Friday 17 April 2020

Book review: Life on the Mountains by Terry Abraham

Terry Abraham's films on Scafell Pike and Blencathra are much loved and highly successful and the third in his Lakeland trilogy, Helvellyn, is eagerly anticipated. Before that film appears this book about Terry and his life will be published. It's a magnificent coffee table book, packed with Terry's dramatic and beautiful photography. Life on the Mountains is due to come out on May 9. Signed copies can be ordered in advance here.

I first met Terry Abraham over seven years ago when he approached me about making The Cairngorms In Winter DVD (which makes a cameo appearance in the book). We've been good friends ever since and I knew many of the stories in this book. Quite a few were new to me however and further increased my admiration for him and the struggles he's had to achieve his goals.

The book is an autobiography, told by Terry to John Manning, who wrote the text. I don't know how much editing was done but John did it well, Terry's voice coming through loud and clear. Reading it I felt I was in a pub listening to Terry talking. This really is his story, and it's a powerful story too, emotionally wrenching, passionate, and devastatingly honest.

Despite setbacks including illness and injury Terry never loses sight of his dream. Once he has found his desire, to make the films, he doesn't let up. Reaching this point is difficult too, with career changes, tragedies and redundancy along the way. In the mountains Terry overcomes appalling conditions - there are some exciting and dramatic adventures - as he puts together his vision for the films. Many nights are spent camping high in the hills in all weathers to get the shots he wants. He tells how his approach developed from film to film as his experience grew, and how he selected the people, including myself, who appear in the films. He gives sympathetic portraits of  many of them, with a little gentle fun poked at some of us.

Terry's story is fascinating and inspiring. This lovely book with its superb photographs does it justice. I'm biased of course but this really is an excellent book that should appeal to everyone who loves Terry's films and everyone who loves the Lake District.


  1. Hi Chris, I hope you're keeping safe and well. Your review, and those of others, piqued my interest in Terry's book and I look forward to the arrival of my copy. Terry sent me a copy of your Cairngorms film for consideration and it was influential in our decision to buy a wee place in Aviemore where we spend as much time as possible. Can't wait to be allowed back up there.
    A small 'thank you' is on its way.

  2. Thank you Ian. I hope you can get back to Aviemore soon. I hope you enjoy Terry's book. I'm keeping safe and well thanks. I hope you are too. This is the longest I haven't been to the high Cairngorms, except when away on long walks, since I moved here thirty years ago. I haven't even been to Aviemore.

  3. Many thanks for this review, Chris, and for the kind comments within – I had somehow missed it until today!