Published 13th August 2023, 12:58

    I'VE always found it fascinating to flick through the back catalogues of those who have spent a lifetime in the mountains, so it was a pleasure to sit down for a chat with a man who is in a league of his own when it comes to hill bagging.

    Since the Scottish Mountaineering Club introduced the Full House listing in 2010, only around one per cent of the near 7,500 people who have registered a Munros completion have ticked off all the 1,124* summits. Three have even managed the feat twice. 

    Bert Barnett has done it three times.

    That's all the Munros, Munro Tops, Furths (the 3,000ft-plus peaks of England, Wales and Ireland), Corbetts, Grahams and Donalds three times. A total of 3,372 summits. But that's only half the story. 

    Every name on every hill list has managed to achieve the requisite criteria, but although the numbers and summits ticked may be familiar, the journeys to reach them are individual.

    Bert's introduction to the hills came in the early 1960s via the Boys Brigade with weekend camps in Glen Clova and the Cairngorms, Duke of Edinburgh trips and sunrises on Lochnagar. The natural progression came through a love of cycling which allowed longer trips to the mountains of the north and west, and climbing, particularly in winter conditions. There were also hitch-hiking trips to France and Switzerland.

    The bigger days came quickly, from long days and nights over multiple peaks to weekends in the far north and Skye with motorbikes being the preferred mode of travel. Yet despite the numbers rapidly stacking up, there was never any grand plan to complete the Munros or any other list. This was simply someone enjoying hill days in the moment.

    Work and family life slowed the pace a little during the 1970s, but in 1984 he climbed his penultimate Munro, Sgurr Dubh Mor in the Black Cuillin. Just one to go – but it would have to wait for another 17 years. The reason? Munro-bagging was often looked down on by many of the climbing fraternity at the time, so Bert ignored a possible finishing flourish and instead turned his attention to the Corbetts.

    It's unusual to find anyone who has completed the Corbetts before the Munros, even more unusual that they should also then finish a Grahams round but Bert did just that with an ascent of Sgurr a' Chaorachain in 1998 and then Hartaval in 2000.

    The stand-out Munro was Beinn a' Chleibh and the temptation became too much the following year when he was climbing on nearby Ben Lui with three friends. But during that 17-year interval, he had also managed to rack up every other Munro once again, so that same year he again summited Beinn a' Chleibh for a second completion, this time with family. 

    A year later, he finished the Munro Tops on Lochnagar and the Furths on Broad Crag in the Lake District, although his inspiration for that round could partly be attributed to Neil Young as he twinned the singer's Dublin concert with a sweep of the Kerry mountains by bike.

    The next few years saw another Munros finish, plus the Corbetts, Furths and Grahams, so when the SMC introduced the Full House in 2010 it was inevitable that Bert would finish off all the Donalds to claim his first clean sweep on Ben Ever in 2012.

    The rounds kept tumbling: Full House No.2 was achieved the following year and No.3 in 2018. With more Munros and Corbetts rounds under his belt, a fourth didn't seem out of the question. Then came the Covid lockdowns, two years that put a dent in so many ambitions. The impetus had been lost, time and age changing the landscape and the focus.

    It's worth mentioning however, that apart from those 21 mountain rounds, Bert has managed to complete all the Corbett Tops – a huge undertaking – and also all the Scottish mainland hills on the Marilyns list. Meanwhile, his roll call of classic winter climbs in Scotland – Nevis Range, Creag Meagaidh, Cairngorms – is one of the most comprehensive I've seen.

    His mountain life doesn't just all focus on bagging summits. As an architectural draughtsman by trade, Bert has made a huge contribution to the Mountain Bothies Association by providing drawings and designs for alterations on many of its properties, including Corrour, the Hutchison Hut, Gelder Shiel, Faindouran and the more recently refurbished Red House, as well as being a regular hands-on participant in work parties.

    In later years, he has focussed on mountain flora, building an extensive knowledge and photographic library of plant life. There's no need to rely on a phone app when Bert is the go-to man – send him a picture and the answer comes back in minutes.

    No surprise then that he's well-known for being the mastermind behind many of the quizzes for the annual Mountain Mind event and for the Munro Society.

    A truly remarkable character with an encyclopaedic knowledge of our mountain landscape.

    *These are the current numbers, although they can be liable to slight variations from time to time. The total also doesn't include the 12 'new' Grahams which remain optional for Full House completion at this time.