We may be a small island but Britain’s big mountain challenges offer space for summer thrills. Accept adrenaline and all-time highs will abound.

The world feels a little bit divided at the moment, don’t you think? We often look to the great outdoors for release and escape from these everyday stressors. And yet, tensions appear to be building within the outdoor community, too, with debates over gatekeeping, access, wild camping, dog ownership, rewilding and the climate being (unhelpfully) amplified online. Reductively, we might be tempted to divide outdoorgoing folks into two distinct camps: those who seek big mountain challenges and those who seek the solace of nature. In this issue, we embrace the best of both and all in between.

Main image: Crib Goch is a highlight of the 15-peak Welsh 3000s route | Credit: Eilir Davies-Hughes

We explore the finest, big mountain challenges in Britain – from the 3000s in Lakeland and Eryri to the Lyke Wake Walk in Yorkshire by way of the Cuillin Traverse – on which to accept adrenaline and reach your peak. Want to boost your confidence before committing to one? Mountain Leader and sky runner, Keri Wallace shares her tips to move faster and stronger in the mountains. Elsewhere Alex Roddie goes against the grain on Aonach Eagach by scrambling the ridge backwards and Rich Hartfield walks a new, spectacularly steep alpine hut-to-hut route. If adrenaline isn’t on your mountain wish list, Roger Butler writes a love letter to Shropshire’s Stiperstones whilst Jim Perrin paints a portrait of a modest hill on which he learned to climb – somewhat spoilt by the landscape of industry. We also get up to date with the Right to Roam movement’s newly proposed Wild Service and one of the book’s authors, Bryony Ella, who uses drawing to connect with nature.

Highlights of this issue:

  • Adrenaline accepted: Vivienne Crow explore Britain’s biggest mountain challenges
  • Aonach Eagach is Glen Coe’s most infamous ridge – Alex Roddie tackles it the ‘wrong’ way
  • The secrets of the Stiperstones are uncovered by Roger Butler
  • Rich Hartfield joins Switzerland’s new Via Glaralpina Trail and meets the people who built it
  • Want to move faster in mountains? Mountain Leader Keri Wallace explains how
  • Debbie North on why the fight for accessibility doesn’t mean paving over high places
  • Enjoy a walking weekend in Inverness with guidance from James Roddie
  • Our experts map 10 family-friendly walks up Britain’s mini mountains

PLUS: Jim Perrin paints a portrait of Helsby Hill; honest and trusted reviews of the best two-person tents, reliable camping stoves and budget sleeping bags that won’t break the bank; our reviews of new outdoor books to inspire; and artist Bryony Ella on her wild drawing workshops and our nature crisis

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Big mountain challenges - August 2024

Adrenaline accepted: Big mountain challenges offer entertaining routes in some of our most spectacular landscapes. Vivienne Crow is your guide to these epics, from classic Munro rounds to lesser-trodden undertakings

“Britain is home to nine mountains that reach the magical 4000ft mark, and five of these are in the Cairngorms: Cairn Gorm, Ben Macdui, Cairn Toul, Sgòr an Lochain Uaine (Angel’s Peak) and Braeriach. A circuit of these fine tops provides a unique experience; there’s nowhere else in the UK where you can stay as high for as long. There aren’t many places, either, that are this remote, although we’ll come back to the question of the place that is furthest from a surfaced road later…”

mountain challenges - aonach eagach backwards

Against the grain: Alex Roddie tackles Glen Coe’s infamous Aonach Eagach scrambling route west to east; the ‘wrong’ way for some, but a new way for him

“I wonder if outdoors people are all ‘outsiders’ to some degree. We thrive on a sense of freedom and prize our independence. To a greater or lesser extent, we like to go our own way and do our own thing – either on our own or with friends. We all begin somewhere (hopefully at the beginning!) but equally we’re all chasing the Wow factor, at whatever level. And who doesn’t enjoy the novel – an unusual perspective on the familiar view that hasn’t been Instagrammed to death – or savour the thrill of a hidden gem? As I’ve progressed away from the more popular trails as a backpacker, I’ve returned to scrambling as a way to make the old new again, to scratch the itch of discovery. Clambering about on non-technical but impressive rocky ways up mountains is fun, accessible, and feels like real exploration all over again…”

Secrets of the Stiperstones: Roger Butler explores a beautiful and fascinating corner of the Welsh borders, where mining history and Saxon legends mingle with new stories about landscape restoration in aid of the emperor moth

“Dank mist hung over the damp hillside and a line of craggy hawthorns resembled a cluster of wizened old witches. Only the guttural croak of a jet black raven, silhouetted like a character from a gothic novel, broke the silence but two minutes later a pale yellow disc shimmered over the skyline. Strands of weak sunshine now danced over a fiercely jagged tor and, with a cold shiver, I wondered whether the ghostly shadow of Wild Edric might be due to make a special appearance. The spiky landscape of the Stiperstones lends itself to legends. Edric was a Saxon warrior who fought against William the Conqueror, but in spirit he still gallops across his beloved Shropshire hills, riding out whenever England is threatened with invasion. And the exposed quartzite crag known as the Devil’s Chair, left after a giant once spilled his bag of rocks, comes with plenty of tales too. When the cloud is down and the winds blow from the west, it is said the devil takes his seat on what must be a rather uncomfortable throne…”

A path less travelled: Richard Hartfield joins the newly established Via Glaralpina trail around the Glarus Alps in Switzerland, and meets the volunteers who built it

“Tucked away on the northern flank of the Alps, Glarus is much quieter than neighbouring cantons in Switzerland. The steep topography and absence of any 4000-metre peaks seems to have deterred ski resort and road developers, as well as many tourists. But the dramatic terrain in the Glarus Alps (known locally as Glarnerland) is also an asset. A growing population of wolves is a recent indicator that this region still offers a rare sanctuary from civilisation. Can a balance be struck between preserving Glarnerland’s quiet character, whilst encouraging more visitors? This may be what inspired a team of local volunteers to develop The Via Glaralpina: a long-distance hiking trail that traverses the Glarus Alps in a 230km loop round the Glarus Alps in Switzerland, and meets the volunteers who built it…”

Two-person tents: Alex Roddie ventures into the mountains with six of the best two-person tents

“For backpackers used to solo trips, the dynamic is always very different when you head out with someone else. How do you share decision-making responsibilities? And how do you divide up kit? Some duos will take a complete set of their own gear each, while others will share items such as stove and tent – an approach that can yield big weight savings. But there are other benefits for going with the two-person tent option…”

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