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What Skills Does It Take To Complete A Winter ‘Munro Round’?

The Scottish Munros are mountains over the height of 3,000 ft (914.4m). There are a total of 282 Munros in Scotland, and the highest is Ben Nevis at 4,411 ft. This iconic mountain is climbed by many thousands of people each year and is a huge draw for experienced mountaineers and amateurs alike. 

However, although Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in Scotland, it is not necessarily the most difficult to climb. For example, the Skye Cuillin ridge traverse, consisting of 12 peaks of the Black Cuillin mountains, is considered by many professional climbers to be one of the most exciting and challenging mountain routes in Europe. 

This variety is perhaps what draws so many people to the thrill of ‘Munro bagging’ or climbing as many of the 3,000 ft plus peaks as they can. The ultimate challenge is to bag all 282 peaks, and the elite list of people who have achieved this feat are known as ‘Munroists’ or ‘compleatists’ (an archaic spelling of ‘complete’). 

Most people who manage to conquer all 282 peaks took several years or even decades to complete the epic task, known as a ‘Munro Round’. However, some competitive climbers have completed the round in much shorter time frames. According to UK Climbing, Jamie Aarons holds the record for the self-propelled fastest round.

Aarons completed the round in 31 days, 10 hours and 27 minutes in 2023, which is both an all-time record and a female record, beating the previous title holder Donnie Campbell by 13 hours. Self-propelled means not using motorised transport, even to travel to the island Munros on Mull and Skye. 

Aarons benefitted from reasonably settled weather conditions, and she set out in late May so she didn’t have to contend with a lot of ice and snow storms. However, some climbers set themselves the even more daunting task of completing the round in winter conditions. The Scottish Highlands often experience fierce snowstorms during the winter months.

A winter Munro round takes experience of tackling winter conditions, and will require the use of climbing equipment such as ropes, pickaxes, harnesses, and so on. It also requires excellent navigation skills, because there is a high risk of straying off the path in thick snow or fog and falling over a cliff edge. 

Unsurprisingly, a winter Munro round is a rare achievement. UK Hillwalking reports that the first known attempt by a woman is currently underway. Anna Wells, 34, who works as a risk analyst for a bank, has taken three months of unpaid leave to follow her ambition. She has previously worked as a doctor and a climbing instructor.

According to the publication, there have been just three previous successful winter rounds, all by men. The latest was completed by Kevin Woods in 2020. Anna set off on her challenge in mid-December 2023. 

Her latest Facebook update in late February reveals that she is still going strong and is edging closer to the finish line, having already completed 218 Munros. In a post she writes: 

“Winter Munro Round Update!  It's day 68 and I've climbed 218 munros! After feeling so tired Thursday night climbing the 3 glenfinnan munros in very gnarly weather (as two loops), i somehow recharged and have just had the most EPIC 4 days, utterly mind-blowingly good, among the best mountain days of my life anywhere in the world!!”

“Friday climbing the Aonach Eagach under deep fresh snow, then Sat+Sun climbing all 12 Skye munros in very full and proper winter conditions - my dream for this round!! Then yesterday I fulfilled another munro-round pipedream when I flew (paraglided) off the snowy summit of Sgritheall -...”

“.. best flight of my life with unbelievable views of the snowy Knoydart mountains above the glimmering sea, and then pushed on in the evening (leaving at 4pm for a 27km 1800m hike!) to go and climb Bheinn Fhada and A'Ghlas Bheinn in the sunset/dark to squeeze the last out of the good weather!”

“Feeling absolutely full of joy and gratitude. Spending hours every day checking forecasts and rejigging plans is totally worth it when you end up with days like that!”

Anna’s achievement so far is absolutely amazing, and no doubt all her friends and supporters are looking forward to cheering her over the finish line very shortly. 

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