Once you begin to look for imaginary peaks, you start to see them everywhere: each furrow of crag and hill has its own local myths; each square of map conceals forgotten phantom heights. Each human mind contains innumerable ranges, sparkling like starlight and like snow.
I was so excited to read this; Katie Ives’ writing is always stunning, and this book had me hooked right from the title. Imaginary Peaks is an intriguing exploration of the fascination held by empty spaces on the map, and of mountains that aren’t represented on maps.
Mountaineering has always felt otherwordly to me, lingering somehow right on the edge between reality and a vivid fantasy. There have been moments in the mountains that I’ve later struggled to explain and I’ve always been frustrated by what feels like a huge inability to re-tell my own experiences, so I felt very comforted (and validated!) by Katie’s discussion of the sheer difficulty of fully capturing our experiences in the mountains, let alone the impossibility of trying to pin down such vivid and complex terrain onto a flat piece of paper.
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.
In nineteen hundred and twenty-three
They swarmed on the rocks from cairn to scree.
If you dodged them there, you met them at tea,
Those parlous Pinnacle ladies!
In nineteen hundred and twenty-four,
We found them leading climbs galore.
We growled, we groused, we even swore!
Presumptuous Pinnacle ladies!
There’s a handful of books by women climbers that I turn to when I’m in need of inspiration or reassurance before heading into the mountains: things like High Infatuation by Steph Davis, and more recently Waymaking. (I’ve also got an incredible women’s alpine history book which I really love, but helpfully can’t remember the title of and my books are all still in boxes after moving house…)
Anyway, this is definitely a title that I’m going to be adding to that collection. The Pinnacle Club is a club for UK women climbers, and I was lucky enough to spend last week on their centenary meet – one hundred women all psyched for some brilliant trad routes around Snowdonia. I was delighted to find a copy of this book in my goody bag, and it made for perfect rest day reading.
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.
Statement is a lovely biography: it’s personal, easy to read, and gives a close and compassionate view of Ben’s character and climbing. Douglas gives us some fascinating insights into other top climbers, and into the relationship between Ben and Jerry Moffatt – it’s interesting to compare the different abilities and mindsets of two climbers both operating right at the top level of the sport, and to see how they inspired and motivated each other.
Tops of the North is a delightful and esoteric romp across the north that never takes you quite where you expect it to.
If climbing is speaking a fluent body language,/ yesterday was all Greek/ to me …
I really loved this book, but it feels impossible to be sure anyone else would enjoy it. It’s certainly unique; I can’t really think of anything else similar to compare it to. Poetry is interspersed with deeply personal memoir, out of order and occasionally out of sense. It’s an eclectic collection and I found myself never quite sure what I might be about to read next.
I first read this a couple of years ago now; I loved it and I still think about it all the time. I really can't recommend it enough, particularly if you're a woman spending a lot of time outdoors and feeling quite alone in it.
Predominantly climbing/outdoors literature, mountaineering history and nature writing.