EVERY Munros finish is a unique tale to tell, that final summit on the round of 282 often the trigger for an avalanche of conflicting emotions.
For many, the ending is bittersweet: it's a time to share with family and friends, but also to remember those who have been part of the journey but sadly missing from the celebrations.
If anything, those feelings intensified during the years of Covid disruption when we all realised just how important it was to cherish our freedom to enjoy and share those special moments.
It's a theme that resonates heavily in the 2022 edition of the Scottish Mountaineering Club Journal. It's always a pleasure working through this glossy, hardback publication, a cocktail of mountain experiences, record achievements and list statistics, new climbing routes and book reviews.
This edition looks back over 2021, a less restrictive year than the lockdown-heavy 2020, but where there were still enough bumps in the road to normality to impact the ambitions of hillwalkers and climbers.
There were 235 new Munroists registered, compared to just 117 the previous year, taking the end of year figure to 7098 (the total at time of writing is 7395). The average age of 'compleators' was 54, the average time taken 27 years, and the male-female ratio remained lopsided at 75 to 25 per cent.
Ben More in Mull was still the most popular mountain to finish on with 26 summit parties, followed by Beinn Sgritheall (14), Beinn na Lap (10) and Ben Lomond (9).
The individual stories inside these Munro stats, however, are where the real fascination lies, a heady mix of the amusing, poignant, historic and inspiring, all under the constant shadow of Covid.
Delayed finishes were a recurring theme, as were aborted plans for big summit parties. John Findlay had put off his 2020 finish for a year but then had to go solo anyway after his grandson tested positive on the big day and the logistics for re-arranging with friends became impractical. For his solo trek, John Marjoram was given the consolation of a special T-shirt from his wife and daughter to wear at the top.
Another delayed finisher was Henning Rische, who travelled from Germany to complete on Carn an Fhidhleir, thanks to a Covid test package which allowed him into the country under international rules, while Niall Ritchie grabbed an opportunity between lockdowns to finish, a seven-hour drive for a two-and-a-half-hour hill.
Five friends who had met at Edinburgh University managed to finally fulfill their pledge to complete together by climbing Beinn Sgritheall. They celebrated at the Glenelg Inn, which had been booked since 2011, while Ruairidh Cooper was able to enjoy a summit whisky with two pals from a bottle his mum had given him ten years earlier in anticipation of his finish.
A delay of a very different kind had halted John R Martin's Munros charge. He had already climbed 250 when he developed arthritis and couldn't add to his tally between 1994 and 2018, but a new drug regime three years ago helped him finally reach his goal.
Lynne Wightman didn't start climbing Munros in earnest until her first kidney transplant. That was donated by her dad Derek and 14 years later she needed another, this time from her partner Tom. Within six months she was back on the big hills.
Neil Paterson, who weighed 19 stones and suffered with asthma when he was 16, dedicated his round to his dad who had waited for him in the car park. And David Qualtrough finished in memory of his niece, an outdoor instructor who died in a car crash, with whom he had done his earliest Munros.
Motivation can come from the strangest places. Sandra Kelly was driven by a remark in the 1990s from her husband who said she would never do the Cuillin ridge. Somewhat fittingly, she finished on Sgurr Dubh Mor. At the age of 54, Jennifer Strachan picked up a lilac rucksack for sale at £10 which a friend said she would never use.
History also proved to be a driver in some cases. Brian McLeish completed on Meall nan Ceapraichean, near the house on the River Lael where his great-great-grandfather Kenneth McLennan lived 170 years ago between 1850 and 1860.
A plaque in the 1850 farmworkers' cottage where Donald P. Ramsay lives acknowledged the late homeowner's feat of doing all Munros twice. After finishing his first round, Donald now aims to be the second owner of cottage to do them all twice.
Roger Webb was inspired to finally record his completion from 1996 after coming across an ornamental ladder presented to him by former mountain club members, reflecting on the fact that the three friends who had been with him the day of his ascent had passed away.
Family ties were another determining factor. James Richardson completed on Slioch then registered his father Colin's 1999 finish; Duncan McKenna joined his brothers and father as 'compleatists'; brothers Gary and Craig Lory finished together on Am Basteir.
There were those lucky enough to hold their big party. Elspeth Bleakley was joined on Stob a' Choire Odhair by 43 people including her dad, who had also attended his father's final Munro back in the 1960s.
Alistair Jeffs completed on Seana Bhraigh with the Moray Mountaineering Club and then had a party at Magoo's Bothy complete with fairy lights, a cake with 282 candles, kegs of beer and bottles of whisky and rum, plus a full cheeseboard and fruit bowl.
Alan MacBeth finished on Creag Mhor above Glen Lochay with tunes from a piper wearing a gorilla suit. It appears he may have missed at trick, though – had he waited until the festive season he could have had a rendition of King Kong Merrily on High.
*The Scottish Mountaineering Club Journal 2022 is available from David Broadhead at £19.95 per copy. Contact email@example.com