It began with a proposal in January 2013 â€“ and ended with a final summit on 14 December. Meet the couple who walked all 282 Munros in one year.
On 3 January 2013, in a bothy in Knoydart, Andy Taylor proposed to his girlfriend Jamie Aarons. But this was no ordinary proposal â€“ it was a proposal to walk all of Scotlandâ€™s 282 Munros in just one year. Jamie didnâ€™t hesitate in saying: “I do”
While there have been other Munroists who have walked a full Munro round in little more than a month, Andy and Jamie planned to do theirs while still working full-time.
How to walk all the Munros in one year
“Lots of planning, organisation and flexibility” were the keys to the coupleâ€™s fantastic achievement.Â Social worker Jamie, 34, says: “We aimed to walk on as many weekends as we could but this did depend on weather conditions. We spent a lot of time planning our weekends and looking at weather forecasts.
“We had to be flexible and to travel to wherever the weather was best for walking.Â Obviously, this became a bit more difficult towards the end as we had fewer and fewer mountains remaining to choose from, but we were regularly making decisions based on the most recent weather information.
“We also did about a dozen of the Munros on week nights after work. We identified 16 that are within a 90-minute drive of GlasgowÂ â€“ we lived in Hyndland for most of the challenge â€“ so we earmarked those to complete on week nights without using precious weekend time.
“In the end, we only used a few days of our annual leave, which is surprising when we look back.”
Good navigation was also critical. Andy, 39, is an outdoor education instructor and a qualified Scottish Winter Mountain Leader.Â Jamie says that Andy’s navigation skills were “very impressive”.Â She adds: “Andy is an excellent navigator and the entire year of Munro bagging was completed without use of GPS. We used only a traditional map and compass.”
In addition, the pair came up with some inventive routes for some of the Munro ascents. Jamie says: “Andy is a keen mountain biker and we have both taken up sea kayaking and ski touring in recent years. We tried to include these other activities as often as possible to add some variety to our route choices and we ascended some of the hills in an atypical way.Â This included kayaking across Loch Maree to Slioch, paddling up Loch Quoich, and using the mountain bikes to access quite a few of the hills.”
In the beginningâ€¦
Jamie and Andy began with Ladhar Bheinn followed by Meall Buidhe [Knoydart] and Luinne Bheinn.
Their biggest hikes during the challenge were 12 Munros in one day and 21 in one weekend.
Other stats include:
- Sandwiches consumed: 272
- Boxes of Frosties: 18
- Packets of biscuits/cookies/brownies: 56
- Packets of supernoodles: 78
- Toenails lost: 4
- Friends who walked, too: 28
They finished the challenge on Ben Lomond on 14 December on one of the wettest and windiest days of 2013.
Highs â€“ and lows â€“ of the Munros in a Year challenge
For Jamie, one highlight was walking the Cuillin Ridge in just one day, including the 12 Munros. All too often unfavourable weather can put paid to any such hope on the UKâ€™s longest scrambling/climbing ridge but the couple spent many weeks waiting for the perfect conditions for their attempt.
She says: “We perpetually had the Cuillin in our minds as the Plan A, as soon as conditions allowed. So, from about April, every Thursday was spent reading the MWIS update and wondering: ‘Cuillin?’
“Finally, in July, we were graced by high pressure and took a last-minute day off work to drive up on the Friday. We bivied on the ridge that night and had an incredible day out on the Saturday.”
For Andy, a highlight wasÂ Easter, when in one day the couple ski-toured from Glenshee to Lochnagar, ticking off 11 Munros en route.
But there were times when Andy and Jamie were not so fortunate. For example, a planned round of 14 Munros in one weekend in the Loch Mullardoch and Glen Affric area was hit by bad weather.
Jamie says: “We knew that we had two very big days ahead of us and weâ€™d need to stay at a remote youth hostel in between.
“Unfortunately, when we arrived at the first summit the wind was gusting about 60mph. We made the frustrating, but right, decision to back off and return home. It would have been foolish to continue in those conditions, though it was upsetting because we had driven all that way, essentially for nothing.
“We spent a huge amount on fuel this year so wasting a tank of diesel was annoying, even though we knew it was the right decision.”
The couple returned to the same area later in September and managed to get round all of the Munros in one outing.
In September 2013, the couple added to their busy year by moving house. They bought a new home just north of Glasgow. Jamie says: “They say that moving is one of the most stressful life experiences, and I think itâ€™s safe to say that moving while in the middle of this intense Munro bagging year had its stressful moments.
“Luckily, weâ€™re both very organised so we kept the Munro-related bags in a corner to reduce the risk that anything got misplaced. We each had a rucksack and a duffle bag with spares that weâ€™d pull from when packing up each Friday.Â We had a bag for breakfast; a bag of maps and guidebooks; a bag of cooking stuff (pots, stove); and a bag of snacks and dinner foods.Â We needed to be very organised to achieve the goal.”
Then came the final Munros
Ben More on Mull was their penultimate Munro. Jamie says: Â â€œWe did that one as just the two of us. I think for both of us that seemed like the final big hurdle overcome.Â At that point we still had three-plus weeks left of December and only one to go, without any significant logistics to get round.
“We had saved Ben Lomond for last in the hope that as many of our friends could join us as possible. Unfortunately, the weather on 14 December was terrible. To maximise our chances of success we decided to start walking at 0600, as the worst of the weather was due slightly later in the day.
“With alarms at 0415 this reduced our group number pretty significantly, but we still had a dozen friends out to join us, which was really special.”
Having only recently completed their challenge, the couple are now enjoying the novelty of free weekends. Jamie says: “Finishing the challenge was a bit surreal for me. The entire year required such intense focus it that it seems strange that it is now over. Andy has described it as both exhilarating and a relief!
“I must admit, though, that the weekend of 20 December felt amazing. It was a huge relief to check out the weekendâ€™s forecast and not care in the slightest that it was going to be rain, sleet or whatever.
“It was also really nice to have that first Friday of finishing work, returning home with no pressure, making a relaxed dinner and sitting with a glass of wine watching a movie. Iâ€™d nearly forgotten what that felt like.”
Raising money for charity
The couple have been raising much-needed funds for Lomond Mountain Rescue Team. See sponsor us.
See the link to find out more about the Munros in a Year challenge