With 2024 upon us, this issue is all about finding mountain motivation for the year ahead. When the winters seem long and the promise of the white stuff doesn’t always deliver, we hope it serves as a source of inspiration. You might find this from one of the eight adventurous souls who share their profoundly personal mountain challenges – both physical and of the mind – in our lead feature, ‘Mountain Motivation’. These tales of obstacles overcome and goals achieved demonstrate how many ways in which the mountains can provide almost exactly what you might need as you look towards a new year of adventure.
Main image: Carey Davies overlooking a perfect sunset on A’Mhaighdean | Credit: James Roddie
You’ll permit us a moment, too, to look back on the past few years as we say a fond farewell to Carey Davies. After five years as our editor, this is to be Carey’s last issue at the helm of The Great Outdoors. We thank him for is creativity, hard work, humour, and ceaseless passion for high places as we wish him the best for his next adventure.
Other highlights of this issue:
- Sarah Jane Douglas tackles a classic Highlands horseshoe in the depths of winter
- Hollie Harmsworth pens a photo essay dedicated to the high places of her Eryri home
- The Two-Wheeled Nomads explore lesser-trodden high-altitude mountains of Nepal
- Our gear experts bring you their reviews of the hardiest Kit That Won’t Quit
- Stay hill fit through winter both in the mind and body with advice from Alex Roddie
- Jim Perrin paints a portrait of Lord’s Seat in the Peak District
- 10 of the best pub walks in Britain – mapped by our experts
PLUS: Mary-Ann Ochota explains why Bambi is not to blame for the spike in deer numbers; Chris Townsend’s latest outdoor book review; and connect your body to nature with Dr Jade Adams-White, founder of The Jadeite Project.
Read on and find your mountain motivation
Mountain Motivation: Eight adventurous souls recall their highest highs from the past few years and reveal what keeps them motivated when the going gets tough – both out there in the mountains and in the mind.
“The wind roared, and it was a battle to stay upright, as Abbie plodded through unseasonal snow in crampons along the Bosses Ridge. Evidence of an avalanche just days before lay below. Abbie confesses they felt alternately energised and hurried by the focus on speed and stats that climbing the famous mountain involves. They continued to 4554m in a bubble of survival, counting to 100 on repeat. Spitting distance from the summit, their guide turned to assess the gusts and noticed Abbie’s nose had developed frostnip. It was time to turn back, but in retrospect, Abbie refuses to see this as a failure. This was as high as the mountain let them go safely – their personal summit.”
New dawn on Morvern: Sarah Jane Douglas tackles a classic horseshoe round in the depths of a Scottish winter, after receiving family news that rocks her world.
“Recurrent thoughts churned in my head as I drove back to the ferry terminal at Fishnish. I’d had a night of fitful winds on top of Dun da Ghaoithe on Mull. During a brief lull I’d left the shelter of my tent and ventured over to the trig point. Pinpricks of light shone from houses and cars far below, and I enjoyed a feeling of being distantly connected to life down there. Suddenly an incredibly bright, waning gibbous moon rose behind a dark mountain shape across the water. I stood transfixed as the orange glow grew and came more sharply into focus. I was feeling all chilled out (quite literally – it was freezing) until I received a message from my son, letting me know he was in hospital with his pregnant girlfriend…”
Seeking the Light: North Wales born and bred, Hollie Harmsworth moved from the Conwy coast to be closer to the forests and mountains. She finds her connections through film making and photography – connections with herself, the place she lives and with others who are drawn to the rugged open space and cold waters of Eryri.
“In the winter the mountains can be unforgiving places to be, but when conditions are right, they can also treat you to the most magnificent displays of light and colour. I think about times I’ve been sat high up on the peaks watching incredible sunsets illuminating the skies with pastel shades of pinks and purples. Emerging from a frost covered tent to find myself stood above the clouds, caught in a moment where it feels like it’s just me and the mountains, gleefully filling up my cup. There are also times when I’ve been wrapped head-to-toe in waterproofs, getting battered by the wind, with zero visibility. But there is still value in those days…”
The Last Forbidden Kingdom: Upper Mustang was once cut off from the rest of the world and is still restricted to this day. Lisa Morris explores the lesser trodden, high altitude mountain deserts of Nepal and it’s fascinating Tibetan Buddhist culture.
“Admittedly, it’s not cheap to visit this region of Nepal. Due to tensions between China and the US (whose CIA trained guerillas in the region after the Chinese invasion of Tibet), it is a demilitarized area, with access still restricted. Yet this is relative isolation is precisely what makes Upper Mustang so fascinating and rewarding. Lomanthang feels like a land that time forgot, or perhaps even like travelling to another planet altogether. The scale of the region, and of the cultural differences to the west, are simply overwhelming. Our visit was breathtaking in every way – and not just the altitude! There’s a physical cost too, in trekking all that ‘Nepali flat’, but if you choose to visit, the rewards will come at you tenfold. They did for us…”
Kit that won’t Quit: Equipment editor Chris Townsend (and friends!) showcase favourites from many decades of testing and reviewing for The Great Outdoors, with a focus on usability and durability.
“If ‘sustainability’ is to be more than a buzzword, it’s important to think not just about greener materials and production methods, but equally about function and longevity. It’s no use replacing a pair of boots that work well with another pair that seem less environmentally impactful but leak sooner, or don’t grip on wet ground as well as the old pair. And there’s little point swapping out a jacket with a new, greener waterproof treatment if our old jacket still has some life in it. That’s the opposite of sustainable! The best outdoor kit is the stuff that lasts – products that are made to be durable, and that are made to be used. The very best are things we grow fond of because they enable our adventures over many years. For Kit That Won’t Quit, we had had a lot of fun pulling together some old favourites alongside some new classics…”
Beat the winter blues: Time in the mountains won’t cure any ailment, but it can do a lot. Here Alex Roddie shares some of his tips for staying healthy and happy – especially over the winter months.
“Some of the greatest experiences of my life have been when alone on a mountain. But I know what I’m like. As an introvert, my natural inclination is to head out alone on every trip, and – for me at least – that isn’t a recipe for happiness. Like many people, the pandemic forced me to confront what I really wanted out of life. When things started opening up again I made a conscious decision to plan more social adventures. 2022 and 2023 have included countless trips with friends and family – without sacrificing the alone time I find so vital. It’s all about understanding the balance that works for you. Mountain friendships can be the most precious and intense of our lives. We share more openly and honestly, we are better versions of ourselves, and we see our friends at their best too. Making time for other people in your mountain adventures will improve your life – I promise.”
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