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Walker Lorraine McCall tackles toughest Scottish mountains challenge yet

Continuous Grahams round will be hat-trick record

Written by Fiona

May 21 2024

A determined Scottish mountaineer is hoping to walk into the record books this year – for a third time.

Lorraine McCall, of Beauly, in the Highlands, has embarked on a mammoth journey to hike up and down hundreds of significant peaks in Scotland.

She is also travelling between each of the 231 mountains known as Grahams on foot, or by bicycle and boat.

Day 1 as Lorraine walks up Carn na Coinnich, Strathconon.

The Grahams are between 600m and 762m tall, with a prominence of at least 150m.

They are far flung and Lorraine’s feat will take her from the north-west Highlands to Dumfries & Galloway in the south-west, east to the remote Angus glens and to seven different islands off the west coast.

When she reaches the top of her final summit, Suilven in Sutherland, in late summer, she will claim the title as the first known person to complete a continuous, self-propelled round of Grahams.

Lorraine on day 3 on a bridge in Strathfarrar heading to Carn Gorm.

Scottish mountains defined

The tallest mountains in Scotland are known collectively as Munros. There are 282 with a height of at least 3000ft (914.4m). Ben Nevis is the tallest at 4413ft (1345m).

The Corbetts number 222 in total and have a height of between 2500ft (762m) and 3000ft (914.4m).

The Grahams are defined metrically. They have a stature of between 600 metres and 762 metres, with a prominence, or drop, of 150m.

Lorraine during her record Corbetts round.

Lorraine’s first two record rounds

Previously, in 2005, at the age of 40, Lorraine set a record as the first woman to do a non-stop, self-powered round of Scotland’s tallest mountains, the Munros, on foot and by kayak.

Almost a decade later, she also became the first woman to link another huge list of mountains known as the Corbetts in a similar way

Both of these rounds took many months to complete and extended to more than 1600 miles of walking, as well as a total ascent equivalent to walking up and down Mt Everest around 14 times.

Yet despite these eye-watering statistics, Lorraine believes the Grahams will be a tougher challenge.

She said: “My body is older and a bit more worn out than it was on previous rounds and I have also had to deal with three different cancers, anal, breast and bowel cancer, over the past 12 years. This has made me slower, more breathless and I have some toileting issues.

“In addition, the Grahams, while smaller in stature than the Munros and Corbetts, are spread much further geographically and they have very few paths because they are much less walked than other mountains.

“I am already having to adjust the time I expect this journey to take but it doesn’t bother me. I like to keep pushing myself and a long-distance challenge in the mountains, with nothing else to think about, has a simple rhythm to it. I find it to be a great form of mindfulness.”

Day 1, Lorraine (in orange) on Carn na Coinnich with friends.

Lorraine’s Grahams round

Lorraine, who began the Grahams round on Càrn na Coinnich in Strathconon, close to her home, on April 16, her 59th birthday, has faced tough conditions so far. By the weekend, she had completed 40 Grahams, all in the Highlands and on the islands of the Outer Hebrides.

She said: “The ground has been very boggy, wet and rough and there have been many days of rain and wind. I’ve also had to navigate through mist and cloud.

“There are often huge distances between each summit and it is exhausting being on my feet or riding my bike day after day.

“I have camped out many nights and I also have to carry a heavy rucksack with all my kit, food and water.

“I knew that starting the Grahams in the north-west, where the landscape can be extremely inhospitable, would be hard going but it has been much tougher than I expected. It has been a baptism of fire, to be honest.” 

She has also been forced to take several days off because of injuries, first due to knee pain and then infected blisters on her feet and a swollen ankle.

Speaking from the Graham, Uisgneabhal Mor, at 729m elevation on the Isle of Harris last week, Lorraine said: “I am thankful I have recovered enough with a bit of rest to keep going, although I am taking it slowly and carefully.

“I have found that there is strength in dealing with life’s knocks and a sense of humour and a little stubbornness can go a long way. 

“In any case, I am starting to get used to the terrain on this round and the weather has improved a lot this week so it is becoming more pleasurable.

“As I head further south, more friends will join me as I walk and this will be enjoyable.”

Lorraine is currently on the Isle of Skye.

Inspiration and awareness

Lorraine hopes her Grahams challenge will benefit other people, too. She said: “Perhaps my journey will inspire others to get out there. There are so many physical and mental benefits to spending more time outdoors.

“I also want to raise awareness and money for Alzheimer Scotland. A very good older friend of mine died after a long time living with dementia. My mum is now at the start of this difficult journey.

“I have a long way to go to complete my long walk, but I believe I have the strength and  determination to get there.”

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