Wednesday 2 January 2013

New Year's Day: Looking Forwards, Looking Back

A reminder of summer: Quinag in the North-West Highlands, June 4, 2012
Now is the traditional time to look back over the last twelve months and ahead to the next twelve.


Last year was a very varied year with much happening every month. The highlights ranged from trips to books to awards to films to conservation.

The year started well in January when Highland Council rejected the plans for the Allt Duine wind farm in the Monadh Liath mountains. As spokesperson for the Save the Monadliath Mountains campaign I gave many interviews to TV, radio and newspapers. This was only the beginning though and the campaign is not yet over. The council's rejection triggered a public inquiry, which took place in the autumn and at which I gave evidence. We are still waiting for the Reporter's decision. I visited the Allt Duine area several times to gain a feel for the area, trips that culminated with a splendid three-day backpack in July, some of the photographs from which were used at the Inquiry to show the beauty of the area. For my campaigning on Allt Duine I was nominated for the Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Award in the Environment category, which was a pleasant surprise. I didn't win but did attend the very flash awards ceremony, which was an unusual and entertaining experience. At the ceremony a video of me walking about the Craigellachie woods was shown, which I'd enjoyed making.

During 2012 I made three trips abroad. None were to go hiking though one did involve a little time in the mountains. In February I went to the Netherlands during some very stormy weather that made travel interesting to give a talk on the Pacific Northwest Trail to the Royal Dutch Mountaineering and Climbing Club. Then in June I went to Sweden as a judge for the Scandinavian Outdoor Awards. This did involve a night out in the woods and a short hike to try out the nominated gear. My travel arrangements left me with the best part of a day free too, which I spent on a pleasant walk over Areskutan mountain. Just a few weeks later I was tramping the huge halls of the Friedrichshafen exhibition centre in Germany looking at new gear. I camped there too but it was as far from wild camping as you can imagine.

As well as hiking in Sweden I also ventured out of Scotland for a walk in Wales on the Berwyn Hills in April. For the rest of the year my outdoor trips were all in the Scottish Highlands. A dearth of snow meant there was less skiing in the first few months than for many a year. However when the snow finally came I had a wonderful May Day ski tour to Ben Macdui, a tour I repeated when the snow returned in December. May also saw my 14th TGO Challenge crossing of the Scottish Highlands, from Torridon to Montrose, my longest backpacking trip of the year. The weather was very stormy the first week, which made the trip live up to its name. I sent back reports on the 17th, 19th, 22nd and 27th. Not long after the Challenge in early June I had the best short trip of the year - three days in glorious weather in the North-West Highlands during which I climbed Beinn Leiod, Meallan a’Chuail and Ben Hee. The sunshine was so inspiring I even enjoyed the drive home.

Also in June Grizzly Bears and Razor Clams, my book on my Pacific Northwest Trail hike, was published. I was delighted with the design by Sandstone Press and pleased when it received good reviews. I was also pleased when my photo book A Year In The Life Of The Cairngorms was Highly Commended in the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guilde Awards and then gained second place in the Scottish Nature Photography Awards. To cap this success - all good for my ego and to keep me writing and photographing - TGO Readers voted my Backpacker's Handbook - the fourth edition of which was published in the autumn of 2011 - their Book of the Year in the first TGO Awards.

Whilst I'd made several short appearances in videos and TV programmes over the years these had been at long intervals and had never led to anything more. That changed in 2012. I was frequently interviewed about Allt Duine and the proposed wind farm for news programmes. On a few days I did half a dozen back to back interviews and more.The first actual outdoor filming was a night in a bothy for the BBC Landward programme in early May.

Then in the summer I was asked by my old friend Cameron McNeish to be one of his guests for a TV programme he was making about his Scottish National Trail. We finally filmed this in October in the Corrieyairick Pass area and the programmes were shown between Christmas and New Year (and are now available on iPlayer). 

Also in the autumn film maker Terry Abraham approached me about a film on the Cairngorms in Winter he wanted to make and hoped to fund via Kickstarter. I was delighted to be involved as Terry's films look great. Making a full-length feature would be interesting and challenging too. First though the money had to be raised and the last three months of the year were spent watching the pledges grow until with a week left the minimum amount of money had been raised and we could go ahead. And so 2013 begins.


During the first three months of the year Terry and I will be making the Cairngorms in Winter film. We hope to show the full grandeur and power of the mountains in winter in all conditions from storm to sunshine and from the forests to the summits. We'll be posting blogs and photos during the filming to keep everyone updated with our progress.

In April I'm hoping to go on a ski and igloo tour with Ed Huesers in Glacier National Park in Montana. I've been to Glacier twice, as it's where both the Continental Divide Trail and Pacific Northwest Trail start. Exploring this spectacular area of the Rocky Mountains on skis should be exciting.

Next year's big trip though will be at home in Scotland - a walk along the watershed from the border with England to Duncansby Head. I'll be doing this in May and June.

And the rest of the year? Who knows! There will be other trips of course and much writing and photography - for this blog and of course for TGO magazine and maybe elsewhere. I like not having everything too planned.

So here's to 2013. May it be a good one for everybody.

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