THERE are those who reckon one round of Munros is enough and others who seem to be on a permanent loop, racking up multiple rounds.
Neither is right, neither is wrong. The mountains are there to be enjoyed for many different reasons and you should just do what you want to do.
Around one in 20 'compleatists' decide to go for second helpings, sometimes to catch those summits unseen in the cloud first time round, sometimes just to spend more time savouring the memory.
I had always thought one round would do just fine, and, like so many after the big finish, turned my attention to the Corbetts and the remaining unclimbed Munro Tops. It was during this time the seeds were sown for me to become an accidental repeater.
Make no mistake – the blame for this lies firmly at the door of my mountain pals. There I was, innocently accompanying them on their mission, when it was pointed out how many I had done again. They knew I was the type of person who religiously followed the Mastermind ethos – I've started so I'll finish – so there was only one way to go. Round two was a fait accompli.
Round three wasn't my fault either. This time it was down to a conversation with someone 20 years my junior as he was struggling up a ridge in Glen Shiel. He had asked if I was planning finishing the Munros again and I replied that I thought time and age were against that. His initially contemptuous smirk said it all, but he went on to suggest that it was obvious there were another few rounds in me.
It sounded like a challenge. And so, not to disappoint the younger generation, I went on a bagging spree, wrapping up the remaining 100 or so in less than a year to leave me with just the one to go – Ben More in Mull.
This was supposed to be the end; a solo night-time pilgrimage for lost friends, a fitting finale. Then I got it in the neck from the older generation. The article I had written for a newsletter about this farewell to the Munros drew a response from ten-time 'compleatist' Robert MacDonald, then approaching 80 and still doing the rounds.
He told me I should never say never again, that he had been in the same position many times but had instead kept going and the fact he was still keeping going was testament to the fact that climbing Munros is good for you. There was no way I could let down a mountain legend like Robert, so I did what Frank Sinatra would dooby-dooby-doo and made a swift comeback for round four.
This got off to a flyer, and I was on course to finish within two years. Then my natural optimism kicked in and I had the thought I should take the likelihood of my mortality into consideration and tidy up the remaining Grahams and Donalds. After all, better to drop dead with a Full House under the belt than merely a fourth round of Munros.
The interesting thing about this interlude was that spending the time in pathless terrain and vertical bog gave me a new impetus for the big hills when it was all over. Suddenly, the Munros were a joy again, old friends with an obvious welcome mat laid out. So many lovely paths. Autumn was a revelation, winter a time to pick off the odd peak and look forward to another finish on the big ridges in 2020. Then it all shut down in March.
When a modicum of freedom returned, I appreciated the mountains even more. Every day out was to be savoured. The rush to the finish line has slowed but all going well, the finish will be next year.
If the first round one was one of discovery, two a slow-motion accident and three a somewhat macho challenge, then four has become a round of rediscovered pleasures. This new appreciation, and the fact another friend is determined to finish, will inevitably lead to another round despite my regular protestations to the contrary.
I have given up talking about giving up and accepted I am on the treadmill until I just can't take another step.