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Mountain Writing Competition 2018

Report by Tommy McManmon

The 2018 Mountain Writing competition was popular, with over 50 entries. Thanks to all who entered - not everyone can win - and to the judges, some of whom pulled out all the stops, and marked both the prose and poetry categories.

The prose section provided three clear winners. In first place was Eric Hildrew, with Moraines. "Well paced, with creative metaphor and description," said one judge. "An absolutely flawless account of a generation," commented another, who awarded the piece the only 10 out of 10 in this category. Second-placed came David Syme's Behind the Story. Comments included "A chilling story, and a reminder of how easily things can go wrong in the hills," and "so salutary, and the first-person narrative so well done." In a close third place Sally Gale's "engaging" Cathedral Rock impressed judges with its "expert writing, real people, real places [and] daring conjunction."

There were plenty of poems entered (over 30), and luckily we had five judges willing to read through them all. In first place was Suilven, composed by Pippa Little. "A tight, skilfully sustained poem with some striking images throughout," was one comment. Another judge thought it was simply "brilliant", with a third commenting "at last, something good about Suilven!" There was a tie for second place, between MT Taylor and David Cairns. Taylor's piece, entitled simply K2, was lauded for its "really interesting and relatable idea," its "unusual intimate, even affectionate take on a great mountain," and its "strong use of free verse and well-crafted sound." Cairns' composition, Tomography, explored links between maps of the brain and the hill: one judge commented on the work's startling originality, whilst another described it as "beautiful - gentle and powerful".


1st - Suilven, by Pippa Little

2nd = - K2, by MT Taylor

2nd = - Tomography, by David Cairns


1st - Moraines, by Eric Hildrew

2nd - Behind the Story, by David Syme

3rd - Cathedral Rock, by Sally Gale

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.

John Donohoe: John is a past president of Mountaineering Scotland.

Tommy McManmon: Tommy coordinates the competition, and also has several years' experience 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.

Abby Boultbee: Abby is an outdoor community learning practitioner living in Edinburgh. She also enjoys hillwalking, cycle touring and all things outdoors, particularly on the west coast of Scotland.

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