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Showing posts from January, 2017

Scotland's Iconic Mountains #Schiehallion

'The hill of the Caledonian pixies', if you like, is the classic pyramidal mountain - a stalwart of Scottish Munroists and regal in its isolation amongst the feeder lochs for the Tay and Tummel rivers. In 1774 its isolation was what attracted Nevil Maskelyne and Charles Hutton as they sought a regular and massive part of the earth they could measure, weigh and extrapolate the weight of the Earth. The tale is told entertainingly in Ian Mitchell's Scotland's Mountains before the Mountaineers. (Edinburgh: Luath, 2013). Perhaps of most enduring legacy was Charles Mason's method of slicing the mountain into conceptual layers to calculate weight, which led to the idea of contours as a useful topographical tool.

The site of the experiment was in the glen in the photo above. I recall reading the research bothy burnt down, or was immolated no doubt in celebration of leaving the midge and rain for the comforts of the city Society scene. The grouse and hares still patrol the…

Boulder Scotland - 3rd edition now published

The new third edition of Boulder Scotland has now been released! It's 320 pages of full colour adventure! If you want to get hold of a copy, it retails at £19.99 and can be ordered through the following suppliers:

Amazon >>> 

Cordee >>>


The making of this guidebook took a lot longer than expected, rightly interrupted by dozens of new venues, plus the interim issue of the new edition to Essential Fontainebleau!  For this edition, published a criminal nine years after the second edition, it was greatly aided by some local experts and I'd like to thank the advisory editors, your gratis copies will be on their way shortly.

This guidebook simply wouldn’t exist without the community spirit of all the boulderers who have added their contribution to this third edition of a Scottish bouldering gazetteer (the first was in 2005). This vastly expanded but still immature bouldering landscape is one of the world’s finest collection of geologies and will not run dry any day s…

Lifescapes #2 - Sound and Landscape

Sound mirrors at Denge, Dungeness
I have perched on icy ledges in a winter storm, listening to the main-sail buffeting of a wind against a large rock buttress. It creates deep booming sounds on impact and surreal whistles and songs as it howls through fingered gaps in the shattered rock rims of corries. There is a high lonely corrie to the east of the summit of Ben Dorainn called Coire Chrutein ('Hollow of the Harps') with a rocky wall called Feadan Garbh ('rough chanter') which perfectly captures the suggested soundscape of a mountain in a storm, and this aural presence to a place often needs extreme weather for us to be conscious of it, yet it is always a present and often subtle informant of place and feeling. Of course, we are all familiar with more gentle sounds of summer such as rills and burns tinkling over rock-steps, or larks improvising their jazzy song in deep blue skies, but it belies the rules that when 'looking' at landscape we take for granted t…

Lifescapes #1

As counterpoint to a new series of books coming from Stone Country Press, I thought I'd introduce a few more elements of landscape theory and philosophy on this blog. The new series - Lifescapes - will reflect the mix of outdoor activity and philosophy as a means of expressing contemporary thoughts on various ways of 'being' in the outdoors. 
After the mechanisation of farming, the technological monoculture of living off the land has left very few of us living close to the natural world. We mostly hunker in urban centres briefly catching the play of light and nature through city windows. I write this at a tenement window, where occasionally a sparrowhawk throws panic amongst the local finches and pigeons, but it's all very fleeting. Still, the urge to be part of a bigger natural world, even within the city, exists in many pursuits and interests. 
From my own perspective, this found active representation (or non-representation, as it might now be perceived), in climbin…