Yesterday, I played a small part in an impressive challenge that is currently taking place in Scotland. Along with a new friend Lynn, I reached summits 23 and 24 in the Veteran Women’s Munro Relay.
There are many women who have far greater and more impressive roles, yet still I am proud to be involved in this inaugural Munros round epic.
What is the Veteran Women’s Munro Relay?
The aim is to become the first group of women aged over 40 to complete a non-stop round of all 282 Munros, on foot, bicycle and by kayak.
The challenge is also raising awareness and funds for the charity, Free to Run. See JustGiving link.
The bid started on Saturday June 4 with the first Munro, Beinn Sgritheall in the Glenelg area of north-west Scotland, followed by a bike ride and kayak paddle to the Isle of Skye where all 12 Munros were bagged.
By the evening of June 5, the relay was back on the mainland and two women were heading towards two very remote Munros from Attadale, Bidein a’Choire Sheasgaich and Lurg Mhòr.
And so it has continued.
All Munros are summited by a pair of women and each connecting leg is usually completed by two women, or sometimes just one.
Some pairs are bagging multiple Munros in remote locations and several have taken on big overnight missions. Meanwhile, others are doing one or two summits in total and in the day-time. It is a huge collective undertaking from a great group of women.
By the time it was my turn on the afternoon of June 6, 22 Munros had been summitted.
Beinn Eighe with a new friend
As I prepared to drive from my home near Inverness to Kinlochewe to meet my relay team-mate Lynn, I felt the nerves and excitement rise. I’d been checking and double-checking the on-line tracker – being carried in a toy squirrel named Morag – to make sure I wouldn’t be late.
I had work to complete but I also wanted to be closer to the action. In the end, I couldn’t sit still or concentrate, so I shut the lap-top and set off.
As I drove, I wondered if I would be well-matched with Lynn, or if she would be much faster than me. I hoped we would get on and have plenty to chat about. I also hoped I would have enough phone reception to make contact with the team so I would be ready for the off when the pair before us descended their mountains.
I looked at the relay spreadsheet to see what Sue S and Maria had to do before us. It turned out it was a very testing route on two ridge routes, Beinn Alligin and Liathach, both in Torridon, to reach four Munro summits. I was relieved that Lynn and I “only” had two relatively straightforward Munros on the Beinn Eighe ridge.
From the minute that I met Lynn, I felt relaxed and comfortable in her friendly and positive company. Obviously a very fit lady, I expected the pace to be fast but I was up for a challenge and I knew I was going to enjoy the adventure even if I needed to work hard.
As we waited for Sue and Maria to finished their section, Lynn and I chatted. We have children of a similar age and plenty of other common interests. We immediately got on and I looked forward to our part of the relay together.
We chatted about the logistics, deciding to leave Lynn’s car in Kinlochewe and travel in my van with our bikes to the foot of Beinn Eighe. This would be our base.
From there, we cycled to the foot of Liathach, where we met Sue and Maria and collected Morag the Squirrel.
We cycled back to the start of our walk-run, left our bikes in my van and started on foot for the Munros, Spidean Coire nan Clach and then Ruadh-Stac Mòr.
Our pace was brisk and we walked fast uphill, then ran the flats and descents. It was great to have a purpose and while we carried on talking as we ascended and descended, we didn’t hang about. There was a sense that we should very much enjoy the relay but that we would go as fast as our chat and leg muscles would allow.
Whenever we met another person, we told them what we were doing and also mentioned the charity, Free to Run. I felt proud to be part of the amazing challenge.
We were fortunate with the weather. It wasn’t too hot, nor too cold and the views were superb. I have no idea how many times we remarked to each other how amazingly lucky we were to be out in the mountains in a brilliant location and in such fantastic conditions.
The hardest sections were the first part of the climb from the car park when I wondered if I’d be able to hold on to Lynn’s feisty uphill pace – and then a section of re-ascent after second Munro and before the delightful downhill.
By the end of the hike-run, my legs felt a bit wobbly but we still needed to cycle to Kinlochewe to hand on the tracker to the next pair.
I was expecting a 10km uphill ride while desperately trying to keep Lynn in sight but, thankfully, in the end it was mostly downhill and Lynn rode at a kind-to-me pace.
Our entire section comprised a moving time of just more than four hours and included a bike and hike of 31km but it felt so much shorter. Time flew by and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
It was also a drop in the ocean as the Veteran Women’s Munro Relay heads on to complete all 282 Munros over the next few weeks.
Lynn had already bagged a Munro earlier in the challenge and will be doing more later on. I am keen to summit another Munro as part of the relay if it fits in with the logistical planners. For now, I’m happy to rest my tired legs and follow the tracker.
As I write this, 34 Munros have been bagged. It’s so great to see a group of active and very happy women aged over 40 enthusiastically playing their part in a Munro round first.
Logistical magic of the Munros round
One of the toughest parts of the relay is the logistics. A huge amount of work has gone on behind the scenes and for many months to form a joined up route and plan for the relay.
There is a sophisticated spreadsheet for us to refer to and the tracker helps to keep us right, too. There are also various WhatsApp groups where we can keep up to date with progress and report back on our various parts in the relay.
It’s a group with an up-beat atmosphere, a positive and can-do attitude and a sense of truly fabulous.
Now, I need to get back to the tracker…