AN 82-year-old Scotsman has triumphed in his two-year attempt to climb all 282 Munros.
The Munros comprise all of Scotland’s mountains with peaks higher than 3,000ft.
The Highlander, from Gairloch near Wester Ross, set about the gruelling challenge to help raise funds for charities after his wife Janet went into full-time care with osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s two years ago.
The grandfather took his inaugural steps on his first ever Munro in July 2020 before completing his 282nd and final peak at the weekend.
He was greeted with a guard of honour as he reached the 4,085ft Cairn Gorm finish line near Aviemore on Saturday with lines of fellow hikers, family members and supporters raising their walking poles as an archway.
“I was walking through the archway thinking, it’s all for me,” he beamed.
“I’m on cloud nine, it’s absolutely surreal. I have never experienced anything quite like it – it’s like a little boy opening his Christmas presents.
The final peak gave the former physics teacher a total of more than 500,000ft in climbing over the last two years – nearly 17 times the height of Mount Everest, as well as walking 2,000 miles.
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Reflecting on his epic journey, Mr Gardner explained the trickiest part of his challenge had been on the Isle of Skye.
“If you’re a mountaineer you’ll know the Cuillin Ridge – it’s not a big area but very pointed and jaggy and very dangerous,” he told BBC Alba.
“There are 11 Munros in a line and doing that in one go, it took two days to do it. That was the biggest challenge of the lot.”
It doesn’t end with the Munros
Mr Gardner said he needed to refocus his life when trying to come to terms with the fact he couldn’t look after his beloved wife any more, and so decided to contribute by raising funds for the organisations caring for her. However, despite his advancing years, the inspirational adventurer has more challenges on the horizon.
“I am elated but I’ve not finished climbing,” he says.
“I did it because I love climbing and shall carry on. I have my eye on the Devon and Cornwall coastal path walk.”
He has also now been nominated for an entry in the Guinness World Records for the oldest person to climb the Munros.