First Women's Winter Tranter Round by Helen Rennard

Scotland's original 24 hour mountain challenge, the Tranter's Round, has just received its first winter traverse by a woman, setting a first ladies record for future challengers. The round was completed in 23 hours 30 minutes by Scottish winter climber Helen Rennard, known for a number of notable first ascents in recent years (she's also a gear reviewer on UKH/UKC!).

Sunrise from Devil's Ridge., 35 kb
Sunrise from Devil's Ridge.
© Helen Rennard

Named after Philip Tranter, who first completed the round in 1964, the route covers 36 miles and ascends circa 6000m, taking in 19 Munros along its length (including the Mamores, Grey Corries and Aonachs, together with Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis).

The first 24-hour winter round was claimed by Dan Gay, Jon Gay and Paul Manson in February 2009, in irrefutable 'winter conditions' (18 hours 59 mins 6 secs). This record was later broken by Finlay Wild and Tim Gomersall who managed a spectacular 17hours and 35minutes using 'Skimo' lightweight ski mountaineering equipment. The women's summer record stands at 12 hours 25 mins (Helen Bonsor, July 2017), but to date no women's winter record has been set.

Binnein Mor heading for Binnein Beag, 97 kb
Binnein Mor heading for Binnein Beag
© Helen Rennard

Helen set out from Glen Nevis Youth Hostel at 03:25 on the 21st and arrived back there at 02:55 on the 22nd. She completed the round in an anticlockwise direction, starting with Mullach nan Coirean in the Mamores and finishing with Ben Nevis.

This round was complete with bona fide 'winter' conditions underfoot; 'firm snow, a good covering over boulder fields and areas of wind scouring on ridges'. Helen was also treated to clear, starry skies over the Mamores and an inspiring sunrise on the Devil's Ridge. She did however, experience strong winds on Aonach Mor and along the Carn Mor Dearg arête, which slowed progress.

Remarkably, Helen travelled solo from the start to the middle of the Grey Corries, where she was joined by Kevin Woods, who accompanied her from there to the finish. "Kev had arranged to meet me at the end of the Grey Corries and I have never felt happier to see a torch light shining through the mist. Without his support for the last section I'm not sure if I would have continued."

Helen on the summit of Ben Nevis., 43 kb
Helen on the summit of Ben Nevis.
© Kevin Woods

The route of the Tranter's Round was extended by Charlie Ramsay in 1978 to better match the Bob Graham and Paddy Buckley round profiles. However, the Tranter's Round should not be underestimated and packs a punch due its high proportion of technical ground. "I am confident that many women have the ability to complete it in a much faster time than I did; I can stomp around the hills for hours at a fast walking pace and have twenty years' winter experience in the Scottish mountains but I'm not much of a hill runner". Despite Helen's modest take on her winter round, her success sets a notable record, and one that has been a surprisingly long time coming.

  • Helen extends a 'huge thank you' to Kevin, Helen Smith of Lochaber Athletics Club (tracker), Jon Gay (encouragement), and Dave MacLeod for checking that she came in safely.
  • We'll catch up with Helen for a full interview about the round next week - watch this space.

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