An 82-year-old man said he felt “like a child on Christmas Eve” as he set out to climb the final peak in a quest to scale every Scottish Munro.
Nick Gardner took on the challenge in a bid to raise money for Alzheimer’s Scotland and the Royal Osteoporosis Society (ROS) after his wife Janet, 84, who has since moved into a care home, developed both conditions.
The grandfather of four set out in July 2020 to begin his impressive feat of climbing the country’s 282 highest peaks and on Saturday was destined to claim his final Munro, Cairn Gorm.
“I’m really all set and really excited to finish the last Munro,” Gardner, from Gairloch in the north-west Scottish Highlands, told the PA news agency.
“I feel like a child on Christmas Eve. A lot of my friends and some of my family will be joining me, so it’s going to be a big day.”
Gardner, who describes himself as an “experienced walker and climber” on his JustGiving page, had never previously climbed a Munro.
The Munros, named after mountaineer Sir Hugh Munro, are Scottish mountains with a height of more than 3,000 feet (914 meters).
Gardner, a former physics teacher, will have climbed more than 152,000 meters by the end of the challenge – the equivalent of climbing Everest (8,848 metres) about 17 times.
He will have walked an astonishing 2,000 miles, a distance equivalent to the walk between Edinburgh and Greece.
After making headlines with his impressive feat, he has also smashed the charity’s £50,000 target, raising £59,640 as of Saturday afternoon.
Before the final hurdle in his mammoth challenge, Gardner said, “Doing this last climb, I guess, is going to be very emotional.”
He added that after being “knocked for six” when Janet had to be moved in, the challenge had prevented him from having a mental breakdown.
Staff and volunteers from Alzheimer’s Scotland and ROS were to join Gardner for the final climb, as were his two daughters, four grandchildren and some friends.
A piper was arranged to play at the top when the group arrived.
Gardner’s daughter Sally McKenzie has nominated him for Guinness World Records as the oldest person to climb the Munros.
Having completed seven Munros in the 10 days before his latest challenge, Gardner said on Saturday he was looking forward to giving his knees a rest.
“The last three days I did in Knoydart were very tough,” he said. “Because I had already organized this last day and for people to join me, I just had to keep going and I did. I haven’t had any injuries, but my knees are definitely tired. It will be good to give them a rest.”