Project 282: Emily's solo, unsupported and self-propelled Munro round
There is an old Chinese proverb which says that a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. This became something that I thought about many times over the summer as I undertook Project 282: almost four months spent climbing all of Scotland’s Munros, in one go; unsupported and self-propelled. There was many a time that I caught myself panicking that I had perhaps bitten off more than I could chew, but I just had to break things down into smaller chunks and tackle each one as it came.
The Munros are the Scottish mountains over 3,000ft that were first listed by Sir Hugh Munro in 1891, in the Munro Tables, key in the history of peak bagging. The current list is maintained by the Scottish Mountaineering Club and the latest revision includes 282 Munros. My goal was to climb all the hills on this list, using my bike to travel between them, all under my own steam and without a support crew. This meant planning hiking routes which would return me to my bike, factoring in getting the food I needed to sustain myself in the hills, and sometimes splashing out on a night’s accommodation just because I was so desperate to have a shower and wash my clothes!
With a background in endurance sport, including Ironman triathlon and adventure racing, the multi-disciplinary facet of cycling between the hills really appealed to me. However, the reality was that I completely underestimated the challenge of cycling with a fully-loaded bike!
Over 120 days, I covered 2,605km with 36,311m of ascent on the bike, and a further 2,249km on foot with 162,296m of ascent. This distance drew a continuous line around much of Scotland from the most northerly Munro, Ben Hope, right down to the most southerly Munro, Ben Lomond on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond, a mere hour’s drive from Glasgow. Climbing the Munros took me to some incredible parts of Scotland that I hadn’t previously visited and opened my eyes to even more possibilities for Scottish adventures.
I had a big (and rather scary!) lifestyle change a few years ago, when I turned my back on a promising career in accountancy to try and pursue a life that I loved, rather than simply living for the weekend. However, after completing Project 282, the spreadsheet I have made would suggest that whilst you can take the girl out of accountancy, you can’t take the accountant out of the girl! Before leaving professional life in London, I agonised over what made me happy and two words came back every time: outdoors and active.
Since then, my life has become quite nomadic and I have spent winters in the Alps and Japan ski instructing, along with summers in Scotland and the Alps. The joy of seasonal jobs and a rather frugal winter, meant I was fortunate enough to be in a position whereby I could forgo a summer’s work for a big adventure.
Project 282 really was a journey into the unknown for me. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. I had never tried to push myself for a period of longer than a week! I had climbed about 40 of the Munros before, mainly on day trips from Edinburgh when I lived there back in 2015. Last November, after I’d decided that I was going to attempt this continuous round, I took myself up to the Cairngorms for some big hill days with bothy nights between. I faced some brutal weather, with sleet, snow and strong winds, but it was an invaluable part of preparing myself mentally for the challenge ahead, especially with more hours of darkness than I find enjoyable on the hills.
The fact that I had through those tough days, really helped me over the summer. If I was having a hard time, I would ask myself if it was as bad as last November. I would then tell myself that seeing as I had done worse; I could get through whatever was being thrown at me at the time. I’m not sure if that was always true, especially towards the end, but it helped all the same!
As a member of the British Adventure Collective, part of the goal of this trip was to showcase some of this amazing adventure landscape we have available to play with and to try and inspire others to go out and find their own adventures.
Throughout Project 282, I was fundraising for some incredible organisations which work tirelessly to keep people safe in the outdoors, raising over £3,000 for Scottish Mountain Rescue, the Mountain Bothy Association and Air Ambulances UK. Any donations to these charities are very much appreciated still and we would encourage people to donate using the links below (and that UK taxpayers would consider filling in a Gift Aid declaration to allow the charities to benefit from an additional 20% from the government).
Mountain Rescue teams throughout the UK do a fantastic job saving people when they are in tight spots on the hills and it was very reassuring to know they were out there, especially as I was on my own for much of the summer: of the 282 Munros, I climbed 221 alone. I had a SPOT Gen3 GPS device with an SOS button, that thankfully I didn’t have to press. It provided a huge amount of peace of mind (to both me and my family) to know that should I need help; I was just a button press away from arming the relevant Mountain Rescue team with my GPS location.
Air Ambulances are called into action only in the most critical circumstances, and the quick response times, advanced care given by paramedics on scene and rapid transfer to hospital can be the difference between life and death. Through the British Rescue Trust, we are supporting the Association of Air Ambulances Charity, which then distributes funds between all 21 air ambulance charities across the UK.