A backpacking challenge: Following in the footsteps of Tranter

David Hetherington on the summit ridge of Binnein Mor, looking over to Ben Nevis, during a backpack of Tranter's Round, the original long-distance 24-hour fell-running challenge in the West Highlands of Scotland.

David Hetherington on the summit ridge of Binnein Mor, looking over to Ben Nevis, during a backpack of Tranter's Round, the original long-distance 24-hour fell-running challenge in the West Highlands of Scotland.

A progression when you've been going on backpacking trips is to look for opportunities to link together different routes, increasing length and difficulty to set yourself a challenge or to seek new experiences.

Tranter's Round is named after Philip Tranter, who in 1964 devised a 24-hour challenge for fell runners when he connected 18 Munros in the West Highlands of Scotland - the Mamores (10), Grey Corries (4), Aonach Mor and Aonach Beag (2), Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis (2) - in a 40-mile trail running epic that covers 20,600ft of ascent.

For our 2-day attempt at Tranter's Round (roughly 10,000ft of ascent each day), we started in Glen Nevis and ascended Mullach nan Coirean (939m), bivvying on the summit at 2300 hours (I'll accept we cheated slightly). Early the next morning, we continued over the Mamores - Stob Ban (999m), Sgurr a'Mhaim (1099m), Am Bodach (1032m), An Gearanach* (982m), Na Gruagaichean (1055m), Binnein Mor (1130m), Binnein Beag (943m) and Sgurr Eilde Mor (1010m) - before descending 16 hours later to spend the night at Meanach Bothy.

On day 2, we ticked off the Grey Corries - Stob Ban (977m), Stob Choire Claurigh (1177m), Stob Coire an Laoigh (1116m) and Sgurr Choinnich Mor (1094m) - commonly known as the Lochaber Traverse - before a steep, grassy scramble took us up onto a very wintry Aonach Beag (1234m). It was here 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 8 hours in, 2 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 (1221m) and make a miserable descent to the roadside through the debris and detritus of the Nevis Range.

Despite our disappointment, it was a great outdoor trip. Tranter's Round is a very worthy backpacking route in Scotland.

Note - The record for Tranter's Round, as at 01 October 2016, is 10hrs 15mins 30secs, set by Fort William GP Finlay Wild. In fell-running terms, the route has been superseded by Ramsay's Round, named after Charlie Ramsay who lengthened the route in 1978 to 56 miles and 28,500ft of ascent over 24 (now 23) Munros. The record today for Ramsay's Round is 16hrs 12mins 32secs by Es Tressider in 2019 (who was supported at one point by previous record holder Jasmin Paris, who’ recorded 16hrs 13mins 53secs). I’m envious and respectful of all. (Source: Scottish Hill Runners)

*I didn't go out to An Gearanach, choosing instead to spend the time in the sunshine drying out my sleeping bag after the previous night's damp bivvy.