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Legacy programme inspires new challenge and appreciation of Scotland's landscape

Katie MacLeod, Flag A Munro participant

Katie MacLeod took the Commonwealth Connections Flag a Munro challenge and talks about her experience of taking part

When I heard about the Legacy 2014 Commonwealth Connections Flag a Munro challenge, I relished the opportunity to get involved. I was always inspired by the wild mountaineering experiences that my Duke of Edinburgh’s Award leaders shared.

They had told me great stories about battling the elements and the adventures that came with climbing Munros. Their passion was infectious and these stories turned me into a 'Munro-bagger'. There are 282 Munros in Scotland and I fully intend on conquering them all in my lifetime.

My first attempt for Flag a Munro was Ben Lomond, but not the one you’d expect. It was Ben Lomond in New Zealand, but unfortunately for me, weather conditions meant I did not reach to the top.

I was disappointed, but one of the most important things that I’d learned from my Duke of Edinburgh’s Award leaders was the importance of turning back in adverse conditions. My second attempt at flagging a Munro was in Scotland with my fellow young leaders. We were hoping to tackle 4 Munros in in a single day at Glen Lyon – the most I’d ever completed in one go.

It was a physically tough day, but the fuel from my bacon roll that morning and team spirit of my comrades kept me going. Our attempt was successful, and we were rewarded with some of the most spectacular views of the Scottish countryside.

The Flag a Munro challenge has altered my perceptions regarding Munro-bagging. Before the challenge, my sole focus was to climb every Munro in Scotland, mainly for the purpose of declaring that I’d completed the gruelling challenge.

I wanted to feel like part of the mountaineering elite. Now, I realise that Munro-bagging is about much more than that. It’s not about reaching the top…it’s about the experience of getting to the top!

It’s about the people you’re with and the camaraderie that you have on the way up. It’s about collectively groaning about your aches and pains and wondering why on earth you’re putting yourself through this.

It’s about the bonds that you create through having this shared experience. Then, when you reach the top, you are rewarded with a great sense of achievement. You quickly realise that it was all worth it and that you were moaning for nothing. As well as this, you are rewarded with some of the best views in the world.

It heightens your appreciation for the stunning country that you live in. It makes you realise how lucky you are to have such a beautiful landscape right on their doorstep. This beauty can only be discovered through a physically and mentally demanding challenge.

Throughout all this discomfort, you realise that it was completely worth it. The memories, the views and the pictures make it all worthwhile.

I am still determined to climb every Munro in Scotland. However, I now do it for a different purpose. I do it for pure enjoyment. That, for me, is the lasting legacy that the Flag a Munro Challenge has had for me.