The results of a dilemma

I have been expanding my book collection over the last week with a pile of walking books. So imagine my dilemma when I received some unexpected Amazon vouchers earlier this week. What should I buy from the myriad of walking books on offer? Should I opt for some of the excellent photographic books available with stunning images of the British countryside and its fascinating flora and fauna? What about some practical books, perhaps some field guides that will help identify some of the flora and fauna? I would like to know more about the trees I pass or the butterflies flitting from flower to flower.

In the end, I opted for the following three books to join my ever expanding and unmanageable library of books. This library only ever seems to grow despite my attempts at thinning it.

The Grahams (A Guide to Scotland’s 2,000ft peaks)

Andrew Dempster. Published by Mainstream Publishing

I didn’t buy this because I have any desire to "tick" the 224 Grahams but as a useful reference book for many hills that you cross or pass on your way to ticking off all the Munros and Corbetts.

White River

Jamie Whittle. Published by Sandstone Press

This is a newly published book that has received excellent reviews for this debut author. It details a trek along the River Findhorn from the mouth to the source and then the return journey by kayak. It appeals to me because I know the area well having lived in Morayshire for a few years.

Scotland’s Far West – Walks on Mull and Ardnamurchan

Denis Brook and Phil Hinchcliffe. Published by Cicerone

The Ardnamurchan Peninsula is only a short car ride and ferry journey away from where I live. I have visited many times but seem to spend most of the time in a car rather than walking. The two walks I have done, to the Corbett – Garbh Bheinn and to the Silver Sands are both excellent. I wanted to explore this quiet, remote area of the West Coast and this book will give me the perfect excuse.

The books all arrived this morning and already I have been skimming through them, dipping in here and there. Book reviews will follow.


The hills according to…

One of the features I enjoy reading in Trail Magazine is the "Hills according to…." item where each month they ask a notable hillwalker or mountaineer for their thoughts on time spent in the hills. I have often wondered how I would respond to each of the questions, I am unlikely to be ever considered a notable hillwalker so this my only chance to set down my, "Hills according to…"

What was your earliest mountain experience?

Probably as a child on holiday in Wales, with my parents, looking out at the vast scary bleakness of the Brecon Beacons from the warmth and comfort of our car.

When were you most scared?

During a trip to Ben More on the Isle of Mull, this was my first walk in real Scottish winter conditions. I had been out on mountains in crampons and with an ice- axe before but the weather had always been pretty benign. On this trip we had to tackle gale force winds, at times zero-visibility and intense cold. Even the old-timers in the group agreed that it had been an epic trip. I was only scared because it was the first time, I would happily repeat the day again because of the sense of achievement when we got back to the youth hostel.

When was getting lost your fault?

I never seem to get really lost, just slightly off track! It is normally a result of me being pig-headed and not following what the map and compass are telling me.

Tell us about your most treasured bit of kit.

It has to be the humble map. I can spend hours looking at and reading a map, learning new things about an area, trying to visualise the landscape and dreaming of adventures yet to come.

How do mountains feature in your life?

They surround me. The village I live in is surrounded by mountains, on one side the Mamores and the other Garbh Bheinn and the Glen Coe mountains. In the distance we can see the hills of Ardgour and Morvern. I am always looking up thinking I wish I could be up their now or wondering what it is like up on the tops. It saddens me that may residents have never stepped foot on them or take the beauty around them for granted.

Are you fit enough?

No. Although my strength and stamina, in particular, improves with every day spent in the hills.

What’s in your lunch box?

Cheese and ham wholemeal rolls and Tunnocks Caramel Wafer bars. Oh, and cherry tomatoes, completely pointless I know but I love their taste.

Who would you like to climb a mountain with?

My father. Being one of three sons it was always difficult to spend time alone with him. It would be great to talk with him away from other distractions. However, I would never convince him to go up a hill with me.

Which is your dream mountain?

It has to be the Cuillins in Skye, I like the look of razor edge ridges and canine like summits.

Your biggest challenge so far?

Resisting the temptation to stop ill-prepared strollers who think that it is fine to go up a mountain in jeans and trainers with no other equipment. So far I haven’t given anyone a piece of my mind. My wife would be extremely embarrassed if I did.

What’s your most expensive piece of kit?

A North Face tent used only once, so far.

Where would you most like to be now?

In the Dolomites. I love Italy and would like to do some real walking there as well as trying out the Via Ferrata.

What’s the worst thing about walking?

Deciding where to walk. There are so many hills and routes in the United Kingdom, let alone overseas, that I am desperate to explore.

What does the first post-walk beer taste like?

Never as good as the second.

What does a wild camp smell like?

The great outdoors.

What scares you?

The afternoon strollers who head out into the hills in jeans and trainers with no rucksack and no other equipment. They then expect mountain rescue to bail them out of trouble when the going gets tough.

What does getting to the top feel like?

A mixture of wonder and achievement.

The most important lesson you’ve learnt?

Trust the map and compass.

What’s the naughtiest thing you’ve ever done?

I can’t tell you that. I can tell you we were both young!

Going up or coming down?

Definitely going up. My knees complain a lot on the way down and I am always concerned they will eventually declare UDI from my body and go and crawl under the nearest rock.

GPyeS or no?

I have a GPS used mainly for tracking my walks for later reference. The only time I use it for navigation is to get a grid reference if I am not sure of my exact location. Otherwise I rely on the map and compass.