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by Darryl Mills

It only takes one person to transform something previously thought unachievable into a piece of history, long to be told.

Interestingly it wasn’t Hugh Munro himself who followed through on the promise of his new taxonomy of Scottish Peaks - it took until 1923 for an individual to become the first undisputed completionist.

Ronald Burn not only climbed all the Munros, but also the subsidiary tops.

So, challenge complete. Invitation answered. History made, and time to close the book? Well, we all know that’s not quite how it works. Sure, they’ve all been climbed, but the question remains: who can do it faster? Who can do it without stopping? Who can do it entirely self-propelled?

Enter Charlie Campbell: a postman from Glasgow turned Munro bagger extraordinaire who managed every peak in forty eighty days, using only his own body to propel him for the whole journey.  Aside from the cycling and swimming to get between the peaks, that amounts to almost six 3000ft mountains per day.

Finally publishing a book about his record breaking round, we managed to sit down with Charlie and get some insight into his remarkable feat and also, predictably, to ask him “How? Just… how?”.

Charlie Campbell standing with friends on a scottish mountain

When did your relationship with the Scottish mountains begin?

I was very fortunate in that my secondary school had a large and varied outdoor curriculum covering all sports and pursuits. But really it was walking in the hills and mountains that I enjoyed the most. That’s what helped kick-start my outdoor career; it was back then, in the hills during my childhood.

You worked as a Postman during your preparations for the attempt. How did this work into your training?

It helped in several areas! Getting up at 5.00am six days a week. Doing the postie round with the mail bag in all weathers. It also had the advantage of finishing early, so the rest of the day could be used for training and planning, which helped.

"It was one of the things that kept me going while pounding the pavements in the rain" 

And did you ever find yourself distracted from delivering the post?

Honestly? Every day. I was always thinking of my potential continuous Munro round, whilst completing my postal round – it was one of the things that kept me going whilst pounding the pavements in the rain. Actually, the whole point of me taking on the Postie job was that it was geared towards the Munro attempt!

What other training did you do to prepare?

Lots and lots of training over many years. I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I cover it in detail in my book, for those who are interested in the finer details.

The attempt was in 2000, so well before modern smartphone GPS technology.  What navigation equipment did you use back then?

Just a good pair of eyes. But when the cloud and mist were down, an OS Landranger 1:50000 map, and a Silva compass were invaluable.

And what were your essential pieces of kit?

Well, aside from grippy training or fell running shoes (studs), I always packed and used a pair of Buffalo Mitts. Having suffered from cold hands all my life, I’ve found these to be the best for me. Even in summer, they are the first thing I throw in my rucksack.

Munro Bagger Charlie Campbell standing with family on the top of ben hope

You chose to swim across any bodies of water in your path, rather than kayak. Did this add any extra fear to the attempt?

Not fear, no, but there was certainly a mixture of excitement and slight trepidation. I had the back-up boats in place, and had done the swim training, but there is always the question at the back of your mind – was it enough training?

Were there any injuries, or accidents you had to contend with?

There was one point where a pain in my left shin and ankle came on, and refused to go away for weeks. It meant just walking for a few days in light boots to let the pain subside a bit, and then it was a case of injury management, with an ankle support for a while, constant ibuprofen tablets, and a nightly massage.

You’ve completed two rounds of the Munros now, and climbed 284 peaks. Which ones stand out the most in memory?

Well, obviously Buachaille, Etive Mor, when I completed my first round with my two friends. It’s just such a mesmerising mountain to look at as you head up the A82 road, and a beautiful warm-up as you head into Glen Coe.

And of course, Ben Hope where I set the record. A great hill, sitting at the top of Scotland, and with brilliant views on a clear day.

What was it like going back to your normal life after such a momentous feat?

Ha! Banal and Humdrum.

Do you think you have another round in you?

Once upon a time I thought I would have another crack to try and go quicker, but certainly not now, these days are long gone. However, if I hadn’t already done it, and knowing what I know now, then I’d still certainly be planning to make a first attempt!

Charlie Campbell and Friends having a party on ben hope at the end of his record breaking round

What is it about this country – and its peaks – that you think makes Scotland unique?

Well I’m no geologist, but it must definitely be something to do with the weathering that the different rock types in Scotland have experienced over hundreds of millions of years, to create the features and scenery we now see. It’s just spectacular.

"I wouldn't swap any of them for Bonnie Scotland on a good day"

I’m not a traveller, and never mind the home nations, but have been lucky to visit countries like France, Spain, Switzerland, Greece, several parts of Australia, Barbados, and a few of the Hawaiian Islands, and I wouldn’t swap any of them for Bonnie Scotland on a good day.

On a good day?

Those bloody midgies!

Finally, what advice would you give to any other aspiring peak baggers in Scotland or elsewhere?

Don’t think, just do! Get out there and experience it.

N.B. After Charlie’s record in 2000, Stephen Pyke set a new record for a full self-propelled Munro round in 2010, at 39 days. Though, technically, as he climbed the 282 Peaks then classified (due to two demotions since 2000), Charlie’s 284 peak record still stands separately.

You can purchase Charlies new book: Millenial Munros: A Postman's Round here.

Darryl Mills
Darryl Mills

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