Gordon’s on top of the world with peak effort

From left: Chris Anderson, Ian Hanning; Gordon Nicoll and his twin Graham Nicoll
From left: Chris Anderson, Ian Hanning; Gordon Nicoll and his twin Graham Nicoll
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A Selkirk man is celebrating this autumn after completing all of Scotland’s hills over 3,000 feet.

Biomedical scientist Gordon Nicoll has added to those 578 summits (including the 277 Munros), over the last 26 years, completing 37 Corbetts, 16 Grahams and 107 Donalds (mostly Borders hills) and, in total, climbed just under 1,000 summits.

But where does he find the the drive to keep going?

He explained: “Frank Smythe [British mountaineer] stated: ‘He who appreciates nature learns to unburden his mind of trivial thoughts’. Hill-walking provides solitude, reflection, exercise, excitement at times, companionship and the joy of exploring areas of Scotland that are stunningly beautiful.”

Dad-of-two Gordon’s final top was in Fisherfield in the Dundonell area near Ullapool last month.

“I started walking as a teenager in the Ochil Hills outside Perth and that’s where my interest began,” he said.

“Then in my twenties, I ventured out to some of the higher summits – Ben Vorlich at Loch Earn was my first Munro back in June 1988.

“Muriel Gray helped spur me on to complete the Munros after her television programme, The Munro Show, was aired and my brother-in-law, Neil, who had a love of the hills, also encouraged me.”

He has walked mostly with his twin brother, Graham, though has completed about 40 per cent of the summits solo, largely staying in youth hostels and occasionally wild camping.

He said: “My greatest challenge was the summits on Skye, particularly the Inaccesible Pinnacle, which requires a good head for heights, which I am not great with. I like to challenge myself, put myself outwith my comfort zone.

“My final Munro was Ben Lui in 2011 and my final top was Sgurr Dubh on Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair in Fisherfield on September 13, where I had to be rescued by mountain rescue because I ran out of food, water and light, then got lost. The shame!”

He said his best walking year was in 1996 when he completed 90 summits “which, as it was the year we got married, my wife Dina probably did not appreciate.”

He once completed nine Munros in one day and the most 3,000-foot mountains he summited in one day featured 14 in the Mamores then 13 in Creag Meagaidh and Carn Eighe, Glen Affric.

He said: “I did a rough calculation and figured, going by mountain heights, that I have walked the equivalent of four times round the Earth (about 112,000 miles) in driving rain, sleet, snow, hurricanes and the occasional sunny day!”

Gordon works in the Blood Sciences Laboratory at the Borders General Hospital and away from work and hill-walking, he is also a STEMnet (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network) ambassador and promotes science in schools.

He added: “I enjoy challenges and have competed in the Borders Challenge and hill races and I enjoy mountain biking with my son Euan at Glentress.”

He also practices Tai Chi and has provided demonstrations for schools and other organisations.

“In my time I have enjoyed Zumba, swimming, running, including the London Marathon, half-marathons, 10ks and others, squash, badminton, tennis, karate (green belt), Ju-jitsu (black belt), lifesaving, cycling, calligraphy, drawing, photography, reading, collections and travelling ... I can get a bit obsessive,” he joked.