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Moon Walking the Munros

Written by Fiona May 27 2013

Walking Scotland’s 282 Munros is a considerable undertaking. To qualify as a Munro the mountain needs to have a summit of at least 3000ft and while a few are relatively easy to conquer many are remote and challenging. They are also spread geographically wide. So it’s no wonder that most people take many years to bag a full round of these mountains. Unless you have a lot of time off work or you’re retired, it’s a tough task balancing a job and family commitments with Munro bagging. Except, that is, if you’re Alan Rowan. The former full-time journalist came up with a cunning solution to his ambition to tick of all the Munros: He started walking them at night.

Morning sky in early February en route to Beinn Loinne

Morning sky in early February en route to Beinn Loinne

Alan says: “I had become hooked on hill walking but was struggling to juggle my job and family life with the need to get out on the hills as much as possible. Night walking was my way to find more leisure time to climb the Munros.”

By the time Alan, who is now known as the Moon Walker, began his night-time walking quest he had 50 Munros ticked off, and many of these were easier to reach. He reckoned that to bag the more remote Munros, he’d simply use night-time hours.

Alan says: “It seemed a logical solution – people who work 9 to 5 don’t just finish work and go home to bed. As a sports sub-editor on the Daily Record I was finishing work around midnight and I wouldn’t go to bed til around 5am, so I figured I could use that time better.”

Alan’s original idea was to drive to his destination and then have a sleep in the car. However,  he soon found that sleep was a non-starter and so he set off into the hills in darkness.

He says: “Sometimes I would use a head torch but I found that my night vision was actually very good, especially if there was a good moon.”

It was in May, 1994, that Alan set off on his first night expedition to climb the Easains, two Munros near Spean Bridge. He says: “The first couple of trips were tough. It took my body a while to get used to the idea of being active while it thought it should be sleeping. But soon it became a regular thing, and by the time I completed all the Munros in 2000, I had climbed more than 100 of them in the dark.”

Ben Hee

Ben Hee

As if that wasn’t enough, Alan went on to complete a round of Corbetts (mountains with a summit of 2500ft) climbing half of during the early hours.

He says: “I averaged about 12 to 15 night walks a year from 1994 to 2008. In that time, three people joined me on the odd occasion but most of the time I walked alone.”

Alan is now semi-retired, but he still likes to walk at night now and again. He says: “I love getting out on the hills at any time but there’s something special about walking at night. The solitude is wonderful. I hardly ever meet a single soul in all my wanderings. Sometimes I feel like the last person on earth.

“And I have never tired of seeing the sun rise. Where better to watch it than from the slopes of a mountain?”

Alan also talks of the thrill of seeing “inversions”, when climbing above the early morning cloud to clear, blue skies. He says: “Inversion days provided my favourite memories of night walking. One morning, while walking between Gleouraich and Spidean Mialach above the Kinloch Hourn road, I watched the cloud pour over the pass like a giant fluffy waterfall. I must have stood there transfixed for 10 minutes.

“Another highlight was seeing Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan turn a fiery red in the early light as I approached it from the long ridge from Mullach na Dheiragain. The colours are just so much more raw and alive at that time of the day.”

Alan’s book, Moonwalker: Tales of a Nocturnal Munroist will be published by Back Page Press in 2014. Alan writes a regular Moon Walker column in the Daily Record Aberdeen. You can follow the Moon Walker on Twitter @munromoonwalker and his Facebook page munromoonwalker

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