There is a line made by climbing and a line made by falling. There is the flawed line of my body. The parallel lines two bodies make. The line of someone walking into the distance. Someone else moving close. The line of want, the line of touch, of merging. Then there is the line of the pregnancy test, blue as the rope I climb with, slim and unforgettable.
Is March too early to decide on my outdoorsy book of the year for 2022? Quite probably, but with A Line Above the Sky, Helen Mort has set the bar so incredibly high that I’m pretty tempted to make the call already. It’s one of those very rare books that makes me want to write a gushing email to the author thanking them for putting this out into the world.
Part of my soul thought that any diminution of the wildness here was a shame – that a path would forever tame the raw experience of questing through this landscape. But part of me knew that it was inevitable. No route is pathless forever – and yet perhaps in other aeons there had been paths here before, paths obliterated by the glaciers and softened by the peat. On a long enough timescale all paths are reclaimed by nature. That thought comforted me.
I really enjoyed this a lot. The Farthest Shore is the story of Alex Roddie's trek up the Cape Wrath trail in the middle of winter. In the solitude ensured on the trail, Alex also hopes to escape some of the sources of his anxiety, and hopes the break from social media will help him find clarity and calmness.
This landscape is not static. It is in a constant state of change. Imperceptible differences accumulate over hundreds and thousands of years. Our own fleeting time on the planet allows us but a brief glimpse of this relentless process which will, ultimately, turn the hill back into the dust it was fashioned with.
I’ve followed Iain Cameron on Twitter for a while now and always really enjoy his updates on Scotland’s remaining snow patches, so I was excited to hear he had a book coming out. In The Vanishing Ice, Iain explores the history of UK snow patches, recounts some days he’s spent trying to find his way to these remote and inaccessible places, and discusses the significance of the recent summers where every snow patch has melted.
This book is about places like that. Places that transport. Portals.
I am […] trespassing in another world, a world that does not belong to me. It is the same realisation I had seeing the miniature reefs of ice high on the Cairngorm plateau: there are things happening here that have nothing to do with people.
Outlandish is a book about misplaced landscapes, parts of the world found in the wrong part of the world. I was hooked the moment I read the blurb – I’m always fascinated by writing that manages to make the familiar strange, capturing new and uncanny strands in places we thought we already knew. Outlandish does this so very well, wandering between Scotland, Poland, Spain and Hungary in search of environments that feel out of place: Arctic tundra in Scotland, primeval forest in Poland, desert in Spain and grassland steppes in Hungary. The places seem to exist as a glimpse of the past, deep time lingering into the present, echoing with a warning for the future.
The lure of the magical is hard to resist.
I really, really loved Wanderland. It’s gentle, honest and full of hope - just a joy to read. Jini Reddy gives an open and authentic account of her journey to find connection with the land, exploring new and hidden places around the UK. It feels like a really special book in its warmth and authenticity, and I’ve found it pretty tricky to write a review that captures any part of this; I would really just recommend reading it yourself if it sounds even remotely like the sort of book you’d enjoy.
A rare bright side of the endless lockdowns is that I read more in 2020 than I have for a few years. I started off the year with a firm resolution to work through my bookshelves and read all the ones I owned but had never actually opened. This started off well for the first couple of months, but when the first lockdown hit I changed plan, needing to read anything that was completely absorbing. Spring was filled with a rather indiscriminate selection of recent titles grabbed from the library in a panic the day before it shut. Over the second half of the year, I spent most of my time reading fantastical literature, veering between myth retellings and magical realism. I also read many short stories this year; some days I didn’t feel I had the energy or attention span to tackle a novel, and short stories slotted in here perfectly. I didn’t keep a list of these though – maybe something to change for next year.
Predominantly climbing/outdoors literature, mountaineering history and nature writing.