Corbetts in one go

Lorraine on Corbett number 1, Cruach Innse, near Spean Bridge, on 8 April

Lorraine on Corbett number 1, Cruach Innse, near Spean Bridge, on 8 April

We talk to Lorraine McCall six weeks into her attempt at a continuous round of the Corbetts.

Lorraine McCall set out on 8 April to become the first woman to walk a continuous round of Scotland’s Corbetts – the 221 mountains with a summit of between 2,500ft and 2,999ft.

She plans to hike, cycle and sail over five or so months to bag all of the Corbetts and take her place in the record books.

This is a woman who knows all about continuous mountain walks. In 2005 she became the first woman to complete a continuous round of the Munros. Back then there were 284 Munros, or Scottish mountains with a summit of at least 3,000ft (914m).

After some modern re-measuring the Munros list now totals 282, so they outnumber the Corbetts by 61, but the Corbetts are far more widely distributed across Scotland. There are Corbetts further north, south, east and west than the Munros and 11 are on six islands.

Unlike the Munros, which feature many ridges where multiple summits can be ticked off in one day, the Corbetts are rarely close enough together to do that. The challenge for Lorraine, from Inverness, is mammoth by anyone’s standards.

Lorraine McCall on the summit of  Beinn an Lochain, Cornbett no 32

Lorraine McCall on the summit of Beinn an Lochain, Cornbett no 32

Last week, after she’d spent six weeks walking, we caught up with the determined walker. Lorraine, who has taken a sabbatical from her work with Venture Trust, said: “It has been hard going so far, especially with difficult weather conditions. The wind has been unbelievable and I have frequently had to search for summit cairns in mist.

“But I am enjoying myself immensely and there have been so many high moments. I am slowly becoming fitter and more relaxed. I feel like I am now well on my way with the Corbetts round but already I have had to adjust my plans.

“I had no idea how difficult it would be to walk multiple Corbetts in one day and the weather has been tough on many days so I have left some mountains until closer to the end. Now I do not know when I’ll be finished and I do not intend to make this plan just yet.”

First the Munros, now the Corbetts

When she walked the Munros round aged 40, Lorraine travelled 1,600 miles, climbed 500,000ft, spent 72 nights in a tent, had 14 bivvies and bothy nights and enjoyed only a couple of nights in a hotel. Nine years later, she is focusing on the Corbetts but she confesses her fitness isn’t what it was back then.

Lorraine said: “My body doesn’t feel as strong or as flexible as I close in on 50. I guess that is age and because I did not train that hard before setting off. However I will walk and travel further this time. It is going to be a long journey.”

Last year Lorraine also underwent treatment for cancer. The Corbetts challenge will raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support.

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Camping in the Borders

Her original plan was to start in Spean Bridge, head south across Kinlochleven, Glencoe, Glen Etive, Glen Orchy, Breadalbane, Loch Earn, Loch Lomond, Arrochar and the Borders.

In the event she has missed Corbetts in Glen Lyon and Lochearnhead and will return to them at the end of the journey. This earlier part of the round was by foot, bike and sea kayaking.

The next stage, and the most recently completed, was the islands. Lorraine  sailed from Ardrossan to Arran, then Jura, Mull, Arisaig, Rum, Skye and Harris, finishing at Badachro, Wester Ross.

When I spoke to her, she was in high spirits after reaching Badachro. She said: “The islands have been incredible; stunning. It has been amazing to walk these 11 Corbetts.

However, the weather hasn’t always been on our side. I have been very lucky to get back to the mainland today from Harris.

“We also hoped to be completely non-motorised – a minimum carbon footprint Corbetts round – but there were times when we would have gone nowhere in the boat if the engine had not been switched on.”

Another important aspect of planning for Lorraine has included relying on friends. Her partner, Rob, is accompanying her for much of the journey and helping with food drops and bike delivery.

Friends have also provided company and motivation on many of the climbs. Skipper Graham Walters sailed the yacht Iona, which was supplied by Peter Henderson of Spirit of June Yacht Charter, between the islands and mainland.

Lorraine said: “More so than the Munros, I have had people walking with me and helping out. It has been a great journey so far.”

Next stage of the non-stop Corbetts round

After a day of rest, Lorraine planned to cycle back to Loch Laggan, near Fort William, before heading east by foot and bike to Loch Ericht, Blair Atholl, Pitlochry and over to the Cairngorms.

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In the mist on the Rum Cuillin

The next destination will be west along the Great Glen out to Ardnamurchan, Knoydart, Glen Shiel, Loch Mullardoch, Loch Carron, Torridon, Applecross, the Flowerdales and Fisherfields and then into Assynt and the far north to Ben Loyal.

Ben Loyal had been Lorraine’s original finishing Corbett but she has rescheduled to head south again to Glen Lyon and Lochearnhead to walk the Corbetts she missed earlier in the journey.

Lorraine said: “I was over ambitious in my planning and didn’t realise how hard it would be to walk multiple Corbetts in one day. They are too far apart for me to manage this.

“So I will now finish on Ben Vrackie, near Pitlochry. I have no date set and that will only become clearer as I approach the finish.”

As the walk goes on, Lorriane says she is becoming more familiar with the rhythm and routine. She said: “I remember this with the Munros round. You get into a simple rhythm and your senses are somehow more sensitive. Smells, tastes, sights are bigger and better. It’s a great place to be, walking Scotland’s fantastic mountains every day.”

Keep up with Lorraine at her blog. You can donate to her fund-raising challenge at Just Giving.



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2 comments on “Corbetts in one go
  1. Lorraine,
    If you are looking for accommodating in Crieff when you finish your round of Corbetts then give me a call and we have a room available it’s yours for the night!!

    Good luck with your challenge!

  2. Further to my previous comment its Galvelbeg House B&B, Crieff.
    Tel 01764-655061

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