Will Copestake Completes Winter Corbett Round
On Sunday April 30, Will Copestake completed his Coldest Corbett journey, a round of all 222 Scottish Corbetts in a winter season. A crowd of 40 joined him on his final summit, Little Wyvis.
Adventurer Will Copestake is currently part-way through an epic mountain journey of several months. Starting on 1st November, his Coldest Corbett trip is an attempt to climb all 222 of Scotland's Corbetts in a single winter season. With over 50 in the bag and around 170 to go, we caught him on a rare rest day to find out more.
Ranging in height from 2500-2999 feet, and with an all-round prominence (ie drop between it and the next summit) of 150m, a round of the Corbetts is generally considered to be as tough a proposition as the 3000-foot Munros, with summits that are wilder, less trodden and far more widely scattered.
Will's solid track record of big trips stands him in good stead on the Corbetts, a journey he thinks is likely to take five months all told. In 2013/14 he made a largely solo circumnavigation of Scotland by sea kayak before climbing all 282 Munros (see our interview here). This time he's doing things a bit differently, with an open invite to people to join him on any of the days. You've just got to track him down, and arrange where to meet up!
"Whenever I can I will post my location and the hill I will be doing the next day" says Will.
"1st October: The Car Park beside Beinn Mountain Grid Ref: NN123 543 Start 8am. Difficulty: Easy/Medium/Hard. Weather: Good/Moderate/Character Building"
So what sparked the idea for his latest venture?
"Following my 2013/14 Machair to Munro adventure, I have been enjoying delving into the world of guiding both in kayaks and on foot" he tells us.
"I've been going south each winter for the last two years to work in Patagonia; like Scotland it is an amazing, windy and wild place."
"This year however I have decided to stay put and re-live a little bit of that passion I found in Scotland, but this time I want to share it with others. The idea of the ‘Coldest Corbett’ journey is not only to tick off another round as a continuation to the last but as a way to invite others to experience what I love. Adventure is best shared after all."
The journey has been in the planning since summer this year, says Will.
"I know what to expect this time and am far better prepared. With sponsors such as Rab I am in a better place to start from the get go."
The perennial difficulties are the same as with the Munros, he reckons - namely dealing with the cold and wet. Though there are fewer of them, he thinks that with their comparative isolation from one another, and often greater individual prominence, the Corbetts pose a similar level of physical challenge. Instead of camping most nights and travelling between hill groups by bike, as he did on the Munros round, Will has equipped a van as his base and means of hill-to-hill transport.
"Alice the van is pretty small, but she gives me a little more chance to dry out each night" says Will, "but as I am already finding it can be just as cold (more so than the tent quite often). Even this morning [Friday 2nd Dec] my milk had frozen solid."
"There is a small aspect of me that misses the bike, I did after all enjoy the cycling more than any other part during the Munros. However unlike before I am slightly constrained by time so decided to use a van to make things just a little logistically easier."
"Having a van also allows me to more easily arrange to pick up those who wish to join me and to drive around delivering talks as a means to fund the trip - if anyone is interested they can get in touch here."
So how many of these hills did he already know reasonably well before the start of the journey?
"I have far less familiarity with the Corbetts than the Munros" admits Will.
"When I started my last journey I had already done 60 Munro summits; in comparison I'd done just 13 Corbetts before setting off this time."
"I began as with many of my journeys in Scotland with my Father. We sailed together across the Minch from Ullapool to Harris so that I could tackle the remote summit of Clisham."
"Since then I have worked my way down the coast to climb most of the Island peaks (Rum and Mull yet to be done) and then slowly started working north. I am now approaching Rannoch Moor."
Building an open access, social media, element into the trip adds a different dimension to it, he agrees.
"So far 15 people have joined me in the hills - the furthest coming all the way from London, one from Leeds and one from York. I find that I tend to get joined far more during the weekends than mid-week when the hills are far quieter."
"It's been great. I have met some incredible people and shared some fantastic experiences. The hardest thing about it is finding reception to ping where I will be - so to help with this I have a table online, which gives a rough idea of where I will be."
And how has the weather treaded him so far?
"It has been frankly superb" says an obviously delighted Will.
"Since starting I have had just five summits out of 50 in cloud and only three really ‘properly’ wet days. We have been hit with a cold snap with my record temperature so far reading -14ºC in the van alone; this has brought sunshine, deep powder snow and lots of world class views. This week it went warm and the snow has almost all disappeared. I am sure it will be back soon."
Will Copestake is sponsored by: Rab