It took 26 days – including 3.5 days of stoppage due to atrocious weather – for the Veteran Women’s Munro Relay to reach all 282 Munros in Scotland.
The group of women – aged early 40s to late 60s – finished on Ben More, on the Island of Mull, yesterday at 9.53pm.
The continuous, self-propelled journey, started on Beinn Sgritheall, north-west Highlands, on June 4, at 3.50am.
A core of 10 women, with others joining in for shorter spells, have run, walked, cycled and kayaked to all the Munros, which are defined as mountains in Scotland with a summit of at least 3000ft (914.4m).
In total, the women have journeyed more than 1750 miles (2800km) by land and on water and climbed 482,300ft (147,000m), which is more than 16 times the height of Mount Everest.
They have reached mountains as far afield as Ben Hope in the north of Scotland, Ben Lomond in the southern Highlands, Mount Keen to the east and Sgurr na Banachdich, on the Island of Skye, in the west.
The women have also faced weather extremes from one of the hottest days of the year in early June to windchill temperatures of -4C and many days of torrential rain and low cloud.
At times, the conditions were so tough that the women were forced to retreat, or take shelter, until they could continue.
It’s believed the feat has never before been completed by an all-female team.
The relay has been raising awareness and funds for the charity Free to Run, which aims to empower women and girls through sport.
Fran Loots, of Comrie, Perthshire, is the brainchild of the challenge. She came up with the idea as a way to “celebrate what women can do”.
Fran, who celebrated her 63rd birthday yesterday, is thrilled with the achievement of the team of women. She has bagged 20 Munros during the feat.
She said: “It has been the most amazing journey with support from many incredible women.
“It has been tough at times with the weather conspiring to throw its worst at us and fatigue for heads and legs creeping in.
“The running has actually been the easy part, while the behind the scenes logistics has been the most challenging.
“Without our supporters, logistics brains and the team of leaders sharing the load, we would not have been so successful.
“The relay has been a fantastic celebration of women being active as we age.”
Sarah Dunn, from Deeside, has played a major role in planning and logistics, including masterminding a complicated spreadsheet that has kept the women on track. A tracker, attached to two toy squirrels, has been passed between team members.
Sarah, 54, has also spent 80 hours covering 200 miles (320km) on foot and climbing a total of 75,500ft (23,000m) to summit 50 Munros.
She said: “By far the toughest part part of the relay has been the logistics. It has been very complicated to ensure people are in the right place at the right time to take the relay tracker on to the next section.
“It’s an amazing achievement given the distances, complexities and the weather we have faced this month.”
More key women in Veteran Women’s Munro Round
As well as Fran and Sarah, there were two other team leaders, Vicky Thornton and Hazel Dean, for various parts of Scotland.
Vicky, 61, of Callander, Stirlingshire, was one of a number of important team leaders. She has completed 22 Munros. She said: “I always enjoy journeys and adventures and sharing special times with people.
“It’s been a fabulously challenging journey, which has enabled participants to learn more about themselves their limits and capabilities and new friendships have been formed and for this reason being part of it has been a great experience. It has also been an opportunity to get to know Scotland better.”
Hazel, 59, of Dunblane, Stirlingshire, has reached 33 Munros as part of the relay. She said: “It’s been an amazing experience to be among this group of awesome women.
“The weather has thrown us some very challenging conditions and resulted in a huge amount of replanning, quick thinking and problem-solving.
“Everyone has been so supportive to each other and accommodating of last-minute changes, and there has always been lots of smiles and laughs to keep us going.”
Further logistics support was given by Hilary Quick, known as the “spreadsheet supremo”. Hilary, aged “over 65”, of Insh, Highlands, constantly updated the spreadsheet so that the team knew the approximate times for starting their next leg. She also co-ordinated the kayak sections.
She said: “I have mainly been dot watching and keeping track of everything. It has been amazing to see what the women have achieved.”
There was a team of core runners, including Sarah, Hazel, Fran, Vicky, Katy Boocock, Sue Savege, Dagmar Borrowman, Susan Blackwood, as well as Corri Black, Lynn Smith and Ali Cunningham. Other women, such as myself, did a day or two here and there. Read about my small part.
Sue, also from Deeside, reached 37 Munro summits. The 62-year-old said: “It has been a challenging feat that has been both physically and mentally tough at times.
“It takes a lot of resilience to keep getting out there – ticking off the Munros and miles on tired legs.”
Katy, 58, of Inverness, has also enjoyed being part of the relay. She has totalled 33 Munros.
She said: “I’ve enjoyed doing ‘through’ journeys in the hills, seeing them from different angles, exploring bits that are not usually travelled and experiencing them at all times of the day and night.
“Best of all, I’ve loved meeting and running with such amazing and inspiring women.
“People have really pushed themselves beyond anything they thought they were capable of.”
Katie Henderson completed five separate legs, including eight Munros on the Cuillin Ridge, with her sister, Hannah Burrows-Smith who is a mountain guide,
Katie, 44, of Aboyne, Aberdeenshire, said: “The relay has been an absolutely awesome challenge and a great demonstration of what women aged over 40 can do.”
The final Munro, Ben More, was summited at 9.53pm yesterday. The total time for the Munro round relay was 26 days, 18 hours and three minutes.
Other Munro records
Record books show the only two other Munro relay completions, each time by seven people, I think, men. One took place in 1990 and another in 1993. The fastest time is 11 days and 20 hours.
The fastest self-propelled round by one person is 32 days set by Donnie Campbell, of Inverness.
The fastest female self-propelled round was recorded in 2017 as 77 days by Libby Kerr and Lisa Trollope.
What is Free to Run?
Free to Run is a small charity that empowers women and girls through sport, training women as leaders in areas where it is more difficult for women and girls to be active. Their current programme operates in Iraq and funds raised through the Veteran Women’s Munro Relay will support this mission.
More info Veteran Women’s Mountain Relay.