Have you heard of a Full House? In summit bagging circles, this achievement extends to all the hills in categories recorded by the Scottish Mountaineering Club (SMC), including the Munros, Munro Tops, Corbetts, Grahams and Donalds. A Full House also lists the Furths, which are defined as mountains that are Munro height in England, Ireland and Wales.
It’s an extraordinarily long list with 2248 hill summits and to complete it seems mind-boggling for most people.
Yet one dedicated – many might say, obsessed! – walker has recently ticked off not one, but two Full Houses.
On September 15, Anne Butler reached the top of the Graham, Meall Tairbh, near Bridge of Orchy, and became the first known female – and the fourth known person – to walk to all the summits in a Full House twice.
She said: “I am really delighted to have finished a second Full House. It feels like an amazing personal achievement.”
Anne’s double Full House feat
Anne’s remarkable accomplishment has taken her 25 years in total and 1095 walks. She has covered 18,241km on foot, which is the equivalent distance from Edinburgh to London 30 times, and ascended 1,093km, or 123 times the height of Everest.
Yet the 58-year-old retired nurse doesn’t think of herself as fit and she dismisses any mention of her feat being athletic. She says: “I’m not sporty at all and I don’t run or cycle. I’m just a rather podgy middle-aged woman who likes to go walking.
“I have also been struggling with pain from my knees in recent years. My family has a history of joint disease and it looks likely I will need a knee replacement. I just try to keep going at my own pace and I enjoy being outdoors and in the hills.”
The start of the Full Houses
Anne reveals that her quest to complete her first Full House, which she finished on the same date five years earlier, then a second, came about because, as she puts it, “the Munros became a bit monotonous”.
Anne, of Aviemore, in the Highlands, says: “When I started walking Munros in 1998, I could never imagine I’d finish a round of them. That first one, Ben Lomond, seemed so hard but I was suddenly very motivated to reach all the Munro summits.
“In the end, it took me seven years to do so, although I was living and working in Devon at the time and that made it more time-consuming.”
Since then, Anne has walked a further four Munro rounds but she says she started getting a bit bored of the same mountains. She explains: “I knew the Munros so well that they became routine and while they are still great mountains, I was more motivated to walk to other summits. That’s when I began to focus on the hill lists of the Full House.”
Retirement, after a career as an NHS nurse, gives Anne plenty of freedom to pursue her bagging passion. In addition, a move north to Aviemore in the Scottish Highlands with her husband Bill in 2008 brought the mountains closer to home.
Obsessed with the mountains
Anne appears to live and breathe mountains and walking days. She says: “I don’t think I can deny my obsession and I am always looking at maps and planning walks to reach summits. I enjoy finding new ways to reach different peaks and linking hills together.
“When considering the lists overall, I most enjoy the Grahams and the Corbetts. I like the challenge of these hills, compared to the Munros, because there are fewer paths and you need to do more navigating.
“I find the walking on rougher ground and over vegetation easier on my body compared to the well-trodden paths of the Munros. I guess that might sound odd but it’s the downhills on hard-packed traisl that really hurt my knees.
“Away from the busier Munros, you also get a real sense of being on your own or with very few other people and often in wonderfully remote landscapes.
“I think the views from the Grahams and Corbetts, especially of the surrounding Munros, are frequently so spectacular.”
Anne’s highs and lows in the mountains
Other “superb” Grahams she names as Beinn Ghobhlach, Ben Stack and Marsco, plus a series of Donalds and a Graham on the Glensax Horseshoe near Peebles.
Her least favourite hills are the Donalds in Dumfries and Galloway. She says: “I haven’t had so many great days walking the hills in this area and, sadly, the weather hasn’t always been kind to me in the south.
“I’m also not a fan of the exposure of the summits located on some of Scotland’s ridges. For example, this is the reason I left the four Munro Tops on Skye’s Cuillin, as well as the Munro Tops on Liathach and An Teallach, in my recent Full House to last.”
Anne, who is a former president of The Munro Society, a Munroist membership group, has eight regular walking friends but often climbs mountains solo, accompanied by her border collies.
She says: “Sadly, my first two dogs, Meg and Molly, are no longer with me, but Ralph is usually there. I’ve climbed 95 per cent of my hills accompanied by my dogs.
“Some of my best memories are at the summit of a hill with only my dog, looking out at a wonderful view in good weather. It’s when I feel most that all is well with the world.”
What’s next for Anne?
Anne is taking some time out to have an operation on her painful knee and to recover in the coming months. But, she reports, her hill walking days are far from over.
She says: “I will definitely be back walking hills. I still have various rounds to tidy up, including a sixth round of Munros and a third Corbett round.
“Seven-year-old Ralph has completed a round of Donalds and Grahams to date and is 60 summits short of a Corbett round so we’ve plenty to keep us busy.
“I don’t think I’ve yet committed to a third Full House, but that’s mainly because of those four Munro Tops on Skye, which I have a mental block about. Although, I should say, I never say never!”