About the SMC
A few Basic Facts
The Scottish Mountaineering Club was formed in Glasgow in 1889, as a result of correspondence in the Glasgow Herald initiated by William W. Naismith. Although other Scottish clubs existed at this time, such as the Cairngorm Club, these had only local membership and limited technical aspirations. By contrast, the founder members of the SMC included a good number who already had Alpine experience and wished to use their skills in their native country.
In the period up to the Great War the SMC thoroughly explored and described our mountains and crags, recounting their exploits in the SMC Journal, which has remained in continuous publication from 1890 to the present. From the first, they also placed as a high priority the publication of descriptive guidebooks to the Scottish hills.
Go to 'Galleries' for some of the early photographs from the Club Archives, including Menus from the Annual Dinners, and early SMC Club Meets.
Apart from Naismith himself, some prominent members of this early period were Hugh T. Munro, who described and classified the mountains; William Douglas, who edited Volumes 2-10 of the Journal; Norman Collie, John Bell and Harold Raeburn, who explored many important crags and corries. Under Douglas's editorship, the information collected by Munro and others was published in a Guidebook section of the Journal as soon as it became available. Later, thanks to a grant from the disbanded Gaiter Club (an exotic association of aristocrats and political leaders), these sections were published separately as Guides to the various mountain areas.
This emphasis on the publication of quality guidebooks has continued to this day.
In the period following the Great War, activity within the SMC declined, due to losses and the failing health of the pioneering members, but was eventually restored when new members such as James Bell were joined by an influx of bold climbers from the Glasgow Section of the Junior Mountaineering Club of Scotland, notably Bill MacKenzie, Bill Murray, Alex Small and Hamish Hamilton.
After the Second World War, exploratory climbing proceeded apace, with a fresh injection of new blood from Aberdeen: Bill Brooker, Tom Patey and their many associates showed that the Cairngorm mountains could offer high quality climbs to rival the traditional stamping grounds of Skye, Ben Nevis and Glen Coe. This was soon followed by extensive technical advances from an Edinburgh group of members headed by James Marshall and Robin Smith.
By the late 1960s, this second 'Golden Age' of exploration was almost complete: apart from the neglected North-West Highland area, most traditional major lines on major crags had been accounted for. The climbers of the 80s and 90s, armed with new techniques for summer and winter climbing have ably filled the spaces in between, at the same time exploring many minor and remote crags and sea-cliffs. Prime movers in the SMC during this period (sadly, only the first remains in membership) were David Cuthbertson, Murray Hamilton and Kenneth Spence.
It is safe to say that the SMC includes amongst its members some of the finest mountaineers active today. Although climbing in Scotland is given a high priority, members regularly climb in mountain ranges throughout the world.
SMC member Dave Macleod on the 1st ascent of The Italian Climb Direct on Ben Nevis (Photo: © Dave Macleod 2006)
In the early 1960s, difficulties in financing guidebooks prompted the formation of a charitable trust, the Scottish Mountaineering Trust, which had the main object of maintaining guidebook coverage at adequate levels. The success of the guidebook programme, initially under the leadership of Graham Tiso has now permitted the Trust to pursue its other objects more vigorously in recent years: it has given support to several projects of the National Trust for Scotland and of the John Muir Trust and, also through the sales of guidebooks, to footpath maintenance projects generally. The Trust also supports the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, and assists in the publication of annual mountain accident records and new route descriptions.
At present the Club has a membership of around 450. In 1990 women were admitted to membership, following many debates. Their numbers are fast approaching double figures. Membership is open to all who can meet the technical standards for entry, and who can find a proposer amongst members to sponsor their application. Although members enjoy certain privileges, most Club institutions are available to all.
Access to the Club's Huts may be obtained through Club Secretaries, or via Individual Membership of the Mountaineering Council; access to the Club's Library is freely granted on application to our Librarian; our Journal and Guidebooks are sold to the public through bookshops and climbing shops. Finally, an archive of Club records and members' diaries, etc., is held for public use by the National Library of Scotland.
The archived documents are listed in acc11538-11851.pdf, a 17-page pdf document. The file is 65Kb.
Right click here to download.