Everyone’s favourite mountains are different. Many factors come into the choices, some of them very personal. Trail magazine editor Simon Ingram’s selection in this book, subtitled A View of 16 British Mountains, is quite unusual but there are reasons behind his choices. In part it’s to illustrate different aspects of mountain culture in its widest sense – geology, history, science, art, adventure – and in part it’s to tell the stories of his own experiences on these hills. The book ranges from the Northwest Highlands to the Brecon Beacons by way of the Pennines, Lake District and Snowdonia. It’s divided into seasons but, more significantly, into single word topics such as space, weather, science, art, sport, with a hill for each one. Some are obvious – Schiehallion for science, Cross Fell for weather. Others are more esoteric – Ben Loyal for light, Ben Macdui for terror. Whatever the topic and mountain the author ties together his ascents and stories about the mountain well. There’s a great deal of information packed into the book in way that makes absorbing it easy. Subjects include the history of the Ordnance Survey, slate mining in Snowdonia, the beginning of rock climbing as a sport, the weight of the earth, art in the Lake District, mountain legends and many more.
The author’s own experiences, whilst at times seemingly more fraught than necessary, help the disparate topics hang together to give an enticing picture of the wealth of Britain’s mountain culture. By describing his adventures Simon Ingram gives life to the factual information, entwining it with the mountains themselves so it enhances them. The mix is well done and the book is very readable. I enjoyed it greatly and will undoubtedly read it again.
The title comes from a poem by Geoffrey Winthrop Young by the way and there are many other literary references from a wide variety of writers – George Borrow, Ursula K Le Guin, Samuel Johnson, Margaret Mead, Daniel Defoe, Robert Louis Stevenson, Edmund Burke amongst them. This is a very erudite book.