The Press and Creatives at Fort William Mountain Festival 2024

The 2024 Fort William Mountain Festival will be held from the 16–18 February 2024, and we’re absolutely delighted to be part of their 20th anniversary. We’ve got a wide range of events running this year and two Creatives workshops – this article will tell you where you need to be, and when, to get the most out of these exciting offerings. Outside of the events we’ll be loitering in the foyer alongside the Highland Bookshop and with work from our series of flashcomps and Mèinn which are underway as you read this. We’d love to see you there so drop by and say hello.


Northern Horizons

Friday 16 February @ 4:00pm

Will Herman, the author, running in the hills

‘Dark, wet rock hung above the path, no more than a narrow shelf clinging to steep walls before sliding into oblivion. The mist shifted, hinting at the plunging fall to the corrie far below, and I moved with measured care. One step to pass the arête: a perfect moment of weightless movement as the mountains held their breath. And then on and up, into thinning cloud to find the ridge above.’

Northern Horizons is the story of a runner’s lifelong love affair with Scotland’s mountains. It is also a guidebook, and as such, it’s an invitation to join a growing community that finds both solace and thrill in moving fleet-footed through the hills. Author Will Herman has spent the best part of a lifetime visualising, plotting, exploring, and piecing together some of the finest journeys through our mountain ranges, across high plateaux and bladed ridges, sweeping slabs and towering pinnacles―and everything in between. The result is a collection of deeply personal and evocative accounts brought to life by sublime mountain imagery he has gathered along the way.

The event will welcome Will in conversation with editor Deziree Wilson to talk about how he first conceived of writing Northern Horizons, and the highs and lows of recceing the routes and crafting unique stories around them.

Find out more and book

The Cairngorms: A Celebration of the Understated

Friday 16 February @ 5:30pm

The Cairngorms

‘From McConnochie and Shepherd, to Watson and the present day, the Cairngorms have attracted devotees in a way that no other Scottish hills do. After many years spent enjoying this range, I began to ask myself why. Writing a guidebook gave me time to explore this question and, along with my co-authors, the opportunity to share some of those insights with others.’

In this illustrated talk, Iain Young will propose that, paradoxically, it is the flat nature of this sub-arctic landscape, and not its steepness, that provides the attraction. Attempts to find a mountainous character here are too often overplayed; instead, we should celebrate and enjoy the long distances and stories, the details along the way, and the unique ecology as we journey under the big skies of the Cairngorm plateaux.

Find out more and book

Creatives Workshop: Drawing the Mountains with Jack Spowart

Saturday 17 February 2024 8:00am – 12:00pm

Jack drawing

Join Scottish Highlands based mountain artist Jack Spowart on a morning hike and learn the fundamentals of landscape drawing.

On route to our vantage point and the main stop of the workshop, Jack will explain how he approaches a new piece of artwork, the tools he uses, how to spot a strong composition and how he managed to turn a fun hobby into a full time career as a freelance illustrator and artist.

Upon reaching the drawing location, you will explore how to pick out strong compositions in the environment, quickly create thumbnail sketches, build detail in pencil before confidently approaching fine-line pen work. You will create detail, depth and interest using a range of mark making techniques including stippling, bordering, cross hatching and line work.

As it will be winter and temperatures will be low, we won’t be able to complete a full drawing, however, Jack will be running a competition after the workshop. You will have the chance to win any signed and framed print from Jack’s collection – all you have to do is finish your drawing using your new found knowledge and send it in to Jack – he will then post your drawings on his socials and his audience will determine the winner of the competition.

All materials will be provided, but please wrap up warm with appropriate clothing and footware for whatever conditions the day may bring. If we have to spend some of it indoors due to the weather, you will be contacted with further information. We’ll also be in touch closer to the time to provide a recommended personal kit list and detailed joining instructions. 

Places on this workshop are limited to 12.

Find out more and book

Creatives Workshop: Writing the Mountains with Anna Fleming

Saturday 17 February 10:00am – 12:30pm

Join author, climber and Mountain Leader Anna Fleming for a creative writing walk in Glen Nevis.

Taking inspiration from the landscape around us, she will lead the group through a series of writing exercises that engage your senses with the natural environment, getting your pen flowing while your imagination runs wild among the magnificent Scottish mountains.

All materials will be provided, but please wrap up warm with appropriate clothing and footware for whatever conditions the day may bring. If we have to spend some of it indoors due to the weather, you will be contacted with further information. We’ll also be in touch closer to the time to provide a recommended personal kit list and detailed joining instructions.

Places on this workshop are limited to 12.

Find out more and book

Harold Raeburn: The Steps of a Giant

Saturday 17 February @ 2:30pm

‘Physically and mentally hard as nails … certain, unyielding and concise in every movement, both mental and physical.’ 

Widely considered one of Scotland’s greatest-ever mountaineers, Harold Raeburn has left a legacy of top-notch routes scattered across the Highlands. Raeburn’s Route and Crowberry Gully in Glencoe remain prized winter lines, almost a century after his sad death, and his breathtaking ascent of Green Gully, cutting steps up near-vertical ice with a single ice axe, was almost certainly the hardest ice climb in the world at the time and not superseded in difficulty in Scotland for nearly 30 years. But perhaps his finest achievement was the first winter ascent of one of the longest and most serious winter climbs on Ben Nevis, Observatory Ridge, in 1920. These routes, amongst so many others, were years ahead of their time, while beyond Scotland, he pioneered climbs in the Alps, Norway and the Caucasus, attempted Kangchenjunga and was mountaineering leader on the 1921 British Mount Everest reconnaissance expedition.

Despite this, little has been written about Harold Raeburn, until now. Author Peter Biggar’s The Steps of a Giant is a fascinating portrait of a true luminary, chronicling Raeburn’s outstanding mountaineering record while digging beneath his modest determination to conceal his personality from public view.

The event, hosted by the Scottish Mountaineering Press and compered by editor Deziree Wilson, will welcome Peter in conversation to talk about his experience of researching and writing the book and his own insights into Raeburn’s character. 

Find out more and book

Writing the Mountains: Living Rock to Melting Ice

Saturday 17 February @ 5:30pm

Ben Starav writing the mountains image

From Time on Rock to the next literary quest, join author Anna Fleming for a discussion on creative process, climbing, writing and the mountains. She illuminates the work and inspirations behind Time on Rock, including music, dance, art and archival research. Anna also gives an exclusive insight into her next project, which travels from Scotland to Switzerland and further afield, exploring the changes that mountain people, cultures and ecologies are going through in our rapidly warming climate.

Find out more and book

Creatives & Mèinn: a confluence of culture, landscape and creativity

Saturday 17 February @ 7:00pm

Mèinn project banner

In this two-part session the Scottish Mountaineering Press, its Creators and friends will explore the importance of creative response and language to help us find our place in Scotland’s landscape.

Part 1: Creatives

Since 2022 the Press’s Creatives platform has published 36 original works of fiction, poetry, nonfiction and visual art with a breadth of subject matter that one could never have imagined. The multiform creative responses and considered nature of the work speaks to how we experience Scotland and how it inspires us; at once thought-provoking and essential. With each piece of work we gain insight or feel more interconnected with the landscapes that we love.

Join Creatives editor Alex Marceau and three of our published Creators in conversation to discover more about their craft, how Scotland inspires their work and how creativity can form an essential part of our relationship with the outdoors. 

Part 2: Mèinn (ore, vein, seam | desire, inclination, native energy)

Thigibh nur cuideachd. Bidh fàilte romhaibh. | This event will be in Gaelic and English. All are welcome.

Gaelic, so often the language of the landscape in Scotland, has many intimate stories of place and a vast lexicon by which the landscape is known and named; the appreciation of Gaelic offers the poet, artist and thinker many gifts.

Raghnaid Sandilands is a creative ethnologist, Gaelic translator, map maker and small press publisher based in Strathnairn, on the south side of Loch Ness and editor of the Press’s project to publish new Gaelic writing. The brief for Mèinn sought writing and art inspired by the land and the cultural appreciation of it. This presentation and discussion will consider this generous vein, which is to be worked with care, and profiles some of the published pieces with the creators.

Find out more and book


Many thanks to The Highland Bookshop, Wild Roots Guiding, the Gaelic Arts Fund, the Gaelic Books Council and Wildland, who are supporting the events and workshops that will feature in the festival.