Completing the Munros with Deaf walker David ThompsonVideo

© Samuel Ash

Deaf hillwalker David Thompson completed the Munros in 2019. A short film about the experience has been released on BSL Zone, from the British Sign Language Broadcasting Trust. Against a breathtaking backdrop, David takes us through the highs and lows of his first round of the 282 summits, and explains his reasons for doing them all. Film maker Samuel Ash, who is also Deaf, met up with David in summer 2020, when thanks to Covid the video had to be shot on a much-reduced crew.

Heading for the top of Bidean  © BSL Zone
Heading for the top of Bidean
© BSL Zone

"Three films have now been done about my Munro bagging" David says.

"For the first I filmed myself using my mobile and laptop then sent it to Deaf Scotland. It was me signing in BSL (British Sign Language) on my Munro experiences, and the aim was to show both Deaf children and hearing people what Deaf people can do in life."

For the BSL film David returned to Bidean nam Bian to recreate the walk up his final Munro, with Samuel Ash behind the camera.

"I even had to carry his heavy camcorder in my good size rucksack!" says David.

"While I was wearing a microphone we forever forgot to switch it on or off even to save the battery, as Samuel the Producer/Director is also Deaf. At least we could communicate in our BSL without needing an interpreter! The day was as good as my Last Munro last year."

For the avoidance of confusion it's worth noting that the final Munro, Bidean nam Bian, was mis-labelled in the film.

David came to Munro bagging comparatively late in his hill career, and took his time over ticking them all:

"[My wife] Audrey and I were members of the Deaf Mountaineering Club for about eight years and enjoyed hillwalking around the UK. We also went abroad by ourselves. I was asked how many Munros I had done; I didn't even know what a Munro was! Now we knew, we set off to do every Munro.

"We were over halfway, when started to have a family of three children. With kids, I was only doing a few Munros, and other mountains/hills closer to home as it took less time to travel and being more local meant I was playing a lot of squash, spending more time with the family. When they grew up, I started to do lot more walking again and went back to backpacking. I also joined the Edinburgh Mountaineering Club (EMC). I knew I would get there eventually, I just kept making plans and did it as I went along.

"Some of my favourite trips include backpacking all the Munros in Glen Affric, and three days backpacking in Fisherfield (I must return!). Knoydart I love in winter and summer for the panoramic view of west; and the Torridon area for its classic ridges such as Liathach and Beinn Eighe."

Family Munro celebration on Bidean nam Bian  © David Thompson
Family Munro celebration on Bidean nam Bian
© David Thompson

"A few Munros I've climbed more than once: Ben Nevis five times; Ben Lomond three times; An Teallach from both the west and the east; Liathach a second time to tick one Top that I missed on my first round - and I still enjoyed it all over again. And of course I've climbed Bidean nan Bian three times in 13 months, all in fantastic weather! First of all, I did this with my family as a group of seven as my last Munro; the second time up a very steep slope from the Lost Valley to tick off three Munro Tops with the two Munros; and the third time for the film with Samuel."

David describes himself as a "banker" which means that for his second round of Munros, currently ongoing, he didn't start again from zero, but included the peaks he'd already been up more than once even if this was before his first Completion.

"On my second round, I am on 92 Munros just now" he says. "I'm trying to use different routes than my first round."

In recent months the Munros have had to go on the back burner, but David hasn't let keeping it local stop him.

"During the second Lockdown, I've spent every week in the Pentland Hills for four months. I even twice got to wear crampons for 10'' of snow there so I still feel like a mountaineer!"

A fantastic day for filming!
© BSL Zone

As well as working on a second Munro round David has been keeping as busy on the hills as the pandemic has allowed.

"EMC pals have asked me if I will try to do the Corbetts next. In 2020 I was supposed to swing more to bike rides, as I'd planned to ride from London to Paris, take part in the Etape Loch Ness etc, but due to the pandemic that was all cancelled. Between the two lockdowns I was doing a lot more hillwalking. I was pleased to tick off all my remaining 14 Munro Tops during that time. I also was in North Wales to complete my last seven mountains of Munro height (I did all the Irish Munros in a week in 1994), I just found out before the Wales trip to check what a Furth means, and have still to do Broad Crag and III Crag in the Lake District.

"I'm down to eight Donalds left, these are the Galloway Hill and Cairnsmore of Fleet. After that I want to continue my passion for backpacking, I don't even mind which mountains I'm in, I would love to go Wales or Ireland again. My sister is living in Kosovo till 2022 and I wonder if there are mountains to trek in there. Like everyone else I'm unsure how much of this will be possible in the near future because of the pandemic. I dream about returning to the vast mountainous areas..."

Film maker Samuel Ash didn't think David's Munro achievement was getting the recognition it deserved in the Deaf community, and set out to bring the story to the screen. With Covid in full swing, it wasn't an easy film to produce, he says:

"We should've been filming in May 2020, and everything was fine until the coronavirus pandemic hit, and everyone went into lockdown. We were all gutted." he says.

By September, though travel restrictions had been lifted, some measures were still in place, meaning that the crew was reduced to just one person, Samuel. This meant heavy packs for Samuel and David. The first day of their weekend window was lost to bad weather, but the Sunday dawned clear.

"It was a real lurning curve for me" says Samuel, who hopes the video will inspire other Deaf people to get out walking.

Here's a short making-of film:

  • David was subsequently filmed on the way to completing his Munro Tops, for the BBC programme See Hear. Again Samuel was involved in the production. This programme can be seen on iplayer

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