THE successful completion of any mountain list invariably ends up involving planning of a level comparable to a mission to Mars.
It doesn't start out that way. I suspect there are very few people who have decided they will finish every Munro before they have even reached their first cairn.
The same goes for the Corbetts and the Grahams, and any other hill category you can name. No, most won't look beyond their initial target. The bug bites much later.
There are always exceptions, of course; those who set out on a full round of the Munros for an attempt at a record, for a charity challenge or as the premise for a book.
Even then, these missions tend to be focussed on one list at a time. It is rare for anyone to attempt to finish two, the Munros and the Corbetts, for instance, on the same day. Rare, but not unheard of – I know of a few who have managed this feat.
When I completed the six lists that make up the so-called Full House a few months ago, I was happy to have been able to fit in the last three summits within a ten-day period. As I was nearing the finish line, I had looked at the prospects of trying to cram at least two, possibly even the three, into the same 24 hours. The distances involved were prohibitive – I would have spent most of the day travelling between objectives.
The only way this could have been achieved is if I had planned the finishing touches way back at the start. Once you are underway in the normal haphazard fashion of bagging, it becomes harder to piece together an ideal conclusion.
I am sure there are some super-athletes out there who could physically manage to finish all six lists in one huge outing, but the blueprint for success would need to have been drawn up by a team from Mensa. And you have to remember why you are out there in the first place: pleasure. Any mad dash would have trampled over the very soul of my mountain ethos.
There are those willing to give it a go. One mountain acquaintance told me he was aiming to finish the Grahams, Corbetts and Munros all on the same day. That was some ten years ago, and his quest is still alive, albeit at the speed of a sloth having a particularly bad time.
But a chance conversation at the Dundee Mountain Film Festival revealed someone who had already managed to get it exactly right. Step forward, Roderick Manson.
This was a man who says he started walking the hills because they had interesting names like Cat Law and he liked cats, and rapidly evolved to the stage in 2006 where he thought it would be a nice idea to climb the SMC lists in reverse order of height.
As if this wasn't enough, he decided to make it a coast to coast walk. He began the day wading in the tidal mudflats of the Dornoch Firth before heading west to Alladale and the Graham, Carn a' Choin Deirg, reaching the summit at 4.15am.
The route onward to the Corbett, Carn Ban, initially proved heavy going in a mix of bog and peat hags, but once height was gained the problems eased and by 8.30 he was standing at the cairn.
It took another four hours plus in 50mph winds to reach the top of Seana Bhraigh, where he met two folk from Inverness who were also celebrating their final Munro. By the time he was cooling his feet in Little Loch Broom, he had been walking for 20 hours.
The list of possibilities for such a triple finish on a continuous walk is limited unless you are able to cover extreme distances and height gain. I can only find nine examples where the G/C/M link would work for mere mortals, and of those, just four are natural circuits in that specific order of height gain which doesn't involve any backtracking.
Roderick's route is one; the others are at Inverlael – Meall Doire Faid, Beinn Enaiglair and Beinn Dearg – and near Tyndrum – Meall Odhar, Beinn Chuirn and Ben Lui. There's also an epic in Fisherfield involving the Beinn a' Chasgeins, Beag and Mor, then on to A'Mhaighdean or Ruadh Stac Mor.
If you are not worried about finishing in that precise order, there are opportunities for triple finishes at Bla Bheinn, Gulvain, Glencoe (Aonach Eagach from Pap of Glencoe), Beinn Sgritheall and Ben Chonzie.
This may seem extreme to many, but I suspect someone, somewhere, is already trying to plot their way to the six big endings in one outing.