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.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Day 40 - Ben Klibreck and Ben Hope

Tim Laney writes : the final day began with a climb up the western slopes of Ben Klibreck through a lot of tussocky grass and heather of the kind familiar to most mountain marathoners. The ridge cleared as we reached it, and the summit gave stunning views of the surrounding country. Back to the road to find a reception committee from the Angry Corrie and the JMT, along with more of Spyke's friends and supporters. JBC produced the last of many plates of sandwiches manufactured during the round, before packing Spyke off on the 15 mile cycle to the foot of Ben Hope. The final climb was taken in bright sunlight to a busy summit.
Spyke touched the trig point at 3:06pm to complete the round of 283 Munros in 39 days, 9 hours and 6 minutes.
A number of glasses of champagne were taken by the company to celebrate his great achievement, and a parcel from previous record holder, Charlie Campbell, containing a bottle of Singleton's Malt Whisky found buried in the summit cairn was discovered. As Charlie wrote "What can I say but awesome! Many, many congratulations on setting such a fantastic record. Savour the moment, as the Munro memories will last for ever...it takes a singular determination and character to see an enterprise like this through to a successful ending, and you have done that".

Day 39 - Conival and Ben Mor Assynt

Tim Laney writes : After a short night's sleep Spyke and Tom set off for the long ride north to Inchnadamph, pausing for a refuelling stop at the Elphin tearooms. Inchnadamph was wet and windy, with low cloud. Spyke headed off up the hill with a group of six supporters. The waterfall on the crest of the ridge was going in reverse in the high wind, which became ever more gusty up on the tops, resulting in several members of the party losing their footing on the wet quartzite. Spyke and Tom took in Ben Mor Assynt and returned to the Inchnadamph car park for a tea break before another long bike ride - 50 miles this time - around to Altnaharra for a well deserved supper and rest.

Day 38 - Fionn Beinn, Ben Wyvis and the Beinn Dearg Group

Tim Laney writes : Spyke set off for a brisk stroll up Fionn Beinn with Pam Nix, before returning to the road for a pedal around to the Wyvis car park. Then a sociable walk up onto Ben Wyvis with the largest group of supporters yet, with JB attaining his 4th Munro of the trip. After a pasta meal back at the van, he cycled up the road to the head of Loch Glascarnoch, where he set off across the bogs at a brisk trot accompanied by Tom Brunt and Tim Laney. The traverse of the Beinn Dearg peaks took another 8 hours, through some amazing scenery. We stopped briefly on the final peak for the day, Seana Braigh, to admire the 500 metre cliffs of the northern corries, before a long jog back to the road at Inverlael, emerging onto the road at 12.45. Spyke's longest day yet, but another 8 munros added to the list, and only four to go!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Day 37 E Fisherfield and the Fanniachs

Another summery type day, Pam and JC take in bikes then climb An Coileachan, see an Eagle, a mum Ptarmigan with chicks, lots of frogs, Ben and Amy arrive, Oh and Spyke climbed some hills!!!
Sorry the sun is going to my head, Tom, Pam and Andy Skelhorn, who had been tracking us for a couple of days, come away from Shevanal with all the spare kit meet up with JC at Collieharries.
Andy leaves after the brief stay, Tom sets off for the shops, and a mega bike ride, JC and Pam on their nature trail/munro bag.
At the sharp end of the event Spyke and Tim leave the bothy just after 07.00 to take on the huge route which includes the 3 Eastern Fisherfields then all the Fanniachs from West to East, descending off An Coileachan collect the mountain bikes, cycle out to Grudie, it is just after 21.00 Spyke jumps on the road bike, pedals for about 25 minutes down to Achnasheen to stay in the bunkhouse.

Day36 Fisherfield to Shevanal Bothy

Early start from the carpark campsite, Spyke bikes to Kinlochewe, then sets of at 09.15 for Slioch with Ian, and Steve Watts, they both return from that summit. Ian has work commitments, Steves' ankle has become increasingly painful so he regretfully decides to return home, a great shame after his heroic showing on the Cullin Ridge.
Spyke continues through the Fisherfield and An Teallach group, Tom has dropped provisions at the bothy, then meets up with Spyke for the final five tops before they drop into Shenaval at about 21.30.
JC meanwhile has picked up Tim and Pam from Inverness Airport following their flight from Bristol, they are whisked off to the closest entry point, have a quick repack and make their way into Shenaval with extra kit for Spyke.
Following a cloudy start the weather has at last taken a turn for the better, it is a truly wonderful evening both for the bothy group, and JC on a great lochside campsite

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Day 35 Torridon

Somewhat tardy start this morning despite having breakfast provided by Steve, the hostel warden, the change in routine seems to make everything more difficult to find, are we actually excepting living in a big tin box as the norm?,Oh dear!!!
A huge thanks for the cheery welcome, and support from Steve and the hostel manager Mat, they make a great team, they are outdoor people so are aware of what Spyke was about, no need for the usual explanations about the round.
Yesterdays rain persisted into this morning and would fall through-out the day, together with sporadic low cloud not a great day to be traversing miles of loose slippy boulders.
Spyke cycled through Torridon village, then with Swatts as company set about the awesome threesome which make up the Torridons, there being some consolation, six munros are the reward for traverse.
Swatts returned to the van after completing Beinn Alligan and Liathach, his troublesome ankle looking really swollen and painful, Spyke soldiered on over Bheinn Eighe, with his now reliable burst of energy later in the day, arriving at the carpark about 21.00.
Tom Brunt, and Ian Dark Peak(I just know that's not his proper name) had turned up during the afternoon, so there is much discussion on the best way to tackle the next two days in Fisherfield and the Fanniachs. Tom was happy to leave for Dundonnel spend the night there, then haul overnight gear into Shenavall bothy to meet Spyke on the route around lunchtime, that done, we settle down for an early night in yet another carpark.
ps My cuckoo thing is still on a streak, heard at least three today, also saw what I think was a Red Kite whilst on a 50 miles round trip to the shops.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Day 34 Achnashellach

Spyke departs, from a somewhat gloomy campsite(car park) on his mountain bike for the lengthy haul up the forestry road in Allt a' Chonais, to do out and back ascents, of Moruisg and Maolie Lunndaith. He returns down the track and cycles on to Achnashallach station, then following a change, and refuel he sets off for Torridon over the three Coulin tops, todays showers have joined together to give persistant rain, making conditions on the rocky, boulder strewn slopes extremely tricky. JC is fortunate enough to obtain beds in the hostel, where a bedraggled hero arrives about 22.00, as he is devouring a mega meal Steve Watts turns up having fought his way through the traffic from Manchester. No pics again today, just draw yourselves a grey mountain with grey sky and grey rain Hey presto Torridon tonight!!!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Day 33 Loch Monar

The cold showery weather continues, Spyke leaves our campsite in glorious Glen Strathfarrar at 08.30, he struggles to find a river crossing initially, the ford is in spate and the bridge labelled, closed and dangerous, the bridge it is!! It was a struggle to get his legs going but soon found his rhythm, he saw more people around today despite heavy snow showers, chatting to a pair of walkers he had met previously in Glen Afric. Also spotted some stud marks which may have been IanDarkPeak who is in the area.
JC collected the mountain bike then lingered in the glen until lunchtime, the Lady of the Gate was charming now, and sensible enough to question Spykes' sanity, a lengthy drive to Craig where Spyke arrived at 22.00 with another eight tops under his belt.
Marmite savoury mince tonight, just how lucky can one guy get!!!!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Day 32 Afric to Strathfarrar

Yet again the weather is decidedly chilly, a biting Northerly makes it uncomfortable in the glens, much more so on the tops, occassional showers in the morning, some sun then heavy downpours in the evening, which Spyke reports as near blizzard conditions above 800 metres.
Away from the Youth Hostel at about 08.15, Spyke set about the remaining Glen Afric tops, he is met by Rob Woodall (King of the tops baggers) who accompanies him over the last couple of summits, and down to Mullardoch Dam to meet JC, time is now 16.15. After refuelling he sets off on his bike for Glen Strathfarrar, access here might be a problem, as there is a locked gate, sure enough Rob and JC are let in but warned they must be out by 19.00. It is going to be tight, JC gets stuck into the culinary treats for tea, while Rob gathers together camping gear so we can leave him in the Glen. It is 10 minutes to seven I move the van slowly back down the glen(the lady of the gate was pretty scary), Spyke hoves into view, I start to fill him in on the whereabouts of his gear," don't worry about that, the gate lady is fine she will make an exception for me" Pyke charm works again!!!
Rob hares off to do some "trig" bagging on Orkney, Spyke goes off to do the four tops North of the Glen, and I spend the evening making butties in the glorious isolation of Glen Strahfarrar. Spyke returns at 23.10 reporting a layer of fresh snow and an Eagle sighting.