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A Monthly Column

Last year I wrote a monthly column for Trail magazine. I enjoyed the experience, and want to share them here, too.


An email:
Hi Alastair,
How are you doing?
Idea a bit out of left field…
I am looking to introduce two columnists to the mag.
Give me a shout if you’d like to discuss?
Hasty best,
Simon Ingram

My thoughts:
I want to spend the summer climbing hills not writing about hills.
I know how badly magazines pay.

My reply:
Sure! I’d love to.

So Simon sent me a bunch of past issues to study. (Pro Tip: whenever you deal with journalists, it is always easy to blag a pile of free mags.) Thumbing copies it dawned on me, with a shock, quite how little I knew about the UK. I was out of my depth! But it was this astonishing depth of adventurous beauty that convinced me. If nothing else, writing this column will keep my To Do list filled for years.
What can I offer in return, I hear the editor asking nervously? A few things, I hope.
First, I have explored a fair amount of the world on expeditions by bike, boat, and boot. I’ve climbed in the Andes, shivered in the Arctic, sweated in the Sahara, vomited in the Atlantic, and spent years sleeping in a tent. I’m a slow learner, I guess, but it took a decade of chasing the furthest horizons for me to learn that my country – our country – is as beautiful, varied, wild, accessible, and compact as you could ever wish for.
Consequently, I have now spent years evangelising about the adventures that lie on our doorstep, encouraging people to look with fresh eyes at our local hills, to squeeze overnight bivvies into the middle of the working week, and to seek new ways of challenging yourself and having fun.
I write this column, not as an expert booming oracles from on high. If you disagree with what I write, please tell me and teach me! I have never even climbed Aonach Eagach, Kinder Scout or Slieve Donard. I write only as an enthusiast who has learned how to make adventures happen. We are all so busy. But I am a massive fan of jumping on the sleeper train or barrelling down the motorway in the middle of the night just to get out of the city and into the mountains in the scraps of spare time we can find. I am good at hatching quirky quests, spontaneous skinny dips, brief bivvy escapes. I will do my best to urge you out the door and into action. To read less, rove more. Buy less, bivvy more. Plan less, do more. I want you to turn your daydreams into action and explore more widely.
Here then is my first challenge to you: make a plan, right now, to go climb a new big hill far from where you live. Some of the world’s most beautiful landscapes are less than a day away from you. You would love to be in those mountains. The only thing that’s stopping you is committing to make it happen. Book a bus ticket or find someone to share the driving. Pack your bivvy bag. And turn a pleasant but unremarkable local weekend into a memorable adventure. You know you won’t regret it. Send me a postcard…
I would love to hear from you about topics that irk or delight, or any suggestions for directions this column might be wise to wander off in.
One last thing: summer is well and truly here at last. Make a mental note to sniff out the wonderful scent of honeysuckle when you are out and about this month.

This piece originally appeared in Trail Magazine.

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