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Mountain Writing Competition 2005

by Kevin Howett

This year there were fewer prose entries than normal; compensated for by the biggest selection of poetry entries we have ever had. Obviously there was something in the air this year!

The Judges were Ex-MCofS President, old sage and diplomat John Donohoe, Ex-MCofS Vice President, teacher and instigator of the poetry competition Ingrid Parker, Irvine Butterfield, author and grumpy old man, myself, and finally Joe Brown, the winner of last years prose competition.

Firstly the prose category: The judges were torn between two entries for a potential winner. In the end a story of a father’s love of climbing and an awakening in his children of the true beauty of the outdoors through a gift entitled ‘Treasure’ by Gudrun Koch won out. This balanced piece of prose “conveyed simplicity of message without falling prey to sentimentality”. Doubts as to whether it was fact or fiction helped make it more memorable and it wins £100. Just coming second, was John Pearson’s ‘Conversion’. Neatly capturing the arrogance and the futility involved in sectarianism by describing one hill walker's disparaging view of climbers only to be ‘turned’ as he discovers climbing, to proceed to belittle walkers like a born-again evangelist. John wins £50.

Close 3rd place was shared between ‘Indian Wall’ by Nick Hamilton and ‘Partners’ by Nigel Suess. Nick’s story of finding his limits unfolds during a solo climb up a Native American Mesa, and falling off? Whilst Nigel gives a well written recollection of climbing partners of the past, convincingly describing events many climbers will relate to.

In the poetry category, there were several recounting the moods and atmosphere of the hills, particularly noteworthy being Martin Cooper’s ‘Suilven’. However there were two that stood out, both coincidentally relating to recent Talking Point subjects, but which both captured the essence of their subject. Jennifer Purvis Smith’s ‘To Bolt or not to Bolt’ stole from Shakespeare, but did not seem any the worse for it and came 2nd. The clear winner was ‘Cairn’ by Thomas Rist, with its evocative use of tone and layout and “deconstruction/construction visuals” to quote one of the Judges. Thomas wins £50.


1st - Cairn, by Thomas Rist


1st - The Treasure, by Gudrun Koch