by Kevin Howett
This year’s competition attracted a greater number of entries than in the past, an encouraging sign. The quality of writing was also generally higher and in both the prose and poetry categories, and the winners had many others close on their heels. The judges were John F Donohoe, Ingrid Parker, Cameron McNeish and myself.
The subjects tackled in the prose category were very diverse from factual accounts of walks, climbs and ski trips in both Scotland and abroad, to fictional essays based around the reasons whey we climb and observations of human endeavour. The winner (receiving £100) was an account of the ascent of a new route on Buachaille Etive Mor, entitled “A Royal Flush”, by John Watson. John describes how this rejuvenated his climbing interest after becoming jaded and dissatisfied and eloquently captures the thrill and excitement of discovery. Second place was shared by two utterly different articles, each winning £25. An un-named piece by Thomas Dunstan gave a shiveringly realistic account of the enjoyment of wild weather conditions, whilst “There’s Numpties in them thar Hills” by Hughie Wilson encompassed winter climbing, bothy culture and poorly clad escapades, written in Scots slang. Articles that just missed out on a prize included “No Discernible Impact” by Andrew Hilton, which gave a depressing account of restricted access to the cairngorms in a futuristic tale, and “Your Company on the Hill” and “The Case Against the Munro Bagger” both by Max Cocker. The latter, a tongue in cheek derision of ‘munromania’.
The poetry category had 17 entries as diverse as the prose. “Duped” by Hughie Wilson, again in slang, shared first place with “Wild Women Walking” by Sue Mitchell. They both receive £25. Hot on their heels was “Alba’s Tears” by Bruce Goldie, which although more of a political and historical lament to Scotland’s lands than a poem about mountaineering, was beautifully constructed and split the judges opinions down the middle.