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.

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