The SMC has launched a new digital version of their definitive hillwalkers’ guidebook to the Munros. Alex Roddie takes a first look at the app, which shows much potential

For many years, The Munros, published by the SMC, has been the definitive handbook to compleating this legendary mountain tick-list. But the SMC have joined the 21st century by releasing an iPhone app version of this guidebook – and for an initial release it’s pretty good.

The app itself is compatible with iOS 9 or later and is a free download. You get complete access to Section 1 (Loch Fyne to Loch Tay) without paying a penny, but every other section requires an in-app purchase to unlock (either £1.99 or £2.99). If you purchase every section, this cost does add up to well beyond what the book version would cost you, but on the plus side you don’t have to buy the sections you don’t need, which some will find convenient. A welcome addition for the next version would be a discount for buying the whole lot at once.

The app is attractively designed and features quality mountain photography throughout. It includes safety guidance for hillwalking alongside the guidebook sections and a large overview map showing pins for all the Munros; unclimbed mountains are blue, while ones you’ve checked off turn green. The map is handy although it suffers from the fact that you can’t zoom out very far to get a good overall picture. You also can’t zoom in to 1:50,000 or better level of detail. As an overview map, though, it does the job.

The main screen

Map page. This is about as far as it can zoom out

Walking directions

SMC Map view

The checklist area is divided into ‘Complete’ and ‘To Do List’, and is as simple as it sounds. Like the book version, each Munro section includes an introduction to the area and a list of peaks. Each Munro includes directions for both walking and any parking available, two map views (a drawn SMC map and OS map, again lacking 1:50,000 or better view), a few statistics, and a button that promises a pronunciation demo – although I couldn’t get this to work.

Adding a Munro to the checklist

On most iPhone models, unlocking a section is as simple as tapping your fingerprint scanner. This worked although I found that Section 1 – the free section – asked me to authenticate it a few times, and then seemed to get stuck in a loop, saying that the ‘purchase’ has already been made.  Note, however, that I didn’t see these issues with sections I’d actually paid for. Such teething problems are to be expected in brand-new apps and I’m confident the bugs will be ironed out in subsequent releases.

Purchasing a section

One area I was keen to check out is offline capabilities. Apps for mountain use are often called upon in areas with no phone signal, so the ability to work offline is a huge benefit (and in some cases can be essential). I found the offline capabilities of SMC Munros to be a bit spotty – some pages worked (including the map views), while others would not load, and generated ‘The Internet connection appears to be offline’ error messages. I think this app should work completely and reliably offline as many people will want to consult it on the hill, not just at home.

Offline access is spotty

Another notable omission is that, at launch, there appears to be no way to backup or synchronise your list of ticked Munros. Again, I’d hope this will come in a subsequent release.

Overall, this app is a worthwhile addition to your arsenal of mountain iPhone apps. It provides a convenient way of accessing authoritative information on the Munros. It has a few early bugs and gaps in functionality, and there are certainly cheaper options, but all proceeds are donated to the Scottish Mountaineering Trust – a charity created to promote the enjoyment, appreciation and conservation of mountains and the mountain environment. The app is simple to use and provides a good blend of features. It’s my hope that future releases will build on this foundation. I also hope an Android version is in the works.

smc.org.uk

Overview

  • Overall: 3-5 out of 5

Pros: Lots of information in a convenient package; navigation mostly very well thought-out; Section 1 is free; ability to log ascents electronically

Cons: Limited offline capabilities; more expensive than book version; iPhone-only at launch; a few bugs

  • Price: Free (with in-app purchases)
  • Platforms: Currently iPhone-only
  • Offline access: Limited
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