If I told you a romanticised story about how the outdoors have always been part of my life, I’d be lying—I had a very normal upbringing in a flat part of the country. After a while, the cycle of work and nights out in a Midlands market town developed into a desire to break free, and I looked north. Conveniently, a brother was studying in Edinburgh, and with the offer of new digs, my love affair with the Scottish mountains began. My somewhat addictive personality now had more constructive goals, and I had a partner in crime to help me achieve them.
There is still so much to learn about Scotland and its wild spaces, and we’ve all seen stories of how we’re impacting the places we love.
Within a month of moving, I’d already called in sick to take advantage of a weather window in the Skye Cuillin. What followed was a baptism of fire. Lugging a heavy sack over some of the most adventurous terrain in Scotland over two long, tiring days, with relatively little experience, I knew instantly that I’d be spending much more time in the hills.
Misspent weekends were replaced with wild mountain corries and plateaus, deep glens and exposed peaks, and the cliffs of Scotland’s infinite coastline. Impromptu days off found me hanging from icy cliffs with axes and crampons, marvelling at the contrast to my usual days spent behind a desk. I immersed myself in the climbing community, and after another five years, through a combination of planning and good luck, I extracted myself from the corporate world to begin work as a publisher for the Scottish Mountaineering Press.
Recent years have taught me a lot about what I love about the Scottish outdoors. With less time available to head out, I’ve focused on really appreciating the places I visit and getting the most out of every trip. Two trips into Clò Mòr last year rekindled the magic I felt when I first got into climbing—perched below the cliff top on the Cape Wrath headland as the sky teemed with seabirds, I looked up at acres of unclimbed rock above me. The roar of the North Atlantic swell as it crashed between the pinnacles of Stac Clò Keavaig and the pervasive aroma of guano completed the sensory experience. The second of these trips brought conditions unlike any I’ve ever experienced in Scotland—a sea of cloud replacing the ocean and the Cape Wrath lighthouse just visible as the sun set behind it. On another short getaway at the beginning of May this year, I found myself searching for dry rock between showers on the northwest coast. This trip was about the company—sharing a rope with a good friend of old and spending time with a new friend I met on a project here at the Scottish Mountaineering Press. For me, this is what it’s all about.
As a company, the last two years have been relatively kind to us. While the first couple of months of lockdown had a big impact, as soon as the warehouse was up and running, things picked up again. With all this time on our hands, we appear to have turned to books, and being unable to go abroad means our Scottish Mountaineering Club guidebooks are perfectly placed to help you continue to enjoy the outdoors. We’re now picking up the pace on a whole series of brand new-look guidebooks, and the future bookshelf for SMC publications is looking very exciting indeed. We’ve also got a much wider range of non-guidebook publications in the pipeline, to be published under the SMP imprint. The Fox of Glencoe, by Hamish MacInnes, is leading the charge in this respect.
There is still so much to learn about Scotland and its wild spaces, and we’ve all seen stories of how we’re impacting the places we love. I’m a strong believer that a greater appreciation and understanding of the landscape will lead to more respect and care for this incredibly fragile environment, so that future generations can enjoy it in the same way that we do today. Everyone has a part to play, and we’ve developed a set of values that reflect the importance of the environment we promote, the communities who inhabit them, and those who visit. We’ll be talking more about this over the coming months.
So, lots happening. While we might not have the fastest output, we’ve got a first-class team of passionate enthusiasts writing and producing our books, and they’ll be well worth the wait.