Monday, 30 December 2013

Best Reads of 2013

My reading diet this year was both broader in subject and more selective in quality than normal. Trekking and the Outdoors featured heavily, complementing the subject of my other day job (leadership consulting and executive coaching), and several classic works of fiction.

Trekking and the Outdoors

Monday, 16 December 2013

Thank you for helping "The Call of the Mountains" on its way

Thanks to distinguished reviewers and generous purchasers of  "The Call of the Mountains", helping it climb, at least on Amazon... 

"An interesting and worthwhile addition to the literature of the Munros and a book worth reading by anyone with an interest in the hills and hillwalking..." 
Chris Townsend, one of the world’s most experienced backpackers and outdoor writers November 2013 

Sunday, 15 December 2013

A Munro-baggers holiday: The Seven Hills of Rome

“See Rome and die!”

While Goethe's words were actually “see Naples and die,” Rome is undoubtedly the more beautiful city. Thus the chief threat to compleating a full round of her Seven Hills is the range of tempting photographic diversions and exquisite sights that the Imperial City offers.

View from the Aventine Hill


Onto last week’s business trip, I decided to tag a ‘continuous, unsupported, solo round’ of the hills, and started with the historical and topographic research that enhances any adventure. Several things readily become apparent:

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Munroists, Toppists, Furthists and more

[Charts corrected 13 December]
Having compleated the Munros last year and the Furth Munros last week, I was curious to know what company I was in. I turned to the SMC website and fired up my Excel spreadsheets. But I am a data fiend, so I quickly got drawn deeply into the world of Munroists, Toppists, Furthists and more.
Below I offer answers to such exciting questions as: how many people have climbed all the Furths? How many have climbed all the Furths and all the Corbetts? What is the typical gap in years between compleating the Munros and the Furths? Has anyone bagged all the SMC lists?
Of course there is the usual caveat that not everyone who compleats these lists necessarily logs the information with the SMC… And I also had to remove two Munroists before starting the analysis: #284 (the Unknown Munroist) and #666 with its blank data!

Overall popularity

Munros compleations grew rapidly during and after the 1980s and appear to have settled at around 250 per year Рwith 2001 and 2010 as notable dips, perhaps due to the impact of 9/11 and certainly due to the impact of the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Ireland's Munros - an outline for Furth-baggers

Ireland boasts 13 delectable Furth Munros - a Furth being a mountain outside, or ‘furth’ Scotland but high enough to have been a proper Munro were it lucky enough to reside within Scotland. See Dave Hewitt’s account of the history of this term here; broad discussion here.

Based on my visit earlier this week, this post aims to help the Furth-bagger with the summary logistics, a taste of the routes, and pointers to detailed route descriptions as they are not included here.

My favourite Irish Furths are Brandon Mountain with its commanding views over the sinuous and convoluted coastline of Dingle; and the 10 summits spiking along the sometimes knife-edged ridgeline of Macgillycuddy’s Reeks (a ridge that invites you to risk traversing its full length in one go despite the fact that the preferred 10 hours of visibility does not fit into the 8 hours of sun up in early winter).

The Faha Ridge en route to Brandon Mountain:

How the British Isles were created

This animation shows how the British Isles were created from the collision of two entirely separate tectonic plates, and how Scotland itself was assembled from a jigsaw of many pieces.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Sunday, 29 September 2013

The Call of the Wild

When the rain pelts the flysheet, what better than to slot in the ear-plugs and listen to a book by the likes of adventurer, gambler, and raconteur Jack London. 

Friday, 27 September 2013

Pilgrimage to the Delectable Mountains

Flicking through The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan the other day, I was reminded of how he introduces us to the Delectable Mountains. These are havens of rest for pilgrims en route to the Celestial City. From House Beautiful, the pilgrims are shown “a most pleasant Mountainous Country, beautified with Woods, Vineyards, Fruits of all sorts; Flowers also, with Springs and Fountains, very delectable to behold."

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Above the Aletsch Glacier

This summer, I hiked with a friend across Switzerland via the Alpine Pass Route. A later posting will talk about that. But we added on a day at the end, which I recommend highly: a trip up above the Aletsch Glacier.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Back online ...

Too much walking and kayaking, and not enough blogging! It's been quite a year so far: Patagonia in March, the Cape Wrath Trail in May, Corsica's GR20 in June, and preparations for Switzerland's Alpine Pass Route in August.
I'll provide a post on each of these shortly, but one of the memorable experiences has been dipping my toe in the water: kayaking off Scotland's West Coast with /adventures.php?tripID=141 ... A great way to see the Cuillin from a new angle.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Top 14 B & Bs for Munro-bagging

I can personally recommend each of these establishments; all have offered a very warm welcome.

And Ian and Debbie at Ewich House near Crianlarich even baked us a surprise cake to celebrate a final Munro...

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The Way of the Sherpa

I was recently reminded of how we can walk more enjoyably and more efficiently, by learning a few simple lessons from the Himalayan porters.
It turns out that a Himalayan porter can travel uphill 60% faster than a Caucasian mountaineer. Half of this better performance comes from the fact that the body of the Himalayan porter has a more efficient metabolism. BUT, the other half of the difference is that the porter moves more efficiently.
Research shows that they keep their centres of gravity moving in a smooth line: not bobbing up and down, not surging forward and backwards, not wobbling from side to side. In other words they glide uphill.
I tried this simple glide technique for a full day along the North Glen Shiel Ridge and it worked a treat!
Himalayan porter's specialization: metabolic power, economy, efficiency and skill; Alberto E Minetti et al; Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 2006

Sunday, 10 February 2013


In unusual lighting, this is the view as you descend Beinn a' Chreachan just north of Tyndrum. The plains offer an obvious route for the drove road that brought cattle down from the North through Tyndrum to the trysts further South. See Haldane's excellent book "The Drove Roads of Scotland", and my recent YouTube upload of the view above a parallel route from the Cairngorms.

Sunday, 27 January 2013


One of the many wonderous views of Scotland's mountains: Loch Hourn from the top of Ladhar Bheinn in remote and hilly Knoydart.
Over the coming months I'll be posting more photos, stories and sketches together with factoids of interest to walkers.