South Cuillin Ridge

Hardest Munros

The hardest Scottish mountains over 3,000 feet high

The 10 most difficult mountain summits to bag in Scotland that are over 3,000 feet high !

Ever wondered what the 'hardest' Munros are ?

I suppose we have to start with what is meant by the 'hardest' or 'toughest' Munros. Is the technical nature of the climb up to the top the deciding factor ? What about the navigation skills required to seek out the smallest of cairns perched above cornice-heavy coires after hiking on vast plateaux ? And then there's those remote Munros, tucked away in wilderness requiring much planning and a back-packing trip or boat journey ?

Well 'yes' to all of the above and more !

Listed below are what I think are the toughest Munros. It is a very personal selection and reasons for inclusion in the list vary wildly !

Inaccessible Pinnacle

1 - Inaccessible Pinnacle

With Mhic Choinnich

Ascent : 1400m
Distance : 12km
Duration : 7hr
In the heart of Skye's famed Black Cuillin, a vertical blade of rock rests on Sgurr Dearg. Known as the 'Inaccessible Pinnacle', this intimidating fin of basalt rock is regarded not only as the hardest Munro to attain, but also the most difficult major peak in the British Isles. Nearby Sgurr Mhic Choinnich is less than 1km away, on route some challenging Grade 2 scrambling and route finding await.

A' Mhaighdean

2 - A' Mhaighdean

From Glean na Muice

Ascent : 1300m
Distance : 23km
Duration : 7hr
A'Mhaighdean (meaning 'the maiden') is regarded as the most remote Munro, lying deep in the Fisherfield and Letterewe wilderness. Much planning will be needed to get to the summit of this mountain - options include from Poolewe to the west, Dundonnell to the north-east, Kinlochewe to the south or Loch a'Bhraoin. Regardless of the direction, distances are long and terrain is rough, so back-packing and an overnight (or three) camp will most likely be needed.

Ladhar Bheinn

3 - Ladhar Bheinn

From Inverie

Ascent : 1750m
Distance : 20km
Duration : 9hr
Mighty Ladhar Bheinn (commonly known as 'Larven') is the dominant mountain in Knoydart - a peninsula on Scotland's west coast not reachable by road. The mountain's topography is complex with many spurs, corries and summits and not a place to be lost in mist ! The most rewarding route is via the winding path along the southern shore of Loch Hourn. Alternatively you can take a boat in from Mallaig and stay somewhere in Knoydart - beware the midgies are fierce !

Aonach Eagach

4 - Aonach Eagach

From Glencoe

Ascent : 1200m
Distance : 8km
Duration : 6hr
'Mainland Britain's narrowest ridge' is how the Aonach Eagach is often billed. Running along the northern side of Glencoe, the ridge has two Munros either end - Meall Dearg and Sgor nam Fiannaidh. Regarded as a classic summer scramble, the toughest part of the ridge is the 'Crazy Pinnacles' - an exposed section with some tricky moves on sound rock. It should also be noted that there are no safe 'opt-out' routes on the south side of the ridge between Meall Dearg and Stob Coire Leith !

Sgurr nan Gillean

5 - Sgurr nan Gillean

Northern Cuillin

Ascent : 1350m
Distance : 14km
Duration : 7hr
Sgurr nan Gillean and Am Basteir along with Sgurr a'Bhasteir create the distinctive serrated skyline south of Sligachan. The south-east ridge up Sgurr nan Gillean is often referred to as the 'tourist route'. Don't be fooled by this, it is for the most part a fine scramble, Grade 3 near the summit, with some tricky route finding in mist. Am Basteir has a 'bad step' and you'll need a rope for an abseil if you want to connect these two Munros in one outing.

Seana Bhraigh

6 - Seana Bhraigh

From Inverlael

Ascent : 1350m
Distance : 26km
Duration : 9hr
Not technically hard, Seana Bhraigh is a very remote Munro. Most people will head to this lonely peak from Inverlael to the west, perhaps adding in a Munro or two on the return. It's a long hike on foot (a bike will only help for the first 2km), with paths becoming evermore faint and not a place to be in when the mist is down ! All the effort required is worth it, with stunning views from the summit over a remarkable circular corrie. There's some tough scrambling to be enjoyed on the satellite peak of Creag an Duine and its northern spur An Sgurr.

Sgurr Alasdair

7 - Sgurr Alasdair

With 'The Dubhs'

Ascent : 1450m
Distance : 12km
Duration : 6hr
The Cuillin Ridge is like nothing else on the mainland and here's another peak on it to make my list. Sgurr Alasdair is the highest peak on the Black Cuillin and a slight detour from the main ridge. The easiest route up is up from Coire Lagan via the Great Stone Shoot - a huge run of boulders and scree, enough to make many a hardened Munro-bagger whimper ! Above the Shoot, Grade 2 scrambling is required to reach the summit.

Mullach na Dheiragain

8 - Mullach na Dheiragain

South Mullardoch

Ascent : 1950m
Distance : 19km
Duration : 8hr
Routes to Mullach na Dheiragain are very long but not technically demanding. The remote situation of this Munro does require careful planning and decision making. Would a cycle up Glen Elchaig followed by a steep hike, or boating along Loch Mullardoch with an equally steep hike be your choice ? Mine would be the long walk from Cluanie and an overnight at SYHA Affric Hostel - Scotland's remotest hostel !

Beinn Dorain

9 - Beinn Dorain

With Beinn an Dothaidh

Ascent : 1275m
Distance : 13km
Duration : 6hr
If you've been up Beinn Dorain in clear weather, you're probably wondering what it's doing in this list. However, if you've been up in foul and misty weather, without really checking the map, you'll know exactly why Beinn Dorain is here. Many folk have reached the huge cairn on the 'summit' in mist, touched it and retreated to the pub. Relaxing in warmth, they'll then pour over the map only to find the cairn isn't on the summit - the summit lies 400m to the south. Similar case with the trig point on Spidean Coire nan Clach on Beinn Eighe.

Ben Klibreck

10 - Ben Klibreck

From River Vagastie

Ascent : 825m
Distance : 15km
Duration : 5hr
Okay, you're probably wondering why Ben Klibreck is here. A very personal choice ! I tend to hike up this Munro having done Ben Hope or Ben Loyal earlier in the day, both cracking mountains with stunning views. Ben Klibreck is just plain dreary by comparison, making for really hard work keeping others inspired whilst hiking up the deep grass and heather covered slopes. The views from the summit are disappointing with vast flat plains stretching out to the North Sea. Its saving grace is the vibrant purple covering that adornes the lower slopes in late summer.


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