Wilcox family challenge: 20 Munros in a month
An outdoors family has set themselves a superb – and some might say, daunting – challenge this summer. Stacey and Keith Wilcox, accompanied by their five-year-old son Finn, hope to bag 20 Munros over just four weeks.
The Wilcox family are no strangers to Munro bagging and since the age of two, when Finn walked his first Munro, together they have reached the summit of 22 Munros.
Stacey said: “We are always out and about doing fun outdoors stuff and our son has already bagged many Munros himself, so his hiking boots are truly worn in. But this will be a huge challenge for us. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.”
Behind this upbeat adventure, Stacey and Keith have been coping with the devastation of miscarriage. The due date of their unborn child, Beanie, was mid-July.
Stacey said: “We miscarried last year and the closer we get to the Beanie’s due date, the more we think about what could have been. We can’t change that it happened and miscarriage sucks, to put it politely, but we want something positive to come out of this summer.
“Beanie will be there with us in our thoughts every day as we take on this Munros challenge and we will also be raising money for Tommy’s, a charity that funds research into miscarriage, stillbirth and premature births.”
Finn’s love of the great outdoors
Since Finn was a baby, he has enjoyed being outdoors with his parents. Before he could walk, Stacey and Keith carried him in a backpack carrier during countryside hikes and then, as a toddler, he showed them his own determination to explore the great outdoors.
Keith says: “We did worry, before Finn was born, that we would be stopped in our tracks because he wouldn’t be keen to join us for our walks. But I think we were just determined to keep going to the mountains and doing the things we enjoyed before he was born.
“This has meant that from a very early age, being outdoors and walking with Finn is what our family does. It’s been a very important part of our life and Finn, thankfully, has embraced that.”
Before embarking on Finn’s first Munro, the family enjoyed shorter walks. Keith says: “Foremost, we wanted Finn to learn to enjoy the outdoors and to have a sense of adventure. Our first outings were not about distance but enjoying the wildlife, the scenery and the fresh air.
“Slowly but surely we built up the distance that we were walking and Finn seemed very happy to do so. We have never wanted to bribe him into walking but to let him enjoy the adventure.
“For example, if we don’t make it to the summit of the hill we are not bothered. If Finn says he doesn’t want to carry on or the weather turns against us we turn back. Being outdoors is more than just reaching a summit.”
Finn’s first Munro
A move to Scotland from the south of England gave the family easy access to the Munros. Keith says: “One day we decided to do the easiest Munro of all, Carn Aosda. Because you start so high, the route to the top of this Munro is not very challenging.
“Yet Finn was only about two when we did this Munro. We didn’t push him but he seemed as keen as we were to get to the top. There was a short steep section during which we helped him but he walked the rest of the way himself.
“Although you could see he was proud to reach the top I still think it’s more about the journey for Finn. It’s about stopping to look at a bug, seeing tadpoles in a puddle, playing in a patch of snow, looking for a cave to sleep and just enjoying being outdoors.
“If we get to the summit of a hill or mountain then it’s a bonus.”
Munros and a wild camp
Stacey and Keith have discovered that a wild camp adds excitement to a family Munro bagging weekend. Stacey says: “If we tell Finn we will be wild camping he is far more attracted to the idea of a couple of days of Munro bagging. We have found we can feasibly walk two Munros on one day, wild camp overnight and walk another two the next day.”
Keith adds: “Finn also likes to know about the wildlife he might see when we are walking. He prefers to be on smaller paths and off the beaten trail. We find he gets a bit bored by a long, wide track and so, if we can, we find interesting off-path routes.
“Finn is also very keen to find wild places to camp, such as a cave or a hole in the snow. This ignites his imagination. This is what a young boy sees when he is outdoors: An adventure and a great journey.”
As parents, Stacey and Keith are not against the odd treat or two. Keith says: “We always take ‘Trail Mix’ with us. That is basically jellybeans and sometimes with a few nuts or fruit thrown in. Finn loves jellybeans when we are walking and they are an easy form of energy.
“And if we are wild camping we will take a magazine for him to read. After a day’s walk he likes to sit and have some quiet time and that is when he really enjoys a magazine, especially if it comes with a small toy.
“However, we don’t like the idea of encouraging him to do things with us by telling him he will get a treat. We want him to enjoy the outdoors adventures because he wants to be there. Brilliantly, so far, he has loved the walking as much as we do.”
20 Munros in 4 weeks challenge
Stacey and Keith admit that their summer challenge starting on July 8 could be a tough physical challenge. Keith says: “There is the weather to worry about. Finn can’t cope with strong winds and a lot of rain. That’s understandable because he is small and so we have to be guided by the weather.
“Our walking is usually in good weather. This could prove an issue for us as we have only a four-week window to walk our Munros.”
The family will be doing two-day trips where possible. Stacey says: “I work from home so I plan to take a lot of time off this summer and Keith has taken a long summer holiday from his work so we will have the greatest possible opportunities for our Munros.
“We do hope that if anyone sees us on the Munros they will say hello and encourage us on. And maybe there are people who would like to join us for an outing or would simply like to donate to Tommy’s. We do hope that people will support us.
“We know it will be tough but we also hope it will be the most amazing family adventure. Making fun memories, as well as remembering Beanie and raising funds for a poignant charity is our goal and will keep us going as well.”