Extraordinary Munro Bagger Hazel Strachan is on her Ninth Round of Munros. We find out what drives her on, and keeps her climbing...
It can take many people decades to walk all 282 Scottish mountains known as the Munros. And for the majority of the 5,500 or so who have finished reaching all the peaks in a round, once is enough.
Yet for others, the Munro bagging bug takes such a grip that they keep on walking multiple rounds. The record for the most rounds of Munros is held by mountain guide and hill runner Steve Fallon, who has finished an astonishing 15 rounds.
Closing in on his incredible feat is Hazel Strachan, of Bathgate, who is currently walking her ninth round. In August this year, Hazel finished round eight, and with no sign of stopping, she is now more than 100 Munros into the record breaking ninth round. In the summer of 2015, she broke the women’s Munro bagging record of six rounds, held for two decades by the late Geraldine Guestsmith.
Hazel currently has a rate of a round of Munros each year it seems there is no stopping this impressive Munro bagger. Expecting to finish the next round in late summer next year. Hazel, 48, insists her Munro bagging is not about the numbers. She says:
"Every time I finish one round I plan the final Munro of my next round. For my ninth round it will be Ben Challum, near Tyndrum. That is my aim, for next summer I hope... But really, the Munros are about having fantastic experiences and not about the numbers. I keep going because I enjoy the walking and for all the many challenges."
“I like to set myself projects, as I call them. So I might walk a Munro on a winter’s day when previously I had walked it on a summer’s day. Or, I might walk multiple Munro days sleeping in a bivi bag as I go. I like to make the Munros a different experience each time.”
(Hazel setting off for a day in Glencoe)
Hazel’s Amazing Munro Journey
Hazel took some 25 years to complete her first round of Munros in 2005. Her second round was finished by 2008 and then the next was in 2010. Since 2012 she has finished a round each calendar year.
When talking about how her jouney around the Munros, she said:
“My eighth round was so different from my first round, especially because these days I am much more comfortable walking in the mountains on my own.”
Hazel walks most of her Munros solo – during her seventh round she was accompanied on just 12 Munros over a total of five days – and owes a lot to her husband Ian who provides support along the way in their motorhome. She says:
“I am fortunate with my job as a Scottish Government Agricultural Scientist because I have flexi time. It means I can make the most of weather windows and fit my walking in between and around my work. Ian, who is retired, is also a fantastic support for me and often has a meal prepared for me as I come off the Munros after a long day.”
As with any trip or outdoor acitivity, there is a lot of planning that goes into walking a round. Hazel says:
“I try to get as many long days out on the hills before winter, although I still do walk through the winter as well. It’s just that the longer summer days allow for more hiking hours in the light.”
Hazel even hikes Munros on Christmas Day if she can. During her seventh round she enjoyed a spectacular sunrise while walking the summit ridge of Ben Wyvis.
(Hazel completes her eighth round)
“It was a great way to see in the morning of Christmas Day with amber-rose light flooding the Western Glens over to An Teallach before the sun rose high above me. At lunchtime I headed off to be with my family for the rest of the day. This is the best kind of day.”
Hazel says she never thinks of wet days, white-outs or cloudy summits as disappointing days out. She explains: “They are, after all, part of the nature of the mountains, so why not embrace it, as long as we stay safe, there's nothing wrong with battling poor weather.”
It is only wind that keeps Hazel off the mountains. She says:
“I shelve days where the wind speeds are over 50mph. Being petite, it’s a battle to stay upright in conditions that are any worse. I was reduced to crawling on my hands and knees for the last 250m to get to the summit of Carn a’ Chlamain."
Hazel planned to take a month off this summer to walk Munros. “I had a goal of walking as many Munros as I could in that month, weather depending, and this would hopefully help me to complete my ninth round on target. However, I don’t see me stopping after that. I just want to keep going for as long as I can because I love the many different experiences of walking in the Munros. It’s what I like to do best.”
Keep Track of Hazel on Twitter @StrachanHazel