Scotland’s â€“ indeed the world’s â€“ most accomplished munro bagger owes his love of the hills to his parents. “My dad used to take us away up north and to Arran,” explains IT Developer Steven Fallon, who is just 2 peaks short of completing his 14th round â€“ yes, round, that’s 4376 actual munros.
“I got to know a few mountainous areas in Scotland. Then my folks gave me the SMC Munro Guide for Christmas when I was 26. I don’t know if it’s a guy thing, the lists, but the book was an eye-opener. I saw so many places that just had to be visited!”
Starting in 1989 with Ben Cheonzie, near Crieff, it took Steven 3 years to complete his first round. “It was a case of going through the book and finding a nice easy one to finish with. I chose Fionn Bheinn near Achnasheen and went my Mum and our dogs, but in the end the mist came down and the views were non-existent. We went up Schiehallion on the way back, the sun was out and it was wonderful.
If it hadn’t been for that book I would never have been out to the island munros or done the In-Pinn (Inaccessible Pinnacle) on Skye because I suffer from vertigo.”
While most people who complete the challenge continue to walk their favourite hills, Steven soon found he had 50 munros under his belt, so why not complete the round again? This time he finished on Sgurr nan Gillean after completing the Skye munros. As his fitness improved, he began to run and was thus able to take in longer runs and multiple munros in a day â€“ the most being an exhausting 15. During the nineties, he was notching up a round a year and in 2003 he went in to the record books when he finished his 11th round.
As for the Corbetts (2500 footers), he’s done most of them too and admits they have taken him to some new parts of the country, but doesn’t see himself doing the Grahams (2000-2500 footers). Steven doesn’t find it at all boring going over the same hills again and again. They are like friends and you don’t get bored with friends. Also, he points out that different weather conditions and times of day mean the hills are never the same twice.
Familiarity has obviously made things easier as he is less likely to get lost and more likely to take the best line, but planning is also part of the trick. He will set off with the car already packed on Friday night after work. By keeping notes of his times he can judge whether his fitness is holding outÂ and plan approriate routes. A long day out on the hills requires stamina and know-how and Steven has both, especially since getting the hill running bug.
Having moved to Hillend with his partner, Steven met another runner out on the hill, who suggested he joined a club and try some races. Only a few hill races are up munros, so it seemed like a good way to find some new routes. He joined Carnethy, which is loosely based in Edinburgh and the Lothians, and ran his first hill race at North Berwick Law. He came 6th and helped win the team prize. This seemed like good fun. “I like to let go on the descents and go hell for leather,” he says. “In hill running circles, everyone knows your strengths and weaknesses and people know I’m not so good at going up.”
He doesn’t rate cross country or road racing because he says he isn’t fast enough on the flat and surprisingly doesn’t orienteer either. But, having won the A class of the Lowe Alpine Mountain Marathon last year with John Ascroft, he is set to run the elite class this year â€“ that will be around 70km and 4000m climb over the two days, carrying all food and cooking gear, clothing, tent and sleeping bags. He denies being competitive but how can you believe him?
As you can imagine, there isn’t much time for other sports but he’s done some climbing â€“ up to Grade 7 and occasional mountain biking. For relaxation he rates a chat with friends and a good pint.
Steven’s exploits have earned him huge respect in the hill walking and running fraternities and he has been taking other people out on the hills as a guide. He has also recently been persuaded to write “Classic Hill Runs and Races in Scotland” for Pocket Mountains â€“ a book outlining his favourite hill races and runs â€“ and hopefully this will attract more guiding. He admits he would like to get away from the computer a bit more but any remaining ambitions don’t sound too greedy. He just wants to stay fit enough to keep enjoying the hills â€“ and no doubt clock up a few more ’rounds’.
You can keep up to date with Steven’s exploits on his website www.stevenfallon.co.uk