Spyke sets new record for climbing all the Munros

Starting on Sunday 25th April 2010 with Ben More on Mull, Stephen Pyke (aka Spyke) set himself the challenge of climbing all Scotland's 3,000 ft hills, better known as the Munros, in a continuous round under his own steam - on foot, by bike and paddling a kayak.

On 3rd June, just 39 days 9 hours and 6 minutes later, Spyke touched the summit cairn on Ben Hope in Sutherland to complete the fastest round of the Munros. The previous record was 48 days 12 hours set by Charlie Campbell in 2000.

Spyke is keen that his journey through the Highlands can inspire and encourage people to join the John Muir Trust – the UK’s leading wild lands charity. Please take time to read more about the JMT and even if you decide not to join you can support their valuable work by donating to the Trust at the following Just Giving Page.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Some thanks...

I couldn’t start this brief round-up anywhere else other than to thank JC, my road support for the full six weeks, what a fantastic effort in so many ways – too many to list here - but suffice at this stage to say that the round just wouldn’t have happened without him. I am also indebted to a huge number of other people who contributed in various ways, again too many to list here. Two I must thank though are Sam and her brother Ian who enthusiastically took on the task of converting me from an incompetent novice paddler into a slightly more competent one with some unexpectedly exciting training paddles – duelling with swans being the highlight - on the canals and rivers around Stafford. They also made the long trek North with kayaks strapped to the roof of Ian’s Land Rover for the out-and-back crossing of Loch Lomond. The Tait family also deserve special mention, their hospitality in Strontian got the round off to the best of starts and subsequent deliveries of home-baked bread and cakes were a real treat (what I got to see of them that JC hadn’t intercepted).

A great many people came out to accompany me on the hills. This included some of my regular hill-running friends for some big days out throughout the course of the round. But it was also great to introduce some friends to the Highlands with five breaking their Munro ducks – they’ve all vowed to be back. In total I had company on 140 of the 283 Munros. I was also lucky that a number of friends also saw this as a great opportunity to get some cycle training in on the great open roads of the Highlands so on many of the longer road sections I was able to tuck in behind and avoid the worst of the wind.

The blog was set up (I’ve got Chris Upson to thank for providing the IT nous) to keep family and friends up-to-date with what was going on. The idea had been that I would update the blog in tandem with JC but this immediately went out of the window. The evening routine soon became chat and de-brief on the day with JC as I gradually worked my way through the mountain of food that he’d prepared for me, followed by more food and discussion and plans for the following day. I found I had little time – I was rarely back at the van before 8pm and often after 10pm - and even less energy for updating the blog. This left the task of adding updates and finding a mobile signal for internet connection to JC. From all the reports I’ve had, he clearly did an excellent job of this. It was also interesting to see the growing number of visitors to the site as the weeks progressed although I’m not sure how many of these were repeat visits as it seems that for quite a number of people this was the morning routine on arriving at work.

I was touched and inspired by the many messages of support both from friends and also from total strangers. The thought of all these people following what was going on brought a smile to my face and spurred me on at various times during the tougher moments on the hill. So thank you all and I’m glad JC and I were able to keep you entertained.

I was also surprised to get recognised by total strangers – most notably on the top of Sgorr na h’Ulaidh in Glencoe where three guys arrived at the summit with one of them loudly proclaiming to his mates that it was me and then making sure everyone else enjoying their quiet Sunday afternoon were aware of who I was. We had a good chat but I must apologise I didn’t make a note of their names – if you read this guys get in touch as I owe you a beer because the Snickers bar you gave me was a life-saver as I ran out of steam on Beinn Fhionnlaidh later in the day.

For the statistically minded, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait a bit longer for the various numbers on distance covered and height gained. Working this out is proving a fairly laborious process using Memory Map since I didn’t carry a GPS, unless anyone has a better suggestion. But one or two stats for the time being...
Bike distance on tarmac (mostly road bike but some short stretches on MTB): 1297km (I estimate another 80km was on tracks)
I climbed ten or more Munros on eleven of the forty days, with three 12-Munro days, three 11-Munro days and five 10-Munro days.
The fewest Munros climbed was one on the day when I cycled over to the Isle of Skye and went up Bla Bheinn before descending west (route courtesy of Yiannis Tridimas) for a glorious walk out through Glen Sligachan to the Sligachan Hotel (one of many highlights of the trip).

Some of the highlights of the early days of the round...

After the first week, which had mostly been accompanied by a mixture of grey, low cloud, drizzle and snow showers, I was joined by Digby Harris and Mike Nelson at Corrour Bothy in the heart of the Cairngorms ready for a big day out to try to complete the remaining ten central and eastern Cairngorm Munros. Getting up early on Sunday morning there was a hard frost on the ground and the wind direction had changed to a bitingly cold Northerly. This gave a wind chill well below minus 10°C and conditions ideal for ski touring (initial concerns that we hadn’t brought ice axes or crampons were unfounded) but the skies remained clear as we trudged round the vast arctic wilderness.

A week later we had an equally big day out that took in 12 Munros, which started with Schiehallion before heading South over the Glen Lyons hills and finishing with an East-West traverse of the Ben Lawers hills. This time the weather, which had started with freezing clag on Schiehallion got better and better as the day progressed and we had a magical evening in bright sunshine as we crossed the Lawers group. The views stretched for miles in all directions allowing us to pick out the various peaks we had climbed in the previous few days from the Cairngorms south.

I always seem to get lucky with traverses of the Mamores. On earlier Ramsay and Tranters rounds I have been blessed with bright evening sunshine and beautiful sunsets over Ardgour to the west. My East-West traverse on this round was no exception to this rule and despite increasing fatigue as I climbed Sgurr A’Mhaim and onwards to Stob Ban I felt that in conditions like this there was nowhere else I’d rather be.

Further highlights, thoughts and stats to follow.


John Kynaston said...

I was one of your total strangers (though I do know Chris U) and I really enjoyed following your progress.

Congrats again and I hope you are recovering well.

Tony said...

Another stranger here. Delighted to see you are still updating, highly appreciated. Further thanks added to huge congrats.

CrunchCom said...

What an achievement - congrats.

I'd love to know where you stayed while doing this? camping?hostel?bothy?

Fiona said...

We ate in the same (retro) pub as you on Saturday night… I thought I recognised you but couldn’t figure out why, until they announced you at the relays yesterday as the man I like to refer to as ‘munro man’. As such, I’m now retrospectively starstruck. I followed your progress for your whole record attempt thinking, “Ha! He must be a machine! That is AMAZING! All those hills! And so quickly!” And now I’ve shared a restaurant (is that what it was? Tinned peaches with the gammon, broccoli smothered in white pepper, cauliflower boiled to a soggy pulp) with you… if only I’d known! I would have got you to sign my fell running shoes to make me go faster and further! Epic achievement; congratulations!

Alastair said...

Hi Stephen,
I'm trying to get in touch with you about a speaking event I am running in Edinburgh which I would love you to be involved with.
Could you let me have your email address to explain? I'm at alastair@alastairhumphreys.com

Mrs Screech said...

Inspirational. I have read your article in the Fellrunner recently and been amazed at some of the days challenges that byou set yourself and then completed. I hope one day you go on to break the Munros 24 hour round and/or Lakes 24 hour round as you have all the right physical and mental attributes to conquer such rounds.

bobbyhottensen said...

I would like to get in touch with you to discuss your availability on a magazine story about Munro bagging. My email address is bobby.hottensen@gmail.com. Thanks, hope to hear from you soon.

Kevin Woods said...

Do you plan on writing any more about your round? I'd be interested to hear more about it.