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Meet Our Supporters: Stephen Russell completes the West Highland Way

Meet Our Supporters: Stephen Russell completes the West Highland Way

24th May, 2024

On Wednesday, retired army officer, Stephen Russell completed the West Highland Way to raise money for Scottish Mountain Rescue.


Stephen was extraordinarily lucky with the weather and put in some serious mileage – walking an average of 19.2 miles (31km) each day. With generous donations from his friends and family, Stephen has raised an incredible £1380 in support of our volunteer teams, for which we are hugely grateful.


We got in touch with Stephen before his walk began back at the start of May to hear all about him and why he chose to fundraise for Scottish Mountain Rescue.

Image: Stephen on the Pennine Way in 2022

Stephen writes:

I am a retired Army Officer having completed 40 years’ commissioned service including 14 months with The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment).  Since I retired, I have really come to enjoy long distance walking but I never camp.  I prefer to be comfortable in B&Bs and hotels along the routes.  I tend to do one long walk a year and so I have completed the Wolds Way, the Cotswold Way, the Pennine Way, Coast to Coast and now I am walking the West Highland Way.  At around 96 miles, the West Highland Way is about the same length as the Wolds Way and Cotswold Way.   The photo is taken in May 2022 on the Pennine Way with the Ribblehead Viaduct in the distance.  I always walk alone as I much prefer just looking after myself and meeting people on the way.  I live in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey.

Image: Stephen Russell | Mountains to the north from the West Highland Way


When I walked the Pennine Way and Coast to Coast I raised money for the England and Wales Mountain Rescue. To me, it seemed the obvious thing to do.  When I decided to walk the West Highland Way this year, raising money for Scottish Mountain Rescue was the natural thing to do.

“The work MRTs do is unparalleled and raising some money for the teams while I am out on the wonderful national trails is one of the best ways of giving something back.  I just hope I don’t have to see them!”


Image: Stephen Russell | Walkers at the start of the West Highland Way


What made you decide on your challenge?

With the Pennine Way and Coast to Coast behind me, I wanted to walk the West Highland Way as I had heard so much about it.  During my time in the Army, I spent many weeks in Scotland on adventure training and that included walking, rock climbing and bagging a Munro or two.  I have no idea which ones they were but they were as arduous as they were impressive.  It seems to me that whenever anyone speaks about national trails, the Pennine Way, Coast to Coast and West Highland Way are always grouped together so I have to complete the last of the three.

Image: Stephen Russell | Bluebells on the shore of Loch Lomond


What kind of preparation/ training did you do for the walk?

I don’t train for the walks by walking.  I do go to the gym 6 or 7 times a week and attend a variety of classes.  I also use the rowing machines (about 40 – 60 kms a week) and do a lot of skipping.  It’s amazing how good skipping is and I used weighted ropes to increase the work rate.  Overall, I am fairly fit for my age and so averaging over 19 miles a day won’t be a problem.  For the Pennine Way and Coast to Coast I averaged over 17 miles a day.


Image: Stephen in front of his favourite mountain on the route, Buachaille Etive Mòr in Glen Coe


What was the hardest and the most rewarding thing about the fundraising?

The hardest thing about fundraising is asking someone to sponsor me and the most rewarding thing about fundraising is when the person asked says “yes”.

Throughout his journey on the West Highland Way, Stephen sent us and a small group of his followers daily update emails. These were packed with interesting insights into his walk, with plenty of photos and statistics. We thought that this was a really excellent way to engage with supporters and build momentum, and really contributed to Stephen’s fundraising success. 


Image: Day 2 of Stephen’s walk – 22 miles from Balmaha to Inverarnan


What’s next for Stephen?

The longest national trail is the South West Coast Path which is 630 miles.  I won’t even think about doing it over 6 weeks or so, but will do it in bite sized chunks of around 100 – 110 miles.  I also have Offa’s Dyke on my list.  Indeed, Britain has some many fantastic walks supported by outstanding rescue teams, why would I go anywhere else?

We are enormously grateful for Stephen’s incredible fundraising efforts.


3 out of 5 rescues are funded by donations from supporters like Stephen’s generous friends and family. The huge amount they have raised will equip our volunteers with the training, equipment and operational support they need to save lives in Scotland’s outdoors.

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