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Scottish Mountaineering

The Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC) was founded in 1889. Early climbers are commemorated in the names of some of the peaks of the Cuillins of the Isle of Skye: Sgurr Alasdair (Alexander Nicolson); Sgurr Thormaid (Norman Collie: 1859-1942, a London Professor of Chemistry who was an outstanding early climber); Sgurr Mhic Choinnich (John Mackenzie (1856-1933), a local guide and expert climber).

During the Depression between the two World Wars many
unemployed workers from industrial Clydeside escaped from the deserted shipyards to the hills and a whole new working-class climbing culture developed, notably with the Craigdhu Club. After World War II, mountaineering became an increasingly popular sport, ranging from world-class rock-climbing to plain enjoyment of the hills without undue risk.

Scottish mountains should never be underestimated; climbing, especially in winter, is highly valued by expert climbers. And conditions can be arctic rather than alpine, at altitudes which would classify them as mere hills in the Alps. Voluntary mountain-rescue teams in the various areas are supported by the Air-Sea Rescue service at RAF Kinloss.

The attraction of the sport is increased for many by
classification of the hills and the aim to climb all those in one category, especially Munros, hills above 3000ft, known as Munro-bagging. Corbetts are hills over 2500ft, and Donalds are hills in the Lowlands over 2000ft. Lists of these, altered from time to time, are published by the SMC’s Scottish Mountaineering Trust, which also publishes a range of detailed guidebooks. The classic account of the sport is W H Murray’s Mountaineering In Scotland (1947).

Before mountaineering became an organised sport, however, many people climbed the hills for all sorts of reasons, hunters, game-keepers, ghillies; soldiers. Sgurr nan Spainteach in Kintail is named for the Spanish soldiers who fought in the 1719 Jacobite rising.

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