HE has battled through deep snow, injury and blood-sucking ticks and – no small matter – up 283 gruelling peaks. But Stephen Pyke has now beaten the record for the fastest continuous circuit of Scotland's Munros.
• Stephen Pyke, 45, celebrates on the summit of Ben Hope, in Sutherland, where he completed the fastest round of Scotland's 283 Munros, or mountains over 3,000ft
Mr Pyke, who took on the challenge after being made redundant, climbed all of Scotland's mountains over 3,000ft high in an astonishing 39 days and nine hours, beating the record by 9 days and 2 hours
Not only did he run up and down all the hills, the accomplished fell-runner, who was raising money for wilderness charity the John Muir Trust, also cycled and kayaked between his hundreds of targets. No motorised transport was used.
Starting on 25 April with Ben More on Mull, Mr Pyke finished his arduous journey on Thursday by climbing Scotland's most northerly Munro, Ben Hope.
At the summit he was able to toast his success with champagne and a bottle of malt whisky hidden in the summit cairn by the previous record holder Charlie Campbell.
In 2000, Mr Campbell, a Glasgow postman, completed the task in what now seems a leisurely 49 days.
From Mull, Mr Pyke paddled across to the mainland and tackled the lower and central Highlands first before moving north to the Nevis range – and Britain's highest mountain.
The former engineer then moved east to the Cairngorms and back across to the Cuillins of Skye. Finally, he turned north towards Sutherland.
His journey involved the equivalent of a marathon and a 10,000ft climb every day for more than five weeks. Sustained by porridge and pasta – he had to eat 8000 calories a day – he was backed by a support team in a motorhome but had to camp out in the remoter areas.
Since Thursday, Mr Pyke – known to friends as Spyke – has been taking a well-earned rest from the rigours of the challenge. He said: "This seemed like a good excuse to spend 40 days in the mountains, and I'm really pleased to have broken the record. I've enjoyed every day of the journey."
He insists his record-breaking time, however tough it appears to others who may follow, can be beaten. "I'll be coming back to these hills but this was a once-in-a-lifetime challenge for me. I'm sure someone could shave another four or five days off, but you would have to work hard at the logistics."
John Hutchison, chairman of the John Muir Trust, which owns and protects several Scottish mountain areas, including Ben Nevis, said: "Spyke's achievement is an awe inspiring example of the kind of challenge wild land has to offer.
"We are extremely proud to count Spyke as one of our members, and I am delighted that he chose to use this challenge to raise money and awareness for our work."
While more than 4,000 people have "bagged" Scotland's Munros, only 22 have taken them on in one go. Hamish Brown, the first to complete the feat in the summer of 1974 in just over 70 days, met Mr Pyke on Skye during his record-breaking attempt to lend inspiration.