This August, members of Carnethy Hill Running Club collectively managed to climb all 282 Munros on a single day, becoming the first group known to have done the current list of summits within 24 hours. Here's how they achieved it:
The story started when club member Iain Whiteside spotted that Lakeland's 214 Wainrights had been done by a group in one day. That covers four OS maps. However the Munros in one day would be a much much bigger challenge over a much larger area, covering Islands, peninsulas and the remotest corners of the UK. It would require complex logistics, planning, commitment, teamwork, reasonable weather and a dose of luck.
We convened a Zoom meeting to discuss the ins and outs. Some spreadsheet wizardry by Ian broke the problem down into short, medium, long and extra-long hill days. Safety issues were discussed, the likelihood of success considered and dates suggested. Should it be next year in June 2022 with long days and better weather? No, we were keen to try it sooner - in just 53 days time.
We set about recruiting hill teams. After all of the slots were filled on the spreadsheet, then unfilled due to injuries and drop-outs, then back-filled with replacements, over 125 Carnethies plus friends and family members had signed up, and it was game on with 10 floaters ready to leap into action to fill gaps if needed. Ken Fordyce sorted the communications plan with his son to semi-automate reporting which doubled as a safety check on the day. A master Whatsapp group was set up. Sub-groups formed in regions quite seamlessly to arrange shared transport, accommodation, safety plans, food and end of day beers. Guidance for a safe day went to everyone on the basis that if Storm Apocalypse did not hit Scotland on August 14th then a common sense approach would prevail and we would go anyway and see what happened.
One of the day's earliest scalps was Beinn Dearg, north of Bruar, bagged at 07:55 by Carnethy veteran Keith Burns, 79 years young. An Coileachan in the Fannichs fell at 08:39, bagged by the club President and his dog Barra who saw nothing all day but clag and rain on their nine hills. The youngest Carnethy to summit was Rowan Rawlik who at the tender age of 3.5 years old ticked her 5th Munro – Carn Liath across Glen Tilt from where Keith had been earlier (with her Mum and Dad).
Some big days were put in:
Alex McVey, Iain Whiteside and Eoin Lennon on the 12 Munro Mullardoch Round - 57km, 4,400m, 12hrs
Michelle Hetherington over the Monar Munros - 50km, 4,300m, 14hrs 20mins
Alan Renville on the Beinn Dearg six, described as "a character building day out. Rain, thick cloud, wind and a swamp underfoot" - 44km, 2,700m, 7.5hrs
It is a toss-up as to who had the toughest day:
Sasha Chepelin, Ali Masson and some pals (who Carnethy need to sign-up) managed 65km, 5,100m in 12.5 hrs on a new 'South-of-Glen Shiel Round' which was "Longer than I signed-up for. A pretty spectacular day out though." It was 14km to get to their first Munro.
Kudos though may have to go to Declan Valters who committed solo to the remotest of Munros in Knoydart, then added the Munros South of Loch Cuaich to make a huge round of well over 55km, 5,000m ascent on the roughest terrain in Britain.
The jeopardy that followed had us on the edge our seats like the finale of Line of Duty.
On Skye, Jamie Paterson and his pal raced to get Sgurr Nan Gillian done before midnight. Having arrived on Skye after 08:30, this young team reached their final summit at around ten to midnight. Poor Jamie then had to run/walk from Sligachan back to Glen Brittle as the hotel was shut – well it was 02:00 in the morning.
Meanwhile a last minute scramble was on to complete the Rough Bounds Munros. As the evening progressed it had become clear that Declan Valters might not make it all the way east from Knoydart to outlying Gairich before the midnight cut-off. At 19:35 he messaged HQ to say he had done Sgurr na Ciche, and wrote "four more, next couple are closer and along a ridge, but looking like a late finish…"
Fresh from their own seven Munros earlier in the day, a team was scrambled at Cluanie for the drive round to mop up Gairich. Declan reached Garbh Cioch Mor at 20:19 and Sgurr na Coireachean at 21:37, but the last two were still quite far away. It was now clear that it had been the right decision for the Cluanie guys to head out (driven by Lindsay Marks). Mick James and Jonathan Marks set off from the car at 22:10, very much the eleventh hour, and raced for Gairich.
The pinging of summit success messages, that had gone on all day, stopped. No messages from Declan (who was sensibly saving phone battery by switching to airplane mode between summits); Mick and Jonathan would be out of range. Silence. Just as we'd accepted that we might not know the outcome until the early hours when they were all back in signal: PING! Declan, "Sgurr Mor. 23.46″.
Then at 23:48, just as Sgurr Nan Gillian was being confirmed, came news from Gairich, our final summit. We'd done it!
In 1979, members of Edinburgh University Mountaineering Club made a successful attempt on the (then) 279 Munros. In 1988 over 2,000 people tried this in the Boots Across Scotland challenge. They failed to summit two Munros. Water Aid has tried several times and in 2007 came close
Each part of this collective endeavour was vital to the whole. Every domino had to fall, each piece of the jigsaw had to find its place, and everyone – so impressively – turned up and did their bit, with just one tense and dramatic twist in the tail to round off a stunning day.