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Mountain Writing Competition 2019

Report by Tommy McManmon, competition coordinator

The competition continues to attract lots of interest, although we had less entries in the poetry category than in recent years. When the 2020 competition is launched, please do share it with friends, colleagues, writing groups, and anyone interested in creatively expressing the special moments we all have in the hills - as well as untold fame, the prizes are not to be sniffed at! There was lots of interest in the prose category. Second-placed was a familiar name: Max Munday, who also came second in the 2017 competition. We don't allow overall winners to re-enter the competition (in either category), but for those who have placed second or third, please do feel free to try again.

The poetry category had three clear winners, marked noticeably higher than other entries. In first place was Franz Klammer Taught me to Ski by Mike Richards. One judge summed it up perfectly: "I think it's lovely...it evokes a young person's opening world. And the landscape is good too; the grim ordinary places transformed by their ambition." Second place was tied between The Hill Dog by Alison Dawson, and Head for Heights, by  Graeme Bradley. The Hill Dog was lauded by one judge for its "steady rhythm, and neat, confident style," while another appreciated the "wordless companionship" in the last verse. Bradley's Head for Heights was appreciated for "not having a word out of place".

The prose category had plenty of quality entries this year. A tie at third place necessitated a rare casting vote by the coordinator, not an easy thing to do! A clear winner was Nigel Ward's "engagingly" and "deftly" written Learning the Ropes, which was "nostalgic", "relateable" and "[kept] your attention and sympathy without striving for effect". Max Munday's piece Highlander was noted as being particular filmic in its style, with two commentators noting it was reminiscent of Local Hero. Another said: "what a great portrayal of character." The casting vote for third place was awarded to the unusual, "original" and "well-written" Wildcat by Rachel Henson. Mention should be made of the piece just pipped to the post: in fourth place was Richard Baynes' No Word from Raven Crag. Please do enter again, Richard.

We hope you enjoy reading all the entries. If you feel inspired (think you can do even better?) please do consider entering the 2020 competition.

Tommy McManmon won the prose competition in 2012. He now works for the Pentland Hills Regional Park, after living in Knoydart for 12 years. He also builds compost toilets for remote settings. www.tommystoilets.co.uk


1st - Franz Klammer Taught Me To Ski, by Mike Richards

2nd= - The Hill Dog, by Alison Dawson

2nd= - Head for Heights? What's That?, by Graeme Bradley


1st - Learning the Ropes, by Nigel Ward

2nd - Highlander, by Max Munday

3rd - Wildcat, by Rachel Henson

Mike Merchant used to run the Mountain Writing Competition and edit the John Muir Trust Journal. He's still trying to adjust to not having Munros to complete.

Jim Manthorpe is a wildlife cameraman and guidebook author. He has worked on a number of BBC series including Springwatch, and is the author of five Trailblazer guidebooks. www.jimmanthorpe.com

Abby Boultbee lives in Edinburgh where she works with the Edinburgh and Lothians Greenspace Trust promoting engagement with the outdoors in urban settings. She is equally at home out-of-town where she enjoys hillwalking, wild swimming, bothying, and cycle touring.

Pippa Little is a Scots poet. Her favourite mountain is Suilven. She is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Newcastle University. She won the poetry category in 2018.

Eric Hildrew is an Edinburgh-based climber and mountaineer, and began writing short stories to while away the long evenings in his camper van. He won the prose category in 2018.

John Donohoe is a past president of Mountaineering Scotland.