Summit special: Why I love a walk to the top of a mountain


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It’s National Walking Month, which got me thinking about the sort of walking I most enjoy. I often walk local woodland trails with Wispa the Wonder Whippet, which I greatly enjoy, and I am always happy to walk somewhere new, perhaps on a section of a long-distance trail. However, my favourite walk is to the summit of a hill or mountain.

I am a person who is motivated by a good target and walking to the highest point in an area, or in a range of hills or mountains, always feels like the perfect aim.

It explains my almost 20-year journey to complete a list of 282 Scottish mountains known as Munros. It also reveals why I am now 84 summits into a list of 222 Corbetts, the slightly smaller but more widely spread mountains also in Scotland.

Many lovely sights on my daily walks.

Getting started with walking

Walking is easy to get into and very accessible to so many people. If you have been thinking about doing more walking, National Walking Week, is the ideal time.

There are plenty of walking groups and clubs across the country and you could check out Paths for All, which is a great resource for walkers. 

I walk – and run – almost every day and some of my favourite outings are everyday walks with Wispa. Regardless of the distance, from a mile to 10 miles, I always see something new from wildflowers to wildlife.

I enjoy the calming feeling of surrounded by nature. I often hug a tree as I pass by my favourites and sometimes I simply sit and look around me.

I find walking hugely beneficial for reducing stress levels and for my general physical fitness.

I also love a summit walk…

A view of Wispa in the foreground and Suilven, Assynt, in the background.

11 reasons for walking to a summit

1) There are summits everywhere

A local high point that I walk to many times each week.
Looking north on the Black Isle.

It doesn’t need to be a big hill or even far away because there are plenty of summits everywhere. One of my most frequent everyday walks is to reach different high points in woodlands and on trails close to my home.

One higher point just a mile from the doorstep gives me an amazing view west over distance mountains and down to a sea bay. Another high point is on a headland around two miles from home, where I can see north along the coast of the Black Isle.

2) The planning

I enjoy plotting a route, or considering and adjusting a route plan set by someone else, before heading off to walk to a summit. I’ll usually discuss this with whoever I am going walking with and we might decide to change the route to suit our own ideas or aspirations, or because we want to combine one summit with another summit, or another walking route.

3) A sense of purpose

When walking to a summit, you know generally what the aim is. The goal is to reach the highest point on a hill or mountain, or in a range of hills or mountains. The route is dictated by this highest point and so it’s a walk that has purpose.

Of course, there are times when a route undulates to reach the highest point, or the paths meander to reach the summit, but overall the aim is to get to the highest place.

A breath-taking view looking east from the summit of Beinn Airigh Charr.
And also looking west from Beinn Airigh Charr, which is reached from Poolewe.

4) For the views

In good weather, when you can see all around you, the views are usually amazing from the summit of a Scottish mountain. That’s not to say that the views are not fabulous from other points along the walking route, but I always look forward to the view at the top that allows you to turn a full 360-degrees. It’s the panorama that I most love.

Summit of Ruadh Stac Mòr, my penultimate Munro in the Fisherfield Forest.
Reaching the summit of my last Munro, Beinnn na Lap recently.

5) To keep a list 

I gained huge rewards from working my way through the list of Munros and I happily bagging Corbetts. I find it motivating to be planning the next Corbett walk and rewarding to see my mountain bagging list slowly being ticked off. 

Walking to all these many summits has taken me to locations I never imagined I would go to and it has revealed so many brilliant views.

6) To learn

There are times when getting to the summit requires skill, such as being able to navigate by map and compass or utilising winter mountaineering techniques, such as employing crampons and an ice axe.

Equally, there have been lessons learned in knowing when to retreat from a mountain without reaching a summit because the weather and conditions are unfavourable.

A solo outing to the summit of Dumgoyne, near Strathblane.
Solo hike and wild camp on Meall a’ Bhuachaille, near Aviemore.

7) For confidence 

I have gained a huge amount of self-confidence from walking to mountain summits. I walk with friends and solo – and each brings their own benefits. I have an ability and skills that I never imagined I would.

8) For better health

Being outdoors in wild places is both physically and mentally beneficial. There is plenty of research to show how spending time amid nature is good for us. 

Walking to mountain and hills summits keeps me physically fit and strong. When I spend time outdoors, thinking about route planning, enjoying amazing views or spotting wildlife, I am not thinking about the general stresses life and work. 

Walking helps me to reset and rebalance my mental health and I always return to my home and work life feeling rejuvenated.

Good friends Nic, Lynz and Beardy.
With Hubby G.
My Corbett bagging friend Ben.
Another fab walking friend Rob.

9) To connect with friends

I sometimes walk solo, especially on local trails with Wispa whippet, but I usually walk hills and mountains with other people. I have gained and reaffirmed many friendships through Munro and Corbett bagging and there are few activities I like more than a great day of summit bagging with friends or my husband. In fact, I met my husband while walking to the summit of a Munro! 

I will never forgot the day I walked my last Munro with friends.

10) To make great memories

I have a huge stock of photos that I have taken during my walking trips. I often flick through them and enjoy the memories created with friends and in amazing places. I know I will cherish this gallery of memories for the rest of my life.

11) Walking is free

Okay, so there is the cost of getting to your walking route, especially if it’s a new mountain, as well as the clothing and kit to keep you warm, dry and safe, but the actual activity of walking is free.

It’s even cheaper if you walk on trails that are local to your home and don’t require any travel to reach them.

Scotland is also fortunate to have the Scottish Outdoor Access Code that gives people the freedom to walk and roam so long as you behave responsibly. It’s a wonderful bonus and something that we should value highly.

Walking: Enter a competition to win £500

Paths for All, a Scottish charity, is also running a competition this month for the the best photo or video and words on social media to show their own love of walking. Remember to tag your posts with #ILoveWalking and / or #NationalWalkingMonth to be in with a chance of winning a £500 prize.