Bagging Series

Lorraine McCall Plans First Continuous Grahams Round

Starting in mid-April, Lorraine McCall is planning a four-month journey around Scotland's 231 Grahams. Nineteen years ago she completed the Munros as a continuous self-powered round, and a decade later linked the Corbetts in similar style. If successful, she would be the first person that we know of to complete a continuous Grahams round.

She's no stranger to huge walks, but this one is going to be tough  © Pauline Sanderson
She's no stranger to huge walks, but this one is going to be tough
© Pauline Sanderson

Lorraine walked the Munros, and used a sea kayak to access the islands, while on the Corbetts she travelled between the hills on foot and by bike, and sailed to visit the island summits. The Grahams will be another non-motorised effort, travelling under her own steam by a combination of backpacking and bikepacking.

Hill lists can be subject to change over the years as summit heights are re-surveyed, and the Grahams are no exception. While an earlier version of the list counted 219 summits between 2000ft (609.6m) and 2500ft (762m), each with a minimum prominence of 150 metres, the criteria were revised in 2022, and Grahams are now defined as the 231 Scottish hills between 600 and 762 metres in height.

Lorraine, who will begin the journey on 16th April, her 59th birthday, has had to deal with three different cancer diagnoses over the years, and says she wants to stride into her sixtieth year with 'strength and determination'.

Since an operation for bowel cancer in early 2022, she has focused on the Grahams as a way to help keep positive and planning for the future. She has found the cancer treatments tough and they have left her with some health issues which make this particular journey more of a challenge. Breathing on the uphill is much harder these days, she says, and there are some issues with going to the toilet. Lorraine does not want to shy away from these difficulties.

"The body is older and a bit more worn out after dealing with three different cancer diagnoses over the past 12 years. It has changed my life but there is strength in dealing with life's knocks. A sense of humour and a little stubbornness can go a long way."

"I know how many people are affected by cancer" she says "and I hope that my being out there on this journey might help to inspire others. If it encourages one more person get out there then of course it's worth it."

Lorraine McCall in the Black Mount  © Dan Bailey
Lorraine McCall in the Black Mount
© Dan Bailey

Why now, and why Grahams?

"I think this has always been at the back of my mind since finishing the Corbetts" she tells us. "Is it too glib to say it just seemed like time? I'm a bit apprehensive at the moment, but setting a date and getting it out there makes it feel real and focuses my mind." 

Big walks have a particular appeal, she says, especially the meditative pace and the simplicity of purpose.

"I miss being out there. Journeying is important to me. It is the best form of mindfulness. Life becomes very simple – where you are going that day, what you are going to eat and where you are going to sleep. Very soon slipping into a rhythm, living in the moment. What's not to like!" 

Route planning is complex and fiddly
© Lorraine McCall

A continuous round lasting several months naturally takes a lot of planning, from working out an efficient route on the map to organising gear and bikes.

"But I haven't even started planning the food yet" she says. "I am hoping to do a lot of dehydrating. Any recipes welcome!"

"I got to know lots of the country walking the Munros. The Corbett round introduced me to more glens and passes, and this is building further on that knowledge. It feels good looking at the maps and realising I can visualise the areas I will be going through."

"I love putting it all together, it's a massive jigsaw puzzle! I have had all my maps out on the floor of a friend's house and some very nice pals helping me piece it all together. FATMAP have kindly given me a subscription, so if someone would like to help me get my head around it that would be welcome. I know it will be useful."

As yet she's not sure what the total distance will be, but knows it's "going to be big". On her Munros she clocked up around 1600 miles of walking, while for the more widely-dispersed Corbetts it was closer to 3000 miles, with roughly half of that on foot. Scattered even more widely across Scotland, the Grahams will require a lot of mileage.

Lorraine's journey will include the islands of Arran, Jura, Mull, Rum, South Uist and Harris, while Mainland Grahams can be found from Sutherland in the far north to the Scottish Borders in the south, and way out east into Aberdeenshire.

Starting in Strathconon, she plans to aim south to Glen Affric, heading west and then back north through Torridon and Fisherfield. From Ullapool it'll be a ferry to the Western Isles, before regaining the Mainland via Skye to work through the west, central and southern highlands in a long meandering route, eventually reaching the Borders before heading back north via the Cairngorms, Easter Ross and Sutherland. The current plan is to finish on Suilven ... "or something like that" she says. 

By cycling and backpacking between the hill areas, and using ferries to get to the islands, Lorraine hopes to minimise her carbon footprint.

These may be only small-to-middling-sized hills, but they're rarely a pushover. Most are little-visited compared with the well-trodden Munros, and can be hard going and often pathless underfoot. The intention had been to get in plenty of pre-trip training, but she admits time is beginning to run short.

"I have been doing my fair share of dog walking and will hopefully be helping to support Anna Wells' ongoing winter Munro effort this weekend" says Lorraine.

"As usual though, I'll only really end up getting fit by doing it. There are lots of miles on a bike this time - so a big thanks to Wilderness Scotland for supporting me with a trade discount on a Gravel Bike, and for helping me put it together when it arrives."

From dropping food parcels to moving bikes, she hopes to get help with logistics from people living close to the route, and expects that some of this coordination will be done via social media.

  • Lorraine will be fundraising for a charity, to be announced at the start.
  • To help support her journey Lorraine is running a prize draw - you can enter here
  • We'll be publishing regular updates from her journey on UKH

Lorraine McCall's Grahams journey is supported by: Rab, Lowe Alpine and Fatmap

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