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Katy’s 60th birthday 1800km, 80,000m Archies round

Written by Fiona

July 09 2023

When Katy Boocock, of Inverness, was approaching her 60th birthday she decided she would like a big celebration with friends. But rather than hosting a traditional party like many other people might, the keen walker and runner embarked on an impressive self-propelled round of 130 of Scotland’s mianland mountains known as Archies.

As well as hiking all of the Archies, which are defined as summits of 1000m or more and with a 100m prominence, Katy walked, ran, cycled and kayaked between the mountains, too.

It took the retired NHS paediatric physiotherapist just 38 days to complete the round, which extended to a total distance of 1800km and a total elevation of 80,000m, which is the equivalent of nine times the height of Mount Everest.

On the summit of Ben Wyvis, her final mountain, surrounded by friends, she said; “I have enjoyed an amazing 38-day birthday celebration. It has been a magical experience.”

The origins of the Archies

In 2015, a relay team, including Katy, completed a round of the so-called Archies to raise funds for The Archie Foundation. The Archie round was developed as a way to raise funds for the charity, which supports the Highland Children’s Unit and funds specialist equipment, advanced staff training, emergency grants for patients and their families, as well as outdoor garden spaces.

60th birthday adventure for charity

Katy has seen first-hand the great work of the Archie Foundation and part of her self-propelled round has been to raise funds and awareness for the charity.

She said: “I really enjoyed the relay round of the Archies with many friends and acquaintances in 2015 and I thought it would be a very cool to do another round of the Archies but this time as a solo challenge.

“I also wanted to continue to raise funds for the Archie Foundation. I’ve seen the work the charity has done at Raigmore Hospital in the children’s unit and how that has added value to the children and their families.

“In addition, I can think of nothing better than spending all day, every day in the hills with lovely people.”

Katy started the Archies on Beinn Ime in the Arrochar Alps on June 1. She celebrated her birthday on July 4 reaching two Archies in Torridon in north-west Scotland. She finished on Ben Wyvis, her “local” Archie, on July 8.

She spent between eight and 14 hours completing the challenge each day.

Katy spent most nights sleeping in the campervan driven by her husband Peter Ferguson. She also made use of various bothies, where convenient, and wild camped on several occasions.

Peter provided the main support for his wife’s Archies round, including being at transition points and finish spots. He also cycled Katy’s bike to various locations to help her with the round.

Katy said: “Peter has been amazing. He has been a great support and I couldn’t have hoped to achieve this challenge without him.”

She wore four pairs of trail running shoes, including those made by inov-8 and Decathlon.

Katy’s 60th birthday on an Archie summit.

Each day, Katy was joined by different friends, who walked, cycled and kayaked alongside.

Katy said: “I am very grateful for the amazing support and team work from friends going above and beyond.

“They have been out in totally crappy weather, driving miles to bring kayaks, carrying tons of camping gear in to meet me, keeping me laughing and giving me loads of encouragement. They have also brought me delicious cakes, sandwiches and meals.”

While the fit sexagenarian enjoyed sunny, dry and warm weather at the start of the round, she also faced some tough conditions, including torrential rain and strong winds.

Katy added: “The weather has been mixed but I have enjoyed plenty of good conditions. On the first bivi on Beinn Ime there was a temperature inversion and the views were fantastic.

“Another good weather highlight was a kayak in and out of Barrisdale Bay on the Knoydart Peninsula and, later on in the round, we were lucky with the weather on the Liathach ridge in Torridon.

“I loved camping high in the Cairngorms and Glen Strathfarrar, too.

“I’ve also managed to keep to my daily schedule, even when the weather forced a major change. Thankfully, I was able to work out a reroute to catch up and this meant that overall the logistics all worked smoothly.”

But there were tough times. Katy said: “There have been soaked-through-to-your- pants days, epic hail and wind on the Glen Affric hills and there was a period of feeling and being sick and not being able to eat much.”

Katy walking with friends n the last Archie.

Friends give praise to Katy

Katy is a highly experienced outdoors enthusiast and has taken part in many solo and team challenges throughout the past decades. She is very welcoming and encouraging and appears to most enjoy spending time with other people whether running, walking, cycling, skiing or wild swimming.

I joined Katy on a couple of days during her Archies round, first walking three Archies, Creag Meagaidh, Stob Poite Coire Àrdair and Beinn a’Chaorainn, and then three more Archies on the South Glen Shiel Ridge.

I was impressed by her stamina, endurance and fantastic cheerfulness, even after so many consecutive days of walking and cycling.

Katy celebrates at the summit of her final Archie.

Other friends who joined Katy added their comments.

Cath said: “Katy’s positive, can-do attitude is so inspiring and she’s always so happy to be out in the hills. Support walkers are happy to volunteer to help because you know that no matter what the weather or ground conditions, you’ll come back from your day out feeling like the world is a good place.

“Walking with Katy on her Archie’s round is like therapy – you get to walk and chat with a happy person and just marvel at the wonders of the landscape.”

Nat said: “Katy Boo inspires anyone who is on the hill with her. Even on day 27 of her Archies round Katy was checking the rest of us were warm enough and okay to continue up to the next summit as the rain lashed down.

“She is one of nature’s true gems and doing the Archies in her 60th year, smiling all the way round is enough to inspire anyone, whatever their age, to get outdoors and enjoy the hills.”

Maggie said: “I’ve known Katy for over 20 years and never once in that time has her zest for life and enthusiasm for adventure faltered. She is the strongest and most determined woman I know, yet her drive is not competitive but comes from a genuine love of mountains and wild places. She has loved the camaraderie and support the Archies challenge has generated, and it has been such a pleasure to share some of it with her.”

Geraldine said: “Katy’s positive attitude and outlook on life and genuine desire to include others are traits that have struck me from the very first time I met her. No matter the situation, she is so gentle, so kind, so caring and supportive.

“Her smile says it all. Her love of the outdoors, especially the hills, simply shines through. I felt so honoured and lucky to have shared a tiny bit of her epic adventure with her.”

Vicky said: “I can see why Katy conjured up the idea for the Archies challenge to celebrate her 60th birthday.  It seems to represent a lot of what she is about – the challenge itself and also her laid-back and quiet approach, as well as the way she’s gone about it and how she’s executing it.

“Katy’s attention to detail to the important stuff is amazing, including routes, maps, health, feeding, jolliness, sleep, communication, adaptability, flexibility, focus on how to get a job done, routine where and when required, kit etc.

“It’s clear to see the enjoyment she is deriving from her own cleverly planned Archie round to suit her capabilities and the way she wanted to do it.”

Fran said: “Katy bowled me over last year with her enthusiasm, ability and sunshine attitude when she participated in the Veteran Women’s Munro Relay. Her can-do attitude and willingness to adapt were fabulous. She became a key member of the team. And now I am in awe again of her latest achievement.”

Peter has been Katy’s support throughout the challenge.
Katy and Peter on Ben Wyvis.

Final words from Katy

Katy said: “I can’t think of a better way to celebrate my 60th birthday. I wanted to mark the milestone with an adventure and the Archies have been brilliant.

“I am not very good at hosting parties but I am good at spending time outdoors, whether it’s running, walking or cycling.

“The Archies is such a great round and it has been such a good challenge. It has also been fantastic to meet up with so many different friends day after day.

“It has been the longest birthday party ever!”

 

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