramble. Both look down over Loch Earn.

Best Munros for Dogs: There a lot of options for hiking in Scotland that are great for dogs. Ben Challum is a straightforward munro ascent that you’ll ‘dug’ will love.

The ascent to Mount Keen near Angus is also a great option. It’s a track with a hillpath, though it is very exposed in bad weather.

Walks in Edinburgh | 3 of the Best Hiking Routes in Scotland’s Capital

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The Pentland Hills: The cornerstone of walking and hiking in Edinburgh is the Pentland Hills. Just 45 minutes from the city centre on bus, you can get to over 100km of waymarked trails in the wilderness of Scotland in no time at all. There you’ll find stunning lochs, reservoirs, endless green hills and forests and peaks including Scald Law at 579m.

Arthur’s Seat: The Edinburgh skyline is often defined by Edinburgh castle and Arthur’s Seat. If you’re looking for a great view of the former, you won’t find many better than from the latter. Arthur’s Seat is a 251m extinct volcano looking out over the city of Edinburgh. It’s just a 10 minute walk from the Royal Mile. This is the perfect place to watch the sun set on the historic city of Edinburgh.

North Berwick: A short 30 minute train trip from Edinburgh will take you to North Berwick, a small coastal town where you can climb the 187m North Berwick Law which looks out over the ocean and back towards Edinburgh. Make sure to treat yourself to some fresh fish and chips while you’re there.

For more on each of these routes, and more walks in Edinburgh and hiking in Edinburgh, click through to our full article on the topic.

Walks in Glasgow | 3 of the Best Hiking Routes in Scotland’s Biggest City

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Cathkin Braes: The highest point in Glasgow is Cathkin Braes. It’s drenched in history and offers stunning views and a wonderful patch of calm not far from the city. You can see not only back to the city but also out as far as Ben Lomond.

Pollock Country Park: Awarded the Best Park in Britain in 2006 and Best Park in Europe in 2008, you know Pollock Country Park really is the business. So why not park yourselves there for the day? Ha! That was a pun. Seriously though. It’s a great park. The tall trees dominate the park in their rows, and the 360-acres offer all sorts of options for hiking in Glasgow and walking in Glasgow. You’ll find prize highland cows and even some mountain bike trails too.

Ben Lomond: We’ve mentioned it before in the munro category, but Ben Lomond is such a short drive from Glasgow that it really is a great place to start if you’re looking for days out and a great hiking adventure near Glasgow. It’s a manageable climb and great for all levels.

Hikes in the Scottish Highlands | 3 of the Best Walks in the Highlands & Islands

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Beinn a’Chrulaiste, Glen Coe: Beinn a’Chrulaiste rises from the north of Rannoch Moor, and many people don’t even know that it’s there. Get to the top of this mountain though and you’ll see a view across Glen Coe that you won’t forget for the rest of your life.

Siloch, Wester Ross: Also known as ‘The Spear’ for obvious reasons, this munro in the Highlands is quite the challenge for enthusiastic climbers. The peak can be seen from hundreds of miles away due to its distinctive nature – like a solitary Italian Dolomite on the horizon. The summit stands at 981m, and though the climb is tough, it’s definitely worth the time.

Stac Pollaidh: This is one for those who want a hell of a view without the biggest climb in the world. The peak is just 613m up and takes about three hours, and from there you’ll look out on 360 degree views all over the Northwest of the Highlands – maybe some of the best views in Scottish hiking.

Hikes in the Scottish Borders | 3 of the Best Walks in the Borders

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Peebles: The Culter Fell circular in Peebles, near Biggar, will challenge regular walkers. It’s an 18.5km journey on Culter Fell – the most notable and largest of the rolling hills in the Lanarkshire/Borders area. This is a simple climb to begin with, but can be linked with a reservoir and a passing over Gathersnow Hill before a lengthy, but simple, descent. The full ascent is just below 1000m.

Melrose: The central part of the Borders turn to the triple summits of the Eildon Hills when they want to go hiking in Scotland. The walks in this area are easy but scenic. The landscape features rolling hills as far as the eye can see and green grass taking you over the English border.

Hawick: Hawick the largest town in the Scottish Borders, but the forests and the rolling Ettrick hills are often empty. Here you can find the meditative 10-mile Ettrick Hills horseshoe walking route. It’s an easy track to follow and is largely forest tracks, as well grassy slopes. It’s quiet and it’s beautiful.

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