It took Joyce and Bill Paul more than five decades to complete a round of Scotland’s 282 Munros, although, impressively, they walked 70 per cent of the summits in their late 60s and early 70s.
The couple from Banchory, Aberdeenshire, “compleated” together on Stob Ban in the Grey Corries on September 16.
Joyce says: “We never thought we could do it, but I guess the motto is to never give up.”
Where it all started
Joyce, 71, and Paul, 70, started walking Munros in their late teens and early 20s. Most of their walking took place in the Cairngorms back then and they did not keep a comprehensive list of the summits.
Then came a long gap when the couple brought up their three children, who are now in their 40s, while also living for 10 years in Singapore and four years in Africa.
“After that, even when we lived in Scotland, we have spent a lot of time looking after our six grandchildren,” Joyce continues.
But about six years ago, they decided they would like to finish a Munro round. Joyce says: “We looked back at what we had walked when we were younger and made a note of all the Munros. It took a bit of tracing to work out which Munros we had walked.
“That total didn’t even bring us to 100 and most of the Munros we had walked were in the east of Scotland.
“After that, we began to work our way through the rest of the list.”
Joyce and Paul walk 198 more Munros
Many of the Munros still to bag were in the west of Scotland and this meant a lot of travelling.
There were some other challenges, too. Joyce says: “I do not like the exposure of the ridges and so I didn’t enjoy the Cuillin Munros, for example. In contrast, Bill likes the ridges. I had to trust in our guide for these mountains.
“We also had some long walks to do, including the Fisherfield circuit with its five Munros. We tried this route once in August this year but we turned back due to bad weather.
“We finally managed it in September but it was a big challenge and required two nights of wild camping. This was the first time I had bivvied. I wished we had thought to do this circuit when we were younger because it was a long walk and tiring.”
Despite the challenges, Joyce reveals a number of positives to walking the Munros in more recent years. She says: “It has been great to explore many parts of Scotland that we wouldn’t normally visit.
“You can’t experience the views of mountains and glens if you don’t put on your walking boots and head to the summits.
“We have also enjoyed doing the Munros together. Six years ago, I was lagging behind Bill but in the end we have walked all but one Munro together. Bill repeated some that I hadn’t already walked and our family joined us for our final Munro.”
The motivation of the Munros
Joyce adds that she feels it’s important to have a goal to stay fit and healthy in one’s later years. She says: “The goal to walk all the Munros has kept us motivated. There are times when it feels hard, such as when my knees are sore when descending, but having a list of mountains to complete has been very good for encouraging us to keep going.”
The couple have also noted some changes in their intervening decades of Munro bagging. Joyce says: “There have been some changes to the Munros list, such as some mountains that are no longer on the list, and we have also noticed the people walking the Munros are different. When I did my first Munros, women would usually be walking with a man.
“Now there are far more women walking on their own or in groups. There are plenty of older men, too, and the younger men usually seem to be the ones running the Munros. There are many more people who are walking Munros these days and that’s great to see.”
What’s next for Joyce and Paul?
The couple are not sure what their next goal will be. Joyce says: “We both enjoy walking and we like to walk with friends. They are all over 70 and we all like to keep fit.
“We hope to repeat some of the Munros of the Cairngorms that we did so many decades ago when we started out.
“Being in the mountains and ticking a list of Munros has made us really appreciate Scotland. We will need to think of another goal to motivate us.”