Hamish’s Mountain Walk

I’m still working my way through some old books, and just finished is the recent reprint of Hamish Brown’s Hamish’s Mountain Walk from Sandstone Press. It’s the story of the first continual round of the Munro’s, back in ’74.

First is good, it doesn’t matter how fast or fancy someone does it after that, they’re a day late and a dollar short. It took Hamish a couple of hundred pages to properly admit that real desire to be first, and I really warmed to him after that, it was both a revelation from the writer and a break from the Scottish tradition of belittling success and decrying ambition.
I’d put the book down for a couple of weeks after struggling with it a little after being sucked right in at the start. I think I felt the constant religious references loom larger than they actually were and that started to grate, a personal issue for me and exacerbated by my mood at the time no doubt. But I flew through the last half when I picked it back up, and was sorry when I turned the last page.
It’s written in a personal style, only the briefest descriptions of the terrain, but just enough to place you with him if you know where he is or tickle your interest if the slopes are unvisited. maybe the best kind of guide book then? “This place is wonderful, come and find your own way to it”.
Hamish’s love of the country is deep and well expressed, and there’s enough little bits of history and random facts in there to add an extra dimension without feeling incongruous. The passage of time from then to now is an enjoyable aspect, the food and equipment, to the changing attitudes to access, and the no-no’s of today, like burning bog-wood.
I know folk will say what he did was an enormous achievement because of the scale, the physical endurance, but I see it differently, lots of folk work hard very day. The possibilities of what people can do are endless, we are a wonderful species who squander our potential, what Hamish did was actually make the decison to do it and see it through: plan; arrange; go; succeed. That’s what has my respect, and even if he’d failed it would have been a win for me.

It’s a wonderful story, the style and the man himself are as you find them, but as proof that Scotland is awfy big for such a wee country, look no further.

7 thoughts on “Hamish’s Mountain Walk”

  1. It is a wonderful read and he tells us so much about the hills and glens. Also about him. His identity and affinity with Africa and his faith. All in all the best Munro round read. His kit selection is a good read as well. As I have said before no sleeping pad. Well hard. Also single skin tent. What would Trail say to that?

    PTC have you read Hugh Symonds Running High?. First running round and next to Hamish book the best round read going.

  2. “no sleeping pad. Also single skin tent” Done both wouldn’t recommend either, too soft these days :o)

    The book does tell you something about the authors life at the time, and consequently about the reader I think.
    Four months away from home isn’t something I would do, four days is on the limit, I want to be reading Holly bedtime stories.
    I think the desire to do it, the personal capability and circumstances, and maybe that streak of single-minded selfishness that fuels so much success have to be place at the same time get get those elusive firsts.
    Whatever, I’m glad. And, I’ll look forward ro a re-read in a wee while.

    I’ll have a look at Hugh Symonds book Martin. My unread pile is getting smaller now, but it’s Hostile Habitats next.

  3. I was bought HMW as a birthday present in the late 70s and it really fired me up to explore more widely than the Peaks, Dales and Lakes that I was then visiting with my folks. I do keep coming back to it map in hand for ideas and to remind me of trips past. As you say sometimes the style takes a few pages to get back in to, but I do like the fact that at no point does he really sit on the fence.

    I’d second Martin’s comments on the kit chapter – a constant source of inspiration or horror depending on your mood…

  4. I read it a few years ago, and I’ll read it again sometime, probably after I’ve finished the Munros (sometime in 2035 based on the current leisurely rate of collecting the final few).

    Agree that the ‘big trip’ is the domain of the single man or the selfish man (or both). I managed a month a few years ago, but that was before the twins came along (I now don’t like being away for more than a night if I can help it).

    I have always been facinated by the tent with the tray floor and the condensation running into the ground. Not great for midges, I thought, at the time – could probably do with some strategically places mesh.

    Something like this then?:


  5. Aye, even if you don’t agree, points of view held for a treason rather than habit are always a joy to read.
    I wonder how much time and events have changed his thinking?

    That is a nice looking tent that Moment, it would great right now in fact, I really wished I’d been camping last night.
    I’ll never finish the Munro’s, I do too many repeats and too many trips takling two days to climb single summits!

  6. Yesterday – uncharacteristically and quite by mistake – I stumbled into that part of the blogesphere which gets itself all euphoric about TGO challenge and all that sail in her (another of Hamish Brown’s legacies).

    Before I could execute an ICT J turn and get myself the hell out of there, I did learn that the chap who makes the ‘moment’ was on this year’s Challenge with a modified Moment (featuring an additional roof panel liner designed to increase warmth and discourage consensational drippage), and that this ‘dreich-resistant’ version will be going into production.

    I might have to get myself one of those babies.

    PS – I always thought it would be much more fun to finish the Corbetts and not bother to complete the Munros

  7. Tent update sounds interesting. I’ll attempt to keep informed!

    By doing the Corbetts instead, you’ll more often get the hills to yourself as well as better views of the Munros.

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