Kirk minister bags all 282 Munros in charity climb

A Church of Scotland minister has raised thousands of pounds to help tackle violence against women by climbing all of the country's 282 Munro mountains.

Munro minister
Dr Allen at the summit of Ladhar Bheinn.

The Rev Dr Valerie Allen's ambition to conquer every peak of more than 3,000ft has been 19 years in the making.

The minister followed in the footsteps of fellow Church of Scotland minister the Rev Archibald Eneas Robertson who is on record as the first person to complete all the Munros in September 1901.

Dr Allen of Doune, Stirlingshire, convener of the Church of Scotland's Violence Against Women Task Group, climbed her final Munro - Ben Lomond - on July 2.

She has been officially recorded as a "Munro compleatist" by the Scottish Mountaineering Club.It is believed she is the first Church of Scotland woman minister to accomplish the feat.

"When I was standing on top of Ben Lomond I felt a real sense of unreality that something that has been such a focus in my life for so long had come to an end," she said.

"I had a quiet sense of accomplishment and a real feeling of joy.”

Empowerment for women

As passionate about gender justice as she is about climbing, Dr Allen used the challenge to raise money for four organisations who share her vision - Christian Aid, The Iona Community and WEvolution in Scotland, and Capacitar in the United States.

"At the heart of the Gospel is Jesus' promise of fullness of life," she said.

"Violence against women prevents women from flourishing - it robs them of fullness of life.

"I am committed to working for a world in which there is true equality and in which all forms of violence against women - from sexual innuendoes to rape or domestic abuse - are eradicated.

"These organisations are helping to empower women as they reach for fullness of life.

"The money raised will help a variety of projects from micro finance programmes in Dundee and Glasgow to teaching wellness and healing practices to women living with post-traumatic stress disorder in Afghanistan, the legacy of terrible violence."

So far Dr Allen has raised more than £2,500 tantalisingly close to her target of £3,000.

"I have been bowled over by the generosity of people on both sides of the Atlantic," she said.

"I am incredibly grateful - this money will transform women's lives in wonderful and inspiring ways."

Dr Allen's achievement means she is now a member of a fairly exclusive club.

"There are less than 6,000 people who have completed the Munros, the majority of whom are men," she said.

"Although nowadays lots of women are completing them, I have not heard of any of my colleagues doing so. I would be intrigued to know.”

Peacefulness

Dr Allen, who grew up in Northern Ireland and lived and was ordained in the USA, said she had never heard of a Munro when she became minister of the Old and Abbey Church in Arbroath and scaled her first two peaks in 1997.

Asked which of the 282 mountains was the hardest to climb, Dr Allen said: "Last year I spent three days in the Fisherfield wilderness near Dundonald with the Christian Aid 70 Munro group.

"We carried full camping gear over five mountains, fording three rivers.

"One day was 12 hours long, another 14 hours - my whole body was aching at the end.

"But to experience the peacefulness of this wilderness was incredible."

Dr Allen revealed she had a few hair-raising moments while climbing on Skye.

"At a couple of points I felt like I was stepping out into an abyss - it was so exposed," she said.

"I didn't think I could do it."

God's creation

Asked what climb stands out in her memory, Dr Allen said: "Imagine sitting in the sun on a snow covered mountain at the head of Glen Affric looking out at blue skies and a mountain vista that stretches for miles.

"It's moments like that which draw me to the mountains, moments when I feel God's presence palpably close and I marvel at the beauty of God's creation."