Women's running team complete epic challenge to conquer 284 Scottish peaks

Munro round relay
Two relay members running off the Cuillin Ridge, Isle of Skye

A team of women, all aged over 40, have completed a challenge to summit all 282 of the tallest peaks in Scotland, known as Munros. It took the Veteran Women’s Munro Relay (opens in new tab) just 26 days and 18 hours to complete the continuous, self-propelled journey, which started on Beinn Sgritheall in the north-west Highlands on June 4. 

A core of 10 women, with others joining in for shorter spells,  ran, walked, cycled and kayaked to all the Munros, which are defined as mountains in Scotland with a summit of at least 3,000ft (914.4m). In total, the team have journeyed more than 2,800km (1,750 miles) by land and on water and climbed 147,000m (482,300ft), which is more than 16 times the height of Mount Everest.

They have reached mountains as far afield as Ben Hope in the north of Scotland, Ben Lomond in the southern Highlands, Mount Keen to the east and Sgurr na Banachdich, on the Island of Skye, in the west. The team has also ticked off famously airy ridges, including the Cuillin on Skye, Aonach Eagach in Glen Coe, and Liathach in Torridon.

Woman rock climbing in Scotland

The round included several airy ridges, including the Cuillin on Skye

The weather was extreme, from some of the hottest days of the year in early June to wind chill temperatures of -4C, and many days of torrential rain and low cloud. For three and a half days in total the team were forced to retreat from the mountains due to poor weather. 

It’s believed the feat has never before been completed by an all-female team. The relay has been raising awareness and funds (opens in new tab) for the charity Free to Run (opens in new tab), which aims to empower women and girls through sport. 

Celebrating what women can do

Munro-bagging is a popular hobby in Scotland, and many people aim to reach all the lofty summits, although for most it takes at least a decade.

Record books show the only two other Munro relay completions, each time by seven people and presumed to be men. One took place in 1990 and another in 1993. The fastest time for the relay is 11 days and 20 hours. 

The fastest self-propelled round by one person is 32 days set by Donnie Campbell, of Inverness. The fastest self-propelled round by a female was recorded in 2017 as 77 days by Libby Kerr and Lisa Trollope.

Fran Loots, of Comrie, Perth and Kinross, was the founder of the Veteran Women's Relay Round. She came up with the idea as a way to “celebrate what women can do”. She is thrilled with the achievement of the team of women, all of whom are aged between early 40s and late 60s. 

Sunset over Scottish mountains

The women continued through the day and night 

Fran, who celebrated her 63rd birthday on the final day of the challenge, has bagged 20 Munros during the feat. She said: “It has been the most amazing journey with support from many incredible women. 

“It has been tough at times with the weather conspiring to throw its worst at us and fatigue for heads and legs creeping in. The running has actually been the easy part, while the behind the scenes logistics has been the most challenging. 

“Without our supporters, logistics brains and the team of leaders sharing the load, we would not have been so successful. The relay has been a fantastic celebration of women being active as we age.”

Women's running team celebrating at summit of Ben More

The final Munro, Ben More on the Island of Mull

Sarah Dunn, from Deeside, played a major role in planning and logistics, including masterminding a complicated spreadsheet that has kept the women on track. A tracker, attached to a toy squirrel, has been passed between team members.

Sarah, 54, spent 80 hours covering 200 miles (320km) on foot and climbing a total of  75,500ft (23,000m) to summit 50 Munros.

She said: “By far the toughest part part of the relay has been the logistics. It has been very complicated to ensure people are in the right place at the right time to take the relay tracker on to the next section. It’s an amazing achievement given the distances, complexities and the weather we have faced this month.”

The team reached the summit of the final Munro, Ben More, at 9.53pm on Thursday June 31. 

Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, who is better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favourite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing, both downhill and back country. Her target for 2021 is to finish the final nine summits in her first round of all 282 Munros, the Scottish mountains of more than 3,000ft high. Aside from being outdoors, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy the great outdoors, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors (opens in new tab).