Halfway around the Scottish winter Munro round

Anna's winter Munro round. The first 142.

By Anna Wells

A Winter Munro Round covered 142 peaks, facing strategic challenges and the Scottish Highlands' stormy weather with community support

Recently, lots of people have asked me when I first decided I wanted to attempt a Winter Munro round. The answer is, I'm not quite sure. I don't think I ever really decided I was doing it, right up until day one when I found myself driving into Glen Strathfarrar on a ferociously wild and wet December morning.

Several years ago, I read Martin Moran's book about his monumental adventure to achieve the first-ever winter Munro round. I was captivated by the magnitude and nature of the challenge! It wasn't the first time Moran inspired me. In my early twenties, I read his book about climbing all 82 of the Alpine 4000ers in a single season, which inspired a summer holiday where I climbed almost half (thirty-eight). That trip made me realise how much I love huge back-to-back days in the mountains.

Anna Wells Scottish winter Munro challenge

The Winter Munro Round appeals to me on many levels and plays to my strengths! I love lists and clearly defined goals; I love planning and logistics; I love meeting people and making connections; and most of all, I love massive days in the mountains. Every winter, I vaguely contemplated the idea, but the idea burned gently in the background, and it always seemed like something I could do "one day". When I watched Kevin Woods' film (Winter 282) in June 2023 about his round, a little fire started burning, and I began to think about it more and more. I raised the question of three months unpaid leave with my manager at work. I still hadn't made up my mind, but that was the key thing that set the wheels in motion. Suddenly everyone had gone to a whole lot of trouble to organise it through HR, and so I suppose I went along with it!!

I did almost zero planning. Three days before I started, I had a load of university hand-ins, my last day of work, and then went to see Kevin's film again, which he was coincidentally showing close to my home. We had dinner together beforehand, and I felt like I had erupted from this whirlwind of chaos and suddenly found myself at the beginning of this enormous objective. It felt utterly surreal. I spent two days studying maps and planning loops for the northern Munros, figuring I would "learn" the southern ones during future rest days. The first week or so, I just felt like I was playing along, going through the motions, and walking up lots of hills! It didn't feel real at all.

Anna Wells winter Munro round climbing by torchlight

To be honest, I wasn't sure whether or not I would enjoy it! When I "want" to do something, then I seem to naturally have motivation by the absolute bucket load. I tend to get extremely excited about ideas and then just feel overflowing with energy to make them happen. I've always been like that with everything, whether it's studying, exams, sports or climbing. And so, with the Munro Round, I wasn't sure if I would continue "wanting it" for three whole months and whether that buzz was sustainable.

As it turns out, much to my relief, I have been absolutely loving almost every second. There were two days in January when my motivation crashed, and it felt like hard work; it turned out to be the onset of my period, and the slump only lasted 48 hours! I can honestly say with a hand on my heart that every other day, I have woken up overflowing with excitement to get out into the hills, regardless of the weather! And that enthusiasm has only been growing! It feels completely effortless; it's literally an absolute joy.

I've had a massive mixture of weather and snow conditions! On New Year's Day, I had deep powder snow where I wore snowshoes for 35km and summited the 9 Glenshee munros. On boxing day, I walked for six hours in the dark on the south Glen Shiel ridge, not needing to switch on my headtorch as a full moon illuminated the snow. Last month, I had a stunningly beautiful day running along the North Glensheil ridge on crisp neve. I had a gigantic 64km day in the Fannichs where the sun set on my 4th out of 9 Munros, and I pulled out a long shift in the dark. I have seen so many incredible sunrise and sunsets.

More recently, I've been dodging storms! Apparently, this is shaping up to be the UK's stormiest season ever, and it's certainly added a new dimension. I've been studying forecasts and snatching weather windows, sometimes changing tactics to climb several individual Munros in a day to avoid staying high for long. I really enjoy the strategic element of this. It's also brought a nice change of pace; shorter days in bad weather have meant more time to rest and relax in between. I never wanted an "easy" winter, I wanted it to feel proper and challenging, so I certainly got what I wished for!

Whilst Kevin Woods and Martin Moran did their winter rounds based from vans , I have taken the decision to do extra driving and return to homely comforts every evening. Initially, I used my mum's house in Inverness as a base, but more recently, I have taken up extremely generous offers of accommodation from hillwalkers further south. For me, it makes a big difference to return somewhere cosy for a hot shower, warm bed and social company. It's also meant I can be very flexible with location and chase weather. The support from the outdoor community has utterly bowled me over. Immensely kind offers of support from family, friends and strangers alike, offering me everything from hot meals to bothy deliveries. Messages of support on social media have also been hugely encouraging, and I've even met a few people on the hill who said I inspired them to get out! It's also been amazing to have hill days with friends, and I've tried to keep the balance around 50:50. I love having company, but I also love the freedom and independence of huge days by myself; it feels very raw and pure!

I think being female adds another element of interest. I was perhaps fortunate that I fell into mountaineering through a background of quite high-level rock climbing with a close network of (male) friends whom I considered equal, and I never thought much about gender. However, I can see that, particularly in winter, mountaineering remains a male-dominated activity, and so I hope that seeing another female doing this might inspire others to see themselves in that picture. There are loads of skills courses about which can be a great and accessible starting point!

Anna Wells femaile winter Munro round

Tomorrow, I will (hopefully) bring my total number of Munros up to 142, passing the halfway point. That will be day 44, meaning I am on track for my goal to finish within 90 days. My fitness has improved hugely, and so I hope that I will manage to pick up the pace a little during the second half if I am dealt some spells of kinder weather. I thought that I would be fantasising about finishing and imagining all the relaxing and comfortable things I could do afterwards. But as it turns out, I'm not chasing the finishing line at all; I'm just loving every moment, and I don't want it to end!

It feels so strange thinking back to day one. Kevin Woods joined me on that day, which brought a lovely "pass the baton" type sentiment since he was the most recent person to complete a winter round. I have a weirdly poignant memory of Kevin unlocking the gate at Glen Strathfarrar in the pouring rain and howling wind and knowing that it was the beginning of a surreal adventure. It's been an utterly brilliant six weeks full of amazing people and mountains, with a thousand vividly hazy memories of magical moments. I feel so incredibly lucky that now I get to do it all over again!

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