My 100-Munro Month

by Hazel Strachan 04/Jul/2017
This article has been read 1,292 times

Accomplished Munro bagger and solo walker Hazel Strachan set herself a huge challenge for June 2017 - to climb 100 Munros in a single month. Despite already having eight rounds of the Scottish 3000-ers to her name, and having her sights on a ninth, she didn't find it a walk in the park. Here's how she survived one of the wettest Junes on record...


In the summer of 2016 I kept reading trip reports of amazing extended mountain trips. I felt I needed a bigger challenge than weekend dashes up the Munros, but would need to fit any trip around work. Could I climb 100 Munros in a month? Five minutes later and a lot of calculating I had found my challenge, which I wanted to do as a fundraiser for Scottish Mountain Rescue.

Hazel on the summit of Aonach Beag (nr Ben Alder), 215 kbHazel on the summit of Aonach Beag (nr Ben Alder)
© Hazel Strachan

"It's been a month of joys, frustrations, tiredness, luck and a lot of days wearing waterproofs..."

I work as an agricultural scientist testing new varieties of potatoes and my work was going to dictate when I could take time off - May has the best weather, but I'm planting thousands of tatties then... so June it was.

Expectations versus reality

My hundred Munros was going to be a tour of some of the most iconic peaks across Scotland. It was pointed out to me that I would have to average 3.3 Munros every day, but I didn't want only to get my numbers up by spending days solely traversing long ridges or big groups; I wanted to include single and double Munros in a day too.

Usually June weather in the Scottish mountains is good, but breaks down towards the end of the month. I was expecting to start on longer ridges in the west and northwest, then when the unsettled weather came I could walk shorter days or head east away from the west coast deluge. I was expecting to get in some summit bivvies and a few nights wild camping too - but in the event, with a couple of exceptions, that was not to be.

My husband, Ian, was to drive our motor home. As a non-hillwalker, he would pick me up at the end of long days and I would use the motor home as a base in wet weather. The best laid plans don't often survive contact with the weather, however, and as it turned out Ian deserves a medal for his patience during the month. We had thought that I'd go off in the morning and come back late afternoon in time to sit down together and enjoy our evening meal and a nice glass of wine. The reality of the trip was somewhat different. I was away at all times of day to fit in with the conditions. Ian often had to eat alone. As the forecasts changed so much I ended up giving him his driving instructions at the last minute because too many changes to the plans were just confusing. He has no interest in mountain names which wasn't helping when I had to give him instructions. However, despite everything, he always found the correct parking place at the right time.

This pretty much sums up June..., 93 kbThis pretty much sums up June...
© Hazel Strachan

Although my day to day experience could have been worse, statistically June 2017 was amongst the wettest Junes on record. Lochaber and further northwards received 150% of the average monthly rainfall; Glencoe and Southern Highlands 175 to 200% of the average. The sheer number of days it rained during the month was staggering. There were only two reasonable nights in the whole month for bivvying up high, and I used this window to wild camp at Corrour. On 11 days I delayed walking till early afternoon or started walking very early because the conditions were unfavourable with heavy persistent rain and / or wind. Then there were the days I put on my waterproofs at the back of the car and had to walk for most of the day in rain. Sunny days were few and far between.

Early June

I started the month on seven Munros in the Fannichs. It was a great start with cloud well above the summits. I was in Torridon the next day climbing Liathach, a memorable experience in bright sunny conditions. The summits of all the mountains to the north were clear but the mountains to the south were covered in cloud - how lucky was I? The only time I was to return to the north-west was to Climb Ben Hope and Ben Klibreck on the 18th as this area had the best weather in Scotland that day.

After this great start the weather started to go downhill very fast. Thunderstorms and rapidly changing forecasts were to influence my choice of Munros not just for the next day but for the entire month as the jet stream let in front after front after front. It was only by sheer luck that on the 3rd there was a usable weather window with safe conditions very early in the day. I started walking at 4.30am on the South Cluanie ridge, and the early start was justified; as I drove down to Fort William later the showers were of biblical proportions.

The thunderstorms in early June made life hard, as there was nowhere in Scotland to run to. The lowest point of the month came early on 10th when walking over the five Munros from Beinn Dorain to Beinn Mhanach. It's a 10.5 hour day of continuous walking and for most of that time it was raining with low cloud. My waterproofs were soaking, pants damp and feet wet. I felt that I would never have to wash my face again as the rain had done it so well. Despite navigational mishap, and wet pants, I still returned to Ian in the motorhome with a smile on my face because I was relieved to have achieved my goal for the day. The other wet days never felt as dismal as this one.

Mid month

I'm an advocate of adapting plans to suit the weather. Fort William was to become the rainy capital of Scotland so on the 12th I headed east to the Monaliaths and down to Beinn a' Ghlo, Lawers and Glen Lyon as the weather was a lot drier in the Central Highlands. The 20th was one of four really good days in the month when I was at Corrour climbing six Munros from Ben Alder round to Beinn Eibhinn. An epic day full of sunshine and spectacular views right across Scotland lay ahead for me. Resting in my tent with the flysheet open and watching the evening sunset is one very happy memory to be cherished from the month.

Wild camping at Corrour, 146 kbWild camping at Corrour
© Hazel Strachan

The fine day was followed with more unsettled weather. I came out from Corrour on the Caledonian Sleeper and then drove down to Glencoe. The morning thunderstorms never materialised and I found I had a very small weather window to get up Bidein nam Bian and Sgreamhach before the mid afternoon lightning show. Within 30 seconds of getting back to the motor home the lightning and torrential rain started - an impressive display of anger from the weather gods!

I was acutely aware of the need to keep climbing Munros and getting out if I wanted to make my target within the month. Fitting Bidean and Sgreamhach into such a small weather window felt like a triumph because I was still staying ahead of the games the weather was playing. Changing forecasts and not being able to plan more than two days ahead was stressful at times - a run of very windy weather could spell the end of any hope of reaching my target. Every day on the hill was planned to try and keep me ahead of what the weather might bring. Mid-month I had exceeded 60 Munros and I was ahead of target. By 22nd I had climbed 79 Munros but still had a lot more to climb in the last eight days, especially if the weather was going to pull a fast one!

Wet weather was dominating the east so I headed back to Kintail to sit out a couple of mornings waiting for the overnight rain and winds to drop to favourable damp conditions before going onto the hill. I was due to meet Jonah Jones, a professional mountain guide who also volunteers for Skye Mountain Rescue team, on Saturday 24th to climb The Inaccessible Pinnacle and traverse round Coire Laggan by Collie's Ledge to Sgurr Alasdair. These plans had to be postponed for two days because of vile weather created by a deep low to the NW of Scotland. On Monday 26th the weather not only gave me the best day of the month, it was my birthday and I had the best mountain day of the month and one of the top ten days of my 9th Munro round - blue sky, little wind, dry gabbro, amazing views and great company all in equal measures of superlatives.

A 'top 10' day in the Cuillin, 193 kbA 'top 10' day in the Cuillin
© Hazel Strachan

I suppose you can guess what the weather was back to doing the following day! I sat with Ian in the NTS Glencoe Visitor's centre doing what we had done so many times during the month - drinking coffee, eating cake and checking the forecast. The deluge had passed by lunch time and I headed up onto a damp Aonach Eagach. The winds were to be 30 mph from the east so any showers would batter the back of my hood. The ridge defied the forecast and was sheltered for its length, but with enough of a light breeze to take away some of the slippyness from the rock. The traverse was very pleasant in the mist and I was wondering why I hadn't met anybody else. In fact, with the unsettled weather during the month I had hardly met anyone else on the hills unless views were forecast.

The final few

Nine Munros in three days - how easy is that? If you go to the Cairngorms, Glenshee and Lochnagar areas it's easy, very easy, to walk over six or more in a day. I'd been saving this area for the final few summits, but in the event the west was in fact best so instead I had a lovely afternoon on the 28th in clearing conditions on seven Munros on the Mamores ahead of a gusty morning on Gulvain. I was as far to the west of the rainfall as I could go. My sister, Heather, kept sending me texts about how wet the weather was in Edinburgh. I felt privileged to be out on the hill in dry conditions. Driving east after my climb I met the heavy rain near Fort William. The drive to Ballater was dismal. How I counted my blessings that evening!

By the end of the month I had only lost two days due to the weather and one of the days was because I felt unwell. My month was successful because I was willing to be flexible (even if it frustrated me no end) with where I walked and when I went out in the day.

I was tired at times throughout the month. The warm thundery weather at the start of the month made sleeping uncomfortable and a lack of sleep just further built up tiredness. I only had four hours of sleep when I walked over the seven Munros of Ben Lawers. I was desperately tired as I made my way up Meall Greigh and as the low cloud started to clear I felt I was starting to recover. I just walked slowly taking the day at a very easy pace. A good nights sleep and an easy day on the Glen Lyon '4' helped tremendously. At the end of the month I'm sure I was standing upright still asleep as the alarm went off for a long day. Luckily I found I was good at working through my tiredness to get myself into a good mood on the hill.

She's done it! Hazel on Lochnagar, Munro 100, 72 kbShe's done it! Hazel on Lochnagar, Munro 100
© Heavy Whalley

On the 30th June my target was reached! My hundredth Munro was Lochnagar. Heavy Whalley walked out from the mist to escort me to the summit. I couldn't have been happier and so excited to fulfil my challenge. It had been a month of joys, frustrations, tiredness, luck... and a lot of days wearing waterproofs.

Memories are made from...

Ptarmagain chicks running uphill in front of you faster than you can walk; beautiful displays of alpine flowers; enormous vistas of distant mountains; orange clouds at sunset near Creag Meagaidh; sunshine dancing on Ben Loyal; blanket cloud clearing from summits around Ben Lawers; closing the car door and driving away before the rain starts; finding bridges across swollen rivers; dry gabbro; finding a wind which dries your wet waterproofs as you walk back to the car; falling asleep listening to a river; realising that you have to apply sunscreen; finding the rain forecast is in your favour by a couple of hours; getting a big hug at the end of the day.

Thanks to...

I used Twitter and Instagram to update my progress. I loved getting support and encouragement especially on the wet days - a simple comment has a lot of power, you may not realise just how much. Thank you everybody who came on my journey with me.

I'm already looking back at June with much fondness. The weather wasn't great but I stretched myself physically and I realise that I am lot more capable physically than I thought.

A list of my 100 June Munros

Thursday 1st June

Sgurr nan Each

Sgurr nan Clach Geala

Meall a' Chrasgaidh

Sgurr Mor

Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich

Meall Gorm

An Coileachan

Friday 2nd June

Spidean a' choire Leith

Mullach an Rathain

Saturday3rd June

Creag nan Damh

Sgurr an Lochain

Sgurr an Doire Leathain

Maol Chinn-dearg

Aonach air Chrith

Druim Shionnach

Creag a' Mhaim

Sunday 4th June

Beinn a' Chaorainn

Creag Meagaidh

Stob Poite Coire Ardair

Carn Liath

Monday 5th June

Ben Nevis

Carn Mor Dearg

Aonach Beag

Aonach Mor

Wednesday 7th June

Stob Coire Raineach

Stob Dubh

Stob na Broige

Ston Dearg

Thursday 8th June

Ben Starav

Beinn nan Aighenan

Glas Bheinn

Stob Coir an Albannaich

Meall nan Eun

Friday 9th June

Beinn a' Chleibh

Ben Lui

Ben Oss

Beinn Dubhchraig

Saturday 10th June

Beinn Dorain

Beinn an Dothiaidh

Beinn Achaladair

Beinn a' Chreachain

Beinn Mhanach

Sunday 11th June

Sron a Choire Ghairbh

Meall na Teanga

Monday 12th June

Carn Dearg

Carn Sgulain

A' Chailleach

Tuesday 13th June

Carn Liath

Braigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain

Carn nan Gabhar

Wednesday 14th June

Meall Greigh

Meall Garbh

An Stuc

Ben Lawers

Beinn Ghlas

Meall Corranaich

Meall a' Choire Leith

Thursday 15th June

Carn Gorm

Meall Garbh

Carn Mairg

Meall nan Aighean

Saturday 17th June

Schiehallion

Cairngorm

Sunday 18th June

Ben Hope

Ben Klibreck

Monday 19th June

Beinn na Lap

Sgor Gaibhre

Carn Dearg

Tuesday 20th June

Ben Alder

Beinn Bheoil

Carn Dearg

Geal Charn

Aonach Beag

Beinn Eibhinn

Wednesday 21st June

Bidean nam Bian

Stob Coire Sgreamhach

Thursday 22nd June

Sgurr a' Mhaim

Stob Ban

Mullach nan Coirean

Friday 23rd June

Sgurr a Bhealaich Dheirg

Aonach Meadhoin

Ciste Dhubh

Sunday 25th June

Saileag

Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe

Sgurr na Carnach

Sgurr Fhuaran

Monday 26th June

Inaccessible Pinnacle

Sgurr Mhic Choinnich

Sgurr Alasdair

Tuesday 27th June

Meall Dearg

Sgorr nam Fiannaidh

Wednesday 28th June

Sgurr Eilde Mor

Binnein Beag

Binnein Mor

Na Grugaichean

An Gearanach

Stob Choire a' Chairn

Am Bodach

Thursday 29th June

Gulvain

Friday 30th June

Lochnagar

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