The Munros are a collection of 282 mountains in Scotland, all over 3000ft in height. The challenge of summiting all 282 peaks is very popular among hillwalkers; drawing a passionate following of self-proclaimed “Munro Baggers”, spending every spare weekend chasing the ephemeral weather windows that the Scottish weather gods offer up! It’s an amazing way to motivate oneself to travel all over the country and discover remote, rugged and beautiful places. The “Winter Munro Round” is a niche concept of summiting all the peaks during a single winter season. Commencing on the first day of the “Astronomical Winter”, which follows the shortest day, (22nd December this year), the challenge is to climb all 282 peaks during the following three months in whatever conditions are dealt.
To my knowledge, three people have successfully completed a Winter Munro Round. The first was the late Martin Moran in 1985, where he travelled the country in a campervan supported by his wife, climbing all the Munros in 83 days. Being the “first” person to conceive such an imaginative and far-fetched objective is so impressive, proving that it is possible and laying down the gauntlet for future mountaineers.
The second was completed by the late Steve Perry, who completed a round in 2006. His approach was incredibly rugged and pure, walking between summits in a man-powered undertaking, although he allowed himself a longer window of 4 months.
The third and final person, Kevin Woods finished his round in 2019 right before lockdown struck. Kevin made a superb film about his round, which he has been screening around the UK during the past year. Reading Martin Moran's book several years ago sparked my initial interest; watching Kevin's film earlier this year sealed the deal!
For most of my adult life, I have been utterly addicted to big adventures in the mountains. I am also quite an objective-driven person who loves committing to a well-defined goal. There have been a few chapters in my life where I have done huge spells of back-to-back days in the mountains: A summer climbing 38 Alpine Peaks over 4000m; a season living in Chamonix doing multiple valley-to-valley peaks without uplift; two summers guiding in the Cuillin on Skye. These spells, where I was totally immersed in the mountains and away from the trivialities of day-to-day life, have felt among the most simple and authentic periods of my life.
I have contemplated a Winter Munro Round for several years. It aligns with everything I love, including a massive appreciation for my home country, and an increasing desire to find adventures closer to home. Recently, I have felt drawn towards a more stable lifestyle, swapping out guiding for a 9-5 computer-based job, taking great joy in more mainstream activities and appreciating the value of being part of a community. Despite that, I am in a place in life without any ties or responsibilities, and I guess I see this as one last big adventure that I'd like to have.
I feel that the mountains have given me so much joy, meaning and purpose, and I know this is the case for many within the outdoor community. When I shared my plan to attempt a Munro Round on social media, I was overwhelmed by a huge number of messages of encouragement and support - strangers offering to feed me dinners, provide a bed, or take me on a boat to Knoydart! I am excited about the social element of the endeavour and hope to meet lots of like-minded people around the country. I would love to ultimately write a book about the project, sharing the stories of others as well as my own.
It still doesn't feel quite real to me. For the last month, I have been swamped by a combination of work and uni assignments, and little bubbles of self-doubt have been creeping in! I've been struggling with a few niggling injuries and have particularly troublesome feet problems, but I am truly hoping that my body will adapt and strengthen as I go!
I am massively excited for whatever the next three months hold, and intend to embrace it with enthusiasm, determination, and always a smile!
If anyone would like to follow my progress, I will be posting on my Instagram @rocksandtrails.