We climbed our 50th Munro this week – it was one of the first milestones that we set ourselves and we’re really delighted to have got there at last.
Perhaps by now on our odyssey we might have hoped to have completed a few more Munros than just the fifty that we have so far, but our progress has been severely hampered by the extraordinary winter weather that we’ve experienced across the highlands since our start in November: it has been one of the harshest November and December on record.
What follows below are our reflections / observations on our journey so far – and in no particular order:
- Only the first three Munros (Nov 6 & 7) were done in autumnal weather rather than full winter conditions;
- Crampons have been worn (at some point) on most subsequent climbs;
- The wildlife we have seen at close quarters has been stunning: mountain hares, ptarmigan in autumnal and winter plumage, red grouse, red deer, roe deer, snow bunting;
- The motorhome (aka the ‘van) has been brilliant – we really love it, the space, the comfort and the security it provides when the weather has proved a bit nasty outside;
- We’ve had issues with the ‘van’s plumbing freezing in the sustained frosty conditions experienced throughout December: constantly into double-figures below freezing – day and night. It turned out that heating probes in the fresh and grey water tanks were inadvertently not fitted when we bought the ‘van. This has since been recently sorted :-);
- Creating the website and more especially blogging has taken considerable effort and a lot more time than I envisaged it would. From our point of view, however, it has been really worth this investment in time as it will serve as a comprehensive reminder of what we’ve seen and achieved in our year out, plus we’re really delighted with the positive comments and feedback that we’ve received through the site;
- It has taken a while, but I have now added OS (Ordnance Survey) digital mapping to the site, with route overlays included. Feedback has been very positive with comments like “The map make is so much easier to “follow” your excellent descriptions of your route and waypoints. I find the combination helps with the mental picture of your journey. Excellent!” [Thanks Dave];
- The views from the tops of many of the Munros have been breathtakingly beautiful – especially the 360º alpine panoramas where the “whole of the Highlands” looks blanketed in a thick mantle of snow;
- On several occasions we’ve got the ‘van stuck in the snow and / or on ice. We finally received the snow-chains that we ordered over the internet and they’ve been used a few times to “get us out of trouble” – I can now fit them to the two front tyres in under four minutes!;
- We’ve been hugely grateful to my parents in Fort William for all of their hospitality. Fort William has made a good base to “run home to” when the weather turned especially nasty … oh, and the home baking is a brilliant added bonus;
- We’ve stayed several times at the fantastic Edinburgh Caravan Site and have gotten to know and really like the city;
- We’ve visited some great cafés on our travels – but we still reckon that The Aviemore Mountain Café remains our favourite … so far;
- We’ve visited some great museums and historical buildings such as The National Galleries of Scotland and National Museum of Scotland (both in Edinburgh), Ruthven Barracks near Kingussie and the Fort William Museum, to name a few. Each one has taught us something new about the history, culture and art of Scotland;
- Over the last three months we’ve really improved our “mountain” fitness;
- Our mountain bikes have saved many hours of tramping along forestry tracks to reach the base of some of our climbs;
- We’ve met some really nice people during our trip both on and off the mountains. Although it is a privilege to have the mountains to ourselves as we’ve had on many occasions this winter, it will also be good, as spring approaches and the mountains become a bit busier, to pass “the time of day” with other likeminded adventurers.
- We’ve decided that our final Munro is to be Braeriach – 1296m or 4,252’ (pronounced Bray-ree-erch) in the north Cairngorms. We’re aiming to climb this towards the end of September 2011 – may be see you there?
We’re now looking forward to the lengthening daylight hours, the next fifty Munros and visiting many other cracking places around Scotland.