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Mountain Writing Competition 2021

Coordinatorís report, by Tommy McManmon

The 2021 Mountain Writing Competition was the second-most popular year for entries Ė after 2020! The covid effect may well have sustained the popularity of the contest, with 27 poetry and 37 prose entries.

After the previous year, we searched around for an automated system for entries and marking to try and relieve some pressure on both the coordinator and judges: this did necessitate a small charge to enter, but most seemed content to pay, and most users (competitors and judges) seemed to like the new system.

Poetry: in third place was Laurence Morris's evocative Balquhidder Glen, lauded as having "perfect pace and rhythm" and an "excellent ending". In second place Martin Goldie's piece First Ascent was praised by one judge for being "grand and stirring," and another for being "a single moment in a momentous undertaking...and the deadly seriousness of it all downplayed until the last line." Winner overall in this category was Sunyi Dean, with her poem In Praise of Hope, which "turns its gaze from the mountain to the mountaineer" and has a "sense of immediacy, personal knowledge and involvement." Congratulations, Sunyi.

One more poem deserves mention: Anna Hazelnutt Climbs Once Upon a Time in the Southwest, by Andrew Rubens. An animated poem, itís impossible to print adequately here, but it can be found at https://bit.ly/21poemAR. This work was particularly admired by two judges who gave it their highest score.

Our second-highest number of prose entries (after last year!) included some high-quality submissions and, as with the poetry competition, it was tight at the top! In second-equal place were Adrian Ward's Journey to the Place of Dreams and Peter Beattie's Moidart. Adrian's "love letter to the Cairngorms" was said by one judge to be an "affecting, and emotional, paean to the power of a landscape." Peter's Moidart was said by judges to be "enigmatic", and ďa confident piece of writing that set an intriguingly mysterious tone." Winner overall was Adam Boggon's Snowbound, which "captures that intangible sense of wanting to be in the mountains", with one judge admiring the final reflection, which they said was "poetically and sensitively conveyed."

Thank you to everyone who made the effort to submit their pieces. I noticed a couple of entries from people who submitted in previous years but were unsuccessful - these pieces did really well and were close to the winning podium - so please don't stop submitting, and do consider entering the 2022 competition.


1st - In Praise of Hope, by Sunyi Dean

2nd - First Ascent, by Martin Goldie

3rd - Balquhidder Glen, by Laurence Morris


1st - Snowbound, by Adam Boggon

2nd equal - Moidart, by Peter Beattie

2nd equal - Journey to the place of dreams, by Adrian Ward


John Donohoe is a past president of Mountaineering Scotland.

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.

Mike Richards was our 2019 poetry winner. Mike is a poet, photographer, and professional ski instructor based in Wales and the island of Hokkaido, northern Japan.

Jennifer A. McGowan has won a number of poetry competitions, including the 2020 Mountain Writing Competition, and has been placed or highly commended in several others. She brings out her sixth collection in 2022, and holds a PhD from the University of Wales.



John Donohoe is a past president of Mountaineering Scotland.

Jim Manthorpe is a wildlife cameraman and guidebook author, based in Morvern. He has worked on a number of BBC series including Springwatch, and is the author of five Trailblazer guidebooks, the most recent being Iceland Hikingwww.jimmanthorpe.com

Abby Boultbee lives in Fife and works with the Edinburgh and Lothians Greenspace Trust promoting engagement with the outdoors in urban settings. She enjoys hillwalking, wild swimming, bothying, and cycle touring.

Tommy McManmon has coordinated the Mountain Writing Competition for the past few years. He won the 2012 prose competition with his piece People of these Glens.