Munro Round 2013
Between 2nd May and 7th August 2013, I climbed all the Munros.
I began on Ben More on the Isle of Mull, and finished over three months later on Ben Hope in Sutherland.
I kept a blog which gives a day by day account of my summer:
Go to Blog
In recognition of my brother Steve who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes over ten years ago, I raised money:
Go to JustGiving Page
My Facebook page, which I used in parallel my blog to keep the online world up to date:
Go to Facebook Page
The idea of doing all the Munros in a summer crystallised in 2011. I made the firm decision to go the following summer, then finally opted for the summer of 2013. The intervening time was spent, planning, preparing, dreaming... I gained experience on big mountain days that would be similar to my summer round and ran through the route in my head endlessly. At New Year 2013, it dawned on me that May was just around the corner and that plans must be finalised. I dropped food packages all over the Highlands in April and left Glasgow on the first day of May, bound for the Highlands...
I started on Mull on the 2nd May, right at the very moment two months of March and April sun turned to torrential rain ... could my timing have been any worse? Ben More was climbed under leaden skies then with that done, things turned nasty and wet. I cycled to the pier in some insane rain and got the ferry over. The second day was my hardest day of the entire 98 day summer (along with Bridge of Orchy... that's another story). I guess it's good to get the bad one out the way first! I was stunned to find myself stretched to psychological breaking point on day 2 as I fought in torrential, numbing rain to stay on schedule. It's hard to emphasize what a fight it was and I'd woken up to a reality of an entire summer fighting. I changed tact from away fully-self-propelled to save a complete breakdown in schedule and planning. The weather stayed horrendous for the following weeks, always struggling to stay on the all-important schedule. On Bidean nam Bian I was turned back by bad snow: the snowfields were thawing and the Lost Valley headwall cornices were dripping and slumping. My legs bled with wet rubbing on Ben Starav which took days to recover from (painful!). While immensely difficult, some part of me was surprised and pleased at how hard I could fight for this whole thing. I guess unless you take on the challenge you're never really going to know how hard you can push... however, it's not a content place to be.
A couple weeks in, my body was getting steadily run down and I woke up in Crianlarich YH one morning to hear someone in the dorm; "it's snowing outside". Yep, thick snow down to 300m in mid-May. What's going on?
A few days later I had my lowest moment on the Bridge of Orchy bunch - Dorain to Chreachain. Pure purgatory, all day. That evening I sat on Beinn a' Chreachain. I couldn't really imagine going on, but equally couldn't imagine giving in; an agonising mid-ground with no resolution and no way out. Well, I guess things come clearer at your lowest moment, and I rose from the depths of self-pity and agony to literally rise out into the highest 'high' of the entire summer. My evening on Beinn Mhanach after so many hours of hell won't be forgotten.
For weeks I'd been curious about an unending sense of impatience I was feeling. I wasn't feeling my mountains the way I normally would, and why was I doing this if I couldn't travel with feeling? Luckily, things seemed to calm down with the last snowfields. The weather settled into vast blue skies, I slowly picked my way through mountain chains eastward. My body seemed to power up with a previously unseen fitness and my mind settled down. Immense effort must be matched by immense pleasure, and this I eventually found in the vast blue skies and brown moors of the east. Rain-drenched western mountains were now just a memory. I cycled and walked huge distances every day. My ever-noticed Munro-tally began to swing higher until I crested 100 on Lochnagar. Real progress!
The Grampians and Cairngorms came and went beneath my feet and I linked up bothies, waking to blue skies and falling sleep to sunsets. It got pretty good, but there was always the gnawing in the back of the mind; how long will this last? Will the weather break? The difficulty of the beginning was fresh in the mind and I had little desire to return to that.
But things never really changed. I broke through to Aviemore and worked westward through Laggan toward Nevis. Immense days piled one through another, each mountain range would be stressed over then subsequently tackled. The high ridges would fall before me, I'd power through with the lightness of coming success. The Five Munros of Creag Meagaidh were done in as many hours, I had a simply incredible day on the Grey Corries and Nevis and the ten Mamores fell in a single sweep. Knoydart was dispatched in mist and rain. My Munro-tally was climbing, and it was on Skye where I passed 200, on Sgurr na Banachdich.
I'd had wet periods but in truth the weather had stayed fine for about a month. Not every day was sunny, but it actually rained very little - and it's the rain I really don't get on with. Skye was just an extension of the current theme, and they were all done on warm sunny days.
But don't let the thought of long hot days linking up ridges distract from the fact I was always on edge. I was always tired. I was always aware I was teetering on the brink of falling way behind schedule, and I'd be waking up with legs that felt like lead. Most mornings I couldn't really walk for the first ten minutes. I was always paranoid a single failed day would put me down on schedule: it's really easy to drop days and it's hard to work them all back (it's easy to halve a planned day and almost impossible to double up days).
After a hot week on Skye, the weather broke down again for a couple of days in Kintail. Down on schedule by several days I was linking up peaks. I did the 12 North Shiel Munros in two days, then crammed the 12 Mullardoch Munros into two days. It was all done without pause, without a break, and while the Shiel hills gave fairly good walking conditions, the temperature rose and I got cooked around Mullardoch by an endless intense, hellish heat with clegs to prevent you stopping. They drove me mad.
Searing heat turned ugly in Torridon and the skies grew dark and heavy as storm clouds brewed. The end was getting really close (a couple of weeks) and I'd told everybody I'd be on Ben Hope on the 7th August. They'd all taken time off work to come so missing my own party was not an option.
Paired with the ever present threat of thunder, I had many days of stress as I fought conflicting emotions of trying to climb mountains every day and trying to stay low to keep safe if the electric storms hit. The air was always hot and heavy, clegs were ever-present and it was easy to worry...
The suspense was maintained right to the end, but the threat died down and the mountains delivered well. I had great crossings of all the north west ranges; Fisherfield, Inverlael, etc., motoring over huge miles every day and feeling as though I was eating up the peaks. Some days were frustrating, but many, many days were incredible and unforgettable.
I finished on Ben Hope on the 7th August with friends and family and got home the following day. The trip really did include every emotion you can imagine from the very best to the very worst. But it was absolutely worth it and the good times outnumbers the nasty ten-to-one. Quite an experience.
In total, I was on the go for 98 days.
I spent 87 days on the Munro summits.
I went out two days and was turned back by conditions (Bidean nam Bian and Seana Bhraigh)
I had nine full rest days.
Total distance walked and cycled: 1948.8km Total ascent: 141,025m