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Mountain Writing Competition 2017

Report by Tommy McManmon

Another popular year for entries to both the poetry and prose categories. The poems had a strong climbing theme, whilst the prose entries were predominantly about mystery and death! Many thanks to the seven poetry and five prose judges for volunteering their reading time and feedback: see their bios below.

Winner of the poetry competition was Colin Pritchard from Edinburgh, with I Love to Climb. “Elegiac in tone”, which “says a lot in few words”, it was told in a “powerful and touching way”, with “skilled storytelling and lyricism”. Colin wins £100 and a ticket to the EMFF. A close second was Climbing the Line by Cathy Whitfield: “hard to fault” said one judge, “there’s a real immediacy about it”. A “testament to physical endurance,” commented another. A much-admired third-placed entry was Ballater resident Mary Munro’s Lochnagar. This was written in Scots, arrived hand-written (unusual these days), and was clearly a piece written by someone who loves the mountains surrounding her home: “mirrors the severe, ragged beauty of the landscape”, said one judge; another liked the line “keckle o’ grouse an greet o’ the whaup”. Two further poems deserve mention: they just missed out on the top three. Rachel Woolf’s The Cartographer’s Manual, and Ellie Stewart’s La Plus Grand Dame des Pyrenees were both unusual and fresh pieces.

The prose section divided judges, which I think is good as it shows they were taking the competition seriously! In the end we had four entries very close at the top, with the winner being Tracy Hill’s Skins. A “well paced” piece, this “touching and well-crafted” story “drags the reader into the mountain landscape and the lives of those exploring it.” Her entry wins her £150 and an EMFF ticket.  Second placed was Llanelli resident Max Munday’s Hounds on Hills, congratulated for its “well-written” “conversational tone,” and for investigating a subject not often explored. Third was Julian and Uncle Pat by Christopher Nicolson from Shaftesbury, notable for being awarded a rare 10 out of 10 by one judge: “utterly sinister and so expertly written – place, period, personality and landscape all stand out.” Finally, another Welsh entrant (with the same surname!) deserves a mention for coming a close fourth: Nathan Munday’s Bear Stalking in the Bucegi garnered plenty of praise.

Thanks to all those who entered, and if you didn’t win this year, please don’t let that put you off entering in 2018! Please note winners are not permitted to enter the same category in future years. Please also note that entries will be limited to one per category.


1st - I Love to Climb, by Colin Pritchard

2nd - Climbing the Line, by Cathy Whitfield

3rd - Lochnagar, by Mary Munro


1st - Skins, by Tracy Hill

2nd - Hounds on Hills, by Max Munday

3rd - Julian and Uncle Pat, by Christopher Nicholson

Tommy McManmon: Tommy coordinated this year’s competition, following several years as a judge after winning the prose section in 2012. He is currently working for the Pentland Hills Regional Park, and returns to Knoydart regularly.

Ian Blake: a past winner of the Neil Gunn Prize, Ian has four poetry collections and a novel School Story (by Iain Mackenzie-Blair) available as a Kindle trilogy. He won the 2014 Mountain Writing Competition (prose).

Nancy Somerville: Nancy’s poetry collection Waiting for Zebras was published by Red Squirrel Press (Scotland) in 2008, and her short story Mountain Avens won the Mountain Writing competition in 2015. 

Louise Peterkin: Based in Edinburgh, Louise has had poems featured in publications including Magma, The North, The Dark Horse and New Writing Scotland. In 2016 she received a New Writers Award from the Scottish Book Trust in the poetry category.

Mike Merchant: Mike ran the Mountain Writing Competition for several years, and has worked as a journalist, editor and technical writer.

Helen Boden: Helen is a professional writing tutor and poet based in Edinburgh. She is published in several anthologies including New Writing Scotland, and recently ran a workshop during a guided walk in the Pentland Hills https://helenbodenliteraryarts.wordpress.com/

John Donohoe is a past president of Mountaineering Scotland.

Abby Boultbee: When not galivanting in the highlands, Abby is to be found studying hard at the University of Edinburgh, or working with communities in outdoor projects as part of her role with Edinburgh and Lothians Greenspace Trust.

Jim Manthorpe: A resident of the west highlands for many years, Jim has written several guidebooks for Trailblazer Publications. He is a wildlife cameraman, working for TV programs such as Springwatch and Into the Wild with Gordon Buchanan – see www.jimmanthorpe.com