Munro rounds – and Munro extremists


Almost 5,500 people have bagged a full Munro round. But there are some who take the challenge that bit further

Photograph: Richard Lyon prepares for ‘Fiddling the Munros’ -  R Lyon Collections

One round of the Munros is enough of a challenge for most people. And while some Munro baggers go full tilt to finish their round in one or two years, on average it takes walkers eight years to “bag” all of Scotland’s 282 official mountain peaks with a height of more than 3,000ft (914.4m).

As I write, the records held by the Scottish Mountaineering Club show that 5,427 people have bagged a round of Munros. Some 120 walkers have gone on to do a second circuit, while more than 30 have completed three rounds.

One extraordinary Munro bagger, Steve Fallon, has walked 15 rounds and holds the world record for the number of Munro rounds. There are also other Munro baggers who are intent on record-breaking rounds.

So what is a Munro?

Scotland’s highest mountains are named after Sir Hugh T Munro, who in 1891 set out to make the first survey of all the country’s mountains with summits more than 3,000 feet. In his Munro Tables he listed 236 individual mountain peaks.

Thanks to more modern surveying techniques, there have been several official revisions to Munro’s original listing and the current Munro collection totals 282.

Tradition decrees that if you walk a Munro round you “compleat” rather than complete.

Munro record breakers

The first recorded person to walk a full round of Munros was the Rev AE Robertson in 1901.

While Fallon holds the world record, the SMC list includes a couple of dozen walkers who have completed a non-stop, non-car round, walking or cycling between each Munro.

It was Scottish walker Hamish Brown who became the first, in 1974, to walk a full Munros tour in one go covering 1639 miles and climbing a total of 449,000ft in 112 days. He has also walked seven rounds of Munros.

Chris Smith became the first Member of Parliament to complete the Munros in 1989.

Youngest to complete a Munro round

There are a few contenders, including Ben Fleetwood, from Cumbria, who climbed the final Munro of his round – Ben More on Mull – on August 30, 2011 at the age of 10 years and 3 months.

Then, last year, 10-year-old twin girls Cliona and Nuala McCheyne were claimed to be the youngest yet to summit all the Munros when they climbed Sgurr Choinnich Mor in Lochaber.

The youngest compleatist to have done the round without the presence of a parent or a guardian is thought to be Andy Nisbet, who finished his round in 1972 aged 18 years and 1 month.

Non-stop Munro rounds

The first woman to complete a continuous round was Kathy Murgatroyd in 1982.

In September 2005, Lorraine McCall claimed to be the first woman to do a non-stop “self-propelled” and unsupported round.

Later in 2005, Steve Perry became the first to complete a non-stop winter months round. He is also the first to have walked a continuous double round.

Other compleations include the fastest, by Stephen Pyke. He took just 39 days 9 hours and 6 minutes in 2010 to reach all summits.

The first person to complete a winter round (all the Munros in one winter season) was Martin Moran in 1984-5.

Challenge Munro in 2014

Paul WilsonNext year, Paul Wilson hopes to break Englishman Pyke’s record with the aim of finishing in just 37 days. The Ayrshire plumber’s goal is to bag the 282 Munros – and another one, Beinn a’Chlaidheimh, which was demoted after modern measuring in 2012.

He will travel between each mountain by walking, running, cycling and kayaking.

Paul, who will be supported by a friend, Calum Paterson, said: “I’m a keen fell runner and when I saw Stephen’s Munro round record in 2010 I decided that one day I’d like to try to break it.

“The training and fundraising has been tough but it will be great to bring the record home to Scotland if we can.”

Challenge Munro is set to start on 1 June. The pair are still looking for support to fund the attempt. They are also raising money for two charities, Royal Blind and the MS Society. See Challenge Munro.

Some bizarre Munro rounds

Hamish Brown also claims a “calendar round” (climbing a Munro on every day of the year) and was the owner of the first dog to walk a Munro round.

Other Munro rounds have included a Munroist who claims to have danced a jig on every summit.

And in 2014, Richard Lyon, of South Ayrshire, is planning to walk continuously to 150 Munro and Corbett peaks in the north of Scotland playing the fiddle on the top of each. (The Corbetts are Scotland’s peaks between 2,500 and 3,000 feet high.)

Richard’s project, called Fiddling The Munros, will raise funds for Beatson Cancer Centre in Glasgow, where he was treated for prostate cancer, and Prostate Cancer UK.

Richard says: “I wanted to combine my two hobbies of walking and playing the fiddle in some way – and also raise funds for charity – so Fiddling the Munros is what I have come up with.

“I have around two months to dedicate to my project and I have chosen the Munros and Corbetts above the Great Glen as my goal. It will be a self-supporting round, and I will transporting myself between each of the mountains on foot or by bike. I will mainly sleep in a tent during the challenge although there will be a dozen or so nights of comfort in B&Bs.”

Richard has composed a different tune to play on his fiddle at the top of each Munro or Corbett. He says: “I started writing fiddle tunes in November 2012 when my grandson Cameron was born in Australia.

“So he got one and then another and then my wife got one, then someone else and it sort of took off from there.

“There’s just short of 800 tunes in the book now but nobody believes this until they see the book. My wife is very clever and it was her idea to write a tune for each summit I’m doing. I will play a different tune on my fiddle on each summit.”

There is a rumour that he has written a tune called Fiona Outdoors’s Reel, but that is as yet unconfirmed. Richard has bought a cheap fiddle to take with him and has worked out a way to keep it safe and dry as he walks.

He adds: “I am really looking forward to the challenge and while some people think I am off my trolley I think most believe the project is a great idea.”

Richard is looking for help with funding the walk, which will cost about £7,500 for advertising, B&B, food, equipment and fuel for his support vehicle. If you can help or if you would like to sponsor the effort, see Richard’s Fiddling the Munros.

Other Munro tales

Perhaps you are taking on the Munros in a more unusual way – or you know someone who is. Please do get in touch to tell us more.

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3 comments on “Munro rounds – and Munro extremists
  1. Mike Royle says:

    Re: Munro Record Breakers.
    ‘Steven Fallon holds the “world” record’..( for number of compleations).
    Are there 282 munros exactly replicated,somewhere else?
    I’m afraid this ‘howler’ set the mood for the way I viewed the rest of the article.

    As regards the big journey that is a munro round attempted more or less in one go, I felt you should have distinguished between an averagely fit individual out on a big walk with minimal support, and the entirely different game which is the arena of the top end fell runner attempting to break the record at compleating a fastest round, which inevitably requires a full support team.
    The third category, of ‘the novelty event’ publicity hungry individual (for reasons which are of course always noble, is something else.

    Regarding the former category, Hamish Brown did it first, as you say. As I understand it, he made no attempt to do it as fast as possible, but he did have the support of a vehicle at times for supplies and for repositioning of his bike. His personal ethic for the journey was that it should be unbroken, and self propelled.

    Keeping the water muddy, your article then states that a couple of dozen people have completed non stop, non car rounds. I believe that the number is in fact much less. Regarding the claim ‘non stop’, some have broken their journey and gone home during it. Perhaps the best known example is Chris Townsend, despite his journey being a remarkable first for including the tops and when set in the context of his other distance walks.

    Ferries apart, Hamish demonstrated in his book of the walk that it was perfectly feasible for an average person to complete a continuous round of the Munros. Subsequently such trips have been accomplished without a support vehicle. However, as far as I am aware, no one has yet done a continuous round without any external support.
    If you choose to describe a round as ‘non car’, it should mean just that. I would argue you should not include those who have gained from the physical and psychological boost provided by a support vehicle.
    I walked and cycled over the British 3000’s (for want of a better category) last year. It was a feat for me personally, not for the nation. I’m not on any list, SMC or otherwise, because the trip was my personal achievement and I do not wish to categorised as the equivalent of someone who potentially put in less commitment.
    We’re all out in the hills for fun. The long trip is either a race or a pilgrimage. anything else is a sideshow.

    • Don Currie says:

      Congratulations on your own outstanding achievement, Mike, and thanks for your observations. I’d have thought the ‘long trip’ can be whatever you want it to be. The term ‘world record’ was intended to mean the most compleations by any walker, regardless of nationality. Onward and upward!

  2. Lexy says:

    Lovely little article, Fi, was it miss Hewitt with the fiddle record 😉 xx


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