HERE'S one for the algebraists. If a woman walks 18,241 kilometres and summits 2,248 hills, then how many caramel wafers does she eat during that time?
Anne Butler knows the answer, but that shouldn't come as a surprise. For Anne has just completed her second clean sweep of the hills, the six main lists that make up a Full House.
Her topping out on Meall Tairbh above Loch Tulla last weekend meant she is only the fourth person to have managed the feat, but more significantly the first woman to have joined that elite group.
It's all the more remarkable considering that for the past couple of years she has been constantly pushing through the pain barrier, hirpling along to the finish line on seriously worn-out knees.
The finishing date was significant too: her first Munros completion was 25 years ago to the weekend – Sgurr Eilde Mor in the Mamores in September 1998 – and her first Full House finish was exactly five years ago on that same weekend when she summited Fiarach, near Tyndrum. It was also the 50th completion party she has attended during that 25 years, although there is a suspicion that her attendance at so many may be more to do with a love of cake and fizz as that of the mountains.
Around 40 friends and walking companions joined Anne for the crowning glory when even the weather was on its best behaviour for the ascent of the modest hill that was the last of her second Grahams round.
The cold, early morning wind that whipped around the shores of the loch soon vanished as the walk got underway, a leisurely pace befitting the occasion and the mixed company on a direct line to the hill over boggy and tussocky ground, where any discovery of a path always seemed like an accident.
As is often the case with the smaller peaks, Meall Tairbh is a superb central viewpoint, a fine hill in its own right but surrounded by the Munros of the Black Mount and Glen Etive, the Cruachans and the Bridge of Orchy giants, all of which were in perfect definition under blue skies for the whole day. There were plenty of photo stops.
Her arrival at the summit was greeted by loud cheers that drowned out any creaking from the knees as she walked under the now traditional tunnel of poles held aloft to shepherd her to the final cairn of another incredible journey. It was fitting also that there were a few four-legged friends present as Anne's mountain days have almost always been with a canine companion, her border collies Megan, Molly, Ralph, in that order, with an honourable shout-out to her friend Heather's collie Milly.
Apart from two rounds of Munro Tops, Furths – the English, Welsh and Irish 3,000-ft peaks – Corbetts, Grahams and Donalds, Anne has also racked up five rounds of Munros during that 25 years. A full breakdown of the stats provides a fascinating insight in how much time and effort has been expended during the pursuit of these mountain targets. And remember, these figures are only for the two Full House rounds, not all the additional Munros.
That's 1,095 walks for 2,248 hills, a total walking distance of 18,241 kilometres and more than one million metres of ascent – 1,093,475 to be exact. As well as the dogs, she has had eight regular walking companions.
She has got through 22 pairs of boots and required 64 Ordnance Survey maps, spent 18 nights in bothies but only two camping. She has been fuelled by 1,250 cans of Diet Coke and 845 Tunnocks caramel wafers (c'mon, you've had plenty time to work it out), and 49 bottles of Champagne have been popped.
She has taken 74 ferries and 30 flights, the majority of those when she was still based in Plymouth. Car mileage is 108,000 miles, with 12 speeding points picked up along the way. But any undertaking of this magnitude inevitably takes a heavy toll on the joints. There have been 92 physio/osteopath visits, eight corticosteroid injections and one knee surgery, plus 2,380 co-codamol tablets swallowed.
It all concluded on Meall Tairbh. Some of the company returned over neighbouring Ben Inverveigh to complete the natural circuit, others retraced their steps down the ridge, and then everyone met up again at the Tyndrum Inn to toast the woman of the moment.
Carrying that huge cake couldn't have helped the knees, but after that, they, and Anne, could breathe a sigh of relief. Now it's time for some proper rest and recuperation.
And despite the denials, I still wouldn't bet against a record-equalling third Full House somewhere down the line. Watch this space.