Lorraine McCall Starts Grahams Round

© Dan Bailey

Lorraine McCall began her attempt today at a continuous, self-powered round of the Grahams, a four-month tour of upland Scotland combining walking and bikepacking. If successful, she'll be the first person that we know of to do it.

One down, 230 to go...  © Dan Bailey
One down, 230 to go...
© Dan Bailey

She started the day with a 34km road cycle from her home in Beauly to Strathconon, where she was met by a group of friends and supporters to make a sociable ascent of her first of 231 summits, Carn na Coinnich. A day of brisk and unsettled weather set the tone for what's likely to follow, with a changeable forecast for the next few days, and hills already saturated after a poor start to spring.

A small team joined her on day one, but from now on she'll mostly be solo  © Dan Bailey
A small team joined her on day one, but from now on she'll mostly be solo
© Dan Bailey

"The body is older and a bit more worn out after three different cancer diagnoses over the past 12 years!" she wrote recently.

"I don't want to shy away from this; it has changed my life and made some things more difficult, but there is strength in dealing with life's knocks and if it helps one more person get out there then of course it's worth it. A sense of humour and a wee bit of stubbornness can go a long way. Once I step out the door life will become more simple after a hectic few weeks of planning."

Day one also marked Lorraine's 59th birthday, celebrated with cake on the summit. Most of the journey is unlikely to be so convivial, but while she expects to spend much of the time walking and camping alone, logistical support with supplies and bike drops is going to prove vital. Working from a schedule mapped out on a spreadsheet, a small team of supporters will be sharing the tasks of moving her bike around the Highlands and ensuring food parcels are delivered where they need to be.

Having descended from the first Graham, Lorraine continued by bike up Strathconon, before pitching camp and heading on foot for an afternoon ascent of hill two, Meall na Faochaig. On Wednesday she'll be working south towards Strathfarrar, before picking off the peaks around Affric and the north side of Loch Ness over the next few days.

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.

Graham two, Meall na Faochaig (left), not looking that inviting this morning...  © Dan Bailey
Graham two, Meall na Faochaig (left), not looking that inviting this morning...
© Dan Bailey

These may be only small-to-middling-sized hills but they're rarely a pushover, most being little-visited compared with the well-trodden Munros, often with tough terrain and few decent paths.

As yet Lorraine is not sure what the total distance will end up being, but knows it's "going to be big". On a walking round of the Munros in 2005 she totalled around 1600 miles on foot, while on a self-powered round of the Corbetts nine years later her distance was closer to 3000 miles, roughly half on foot and half by bike. Grahams are scattered even more widely across Scotland.

Over the next four months she'll visit 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.

Lorraine, wondering where spring has got to this year  © Dan Bailey
Lorraine, wondering where spring has got to this year
© Dan Bailey

"This time I will be going with an emphasis on minimum carbon footprint, walking and cycling in between and using the ferries and maybe the odd kayak to reach the seven islands" she says.

Over her journey Lorraine will be raising money for Alzheimer Scotland - see JustGiving

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


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