Weekend Wonders: Backpacking Tranter's Round

Words and images I've submitted to Adventure Travel magazine for publication in their 'Weekend Wonders' section (a regular 2-page spread where they share some 'cracking UK adventures to help people make the most of those precious two days').

David Hetherington on the summit ridge of Binnein Mor in the Mamores with the summit of Ben Nevis in the distance.

David Hetherington on the summit ridge of Binnein Mor in the Mamores with the summit of Ben Nevis in the distance.

A natural progression if you enjoy backpacking trips is to look for opportunities to link different routes together, increasing length and difficulty to set yourself a challenge. One such opportunity is Tranter's Round in the Lochaber region of Scotland.

Tranter's Round is named after Philip Tranter, son of the Scottish author, Nigel Tranter, who in 1964 devised a 24-hour challenge for fell runners when he connected (at the time) 19 Munros in the West Highlands of Scotland (the Mamores, Grey Corries, Aonach Mor and Aonach Beag, Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis) in a 36-mile epic that covers 20,600ft of ascent. Tranter's Round is a fell runner's classic (superseded these days in terms of difficulty by a longer Charlie Ramsay Round, and with a demoted Munro) but it's a route that's also tailor made for backpacking.

To give us a head start on our attempt at backpacking Tranter's Round, we bivvied on a damp summit of Mullach nan Coirean in the Mamores at 2300 hours. Early the next morning, we continued over the Mamores, ticking off the peaks of Stob Ban, Sgurr a'Mhaim and Am Bodach. I didn't go out to An Gearanach, choosing to dry my sleeping bag in the sunshine instead, but Na Gruagaichean soon came next, then Binnein Mor, Binnean Beag and Sgurr Eilde Mor. Sixteen hours after we started out we descended and spent the night at Meanach bothy, having climbed 10 Munros.

Our return leg on day two is commonly called the Lochaber Traverse. First we ticked off the Grey Corries, starting with Stob Ban then Stob Choire Claurigh, Stob Coire nan Laoigh and Sgurr Choinnich Mor. A steep, grassy scramble then took us up onto a very wintry Aonach Beag. It was here that we decided to cut our trip short. A storm that had been distant for much of the afternoon brought in 50mph winds and freezing rain and, in true Scottish style, what had been a pleasant Summer's day turned distinctly nasty with a great risk of hypothermia. None of us are new to bad weather but with eight hours in, three Munros to do (including Britain's highest mountain) and a sharp scrambly ridge between them, it wasn't hard to make the decision to bail over Aonach Mor and descend to the roadside. Despite our disappointment, it was a great outdoor trip. Tranter's Round proved to be a very worthy backpacking route.  

Travelling light

The current fastest known time for Tranter's Round, set on 01 October 2016, is 10h 15m 30s by Fort William-based doctor, Finlay Wild. Although such a fast time will be unachievable (or undesirable) for most, adopting a hill running ethos for backpacking Tranter's Round isn't a bad idea. Travelling with as little gear as possible will be easier on your knees.

Navigation

Harvey Maps publish a map for the Charlie Ramsay Round, which includes the same peaks and is ideal for Tranter's Round. The route is also covered on Ordnance Survey Landranger map 41 (Ben Nevis, including Fort William & Glen Coe). You can choose to go clockwise or anti-clockwise. The latter has the distinction of finishing on Britain's highest mountain.

 
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