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Review: The Corbett Round by Manny Gorman

Manny Gorman on his 2009 Corbett round

Manny Gorman

In 2009 fell-runner, Manny Gorman set out to complete a continuous traverse of the Scottish Corbetts on foot, bike and sail. At the time the run was followed avidly by many on Walkhighlands and the riveting read he has produced distills the epic 70 day challenge into a very readable book that will appeal to anyone interested in the Scottish hills or crazy human endeavours.

The Corbetts are the 219 Scottish mountains Scottish hills between 2,500 and 3,000ft, with at least 500ft ascent on all sides. Less popular than the Munros, many do not have paths and are situated on very inhospitable rugged ground. They also have a wider geographic spread which means there are no days where many Corbetts can be picked off with relative ease like the Glenshiel Munros. However none of this was off-putting for Manny, who set off with partner Brenda at the wheel of a campervan loaded with a selection of bikes, and a mountain of food and midge repellent. Back up was provided by hill running buddies as well as fellow Kingussie-man John Allen (AKA Cairngorm John) who added the sail power needed for the first leg – tackling all the Corbetts on the islands from the Outer Hebrides down to Arran. The tone of the book is set early on with a literally gut-wrenching description of a debilitating case of worms for Manny and the reluctance of his fellow sailors to share these creatures with him.

10 days and a packet of worming tablets later and the challenge moves to the mainland. Although a knowledge of the geography and hills climbed would add to the enjoyment of the book, there are good maps and descriptions of wildlife and weather that all help bring the landscape to life even if you’re not already familiar with it. Although the journey was undoubtedly tough, the book is not a testosterone-fueled account of miles covered, metres ascended and bogs hopped. Instead it recounts the human story of someone who really loves the hills and manages to find time to enjoy the wilderness despite also wanting to cover as much ground as possible – on one occasion Manny watches a couple of otters at play, something many slower walkers have never experienced. Refreshingly honest, the book doesn’t hold back on descriptions of how seemingly small set backs or days of bad weather adversely affected Manny’s mood, usually taken out on his small army of running companions. The amount of food consumed throughout the 70 days is phenomenal but to be expected, what I wasn’t expecting was the copious beers and odd dram that were cracked open to celebrate pretty much each completed day – but then the challenge was sponsored by the Cairngorm Brewery so it would have been rude not to.

The inclusion of extracts from Manny’s blog and contributions from friends and followers at the time add a sense of real-time to the daily descriptions and add to the sense that the journey was not just about 1 person, in addition to building excitement as the journey unfolds. A generous selection of photos as well as introductions by Dave “Heavy” Whalley and Hamish Brown help to bring it all to life.

The book is genuinely laugh-out loud funny in places – encounters with homeowners grumpy about imaginary parking violations are a recurring theme – but I didn’t expect to be holding back the tears when tragedy struck on the 69th day. It really is a cracking read and inspirational too as it’s written in a fairly understated way so you really do start to think that anything is possible if you put your mind (and body) to it.

The Corbett Round written and published by Manny Gorman and available for £15 from www.mannygorman.co.uk

PS: And for those who really love statistics the round was undertaken in 70 days and included:

On foot 1,001.5 miles & 420,658ft of ascent
On bike 1,132 miles & 44,077ft of ascent
On mountain bike 276 miles & 19,373ft of ascent
Sailing approx 200 miles

There are no records of food consumed or beer drunk but those are also of awesome proportions.

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