In January 2017 I set myself the challenge of walking up a mountain each month. It started with failure when I set off poorly equipped in the snowy Brecon Beacons and turned back well before I had intended to. I call this a failure in one sense; I didn’t do the route I set out to do but I also made a sensible decision that I still don’t regret and I managed to return to the same area later in the year to complete a longer version of the original walk I had set out to do; so perhaps not really a failure more a plan B.
What were the main challenges?
- Finding time – a mountain a month doesn’t sound like a lot but there were some months when I had other priorities; friends to catch up with, family to see, jobs to get done. I felt pressure to put these to one side and get out into the hills but as the year progressed I began to find balance. In months where a weekend away wasn’t possible I looked closer to home, some ‘mountains’ were within an hours drive such as Bath Skyline, other slightly further but still very manageable in a day trip.
- Adjusting expectations – When I started the challenge I believed that all mountain days had to be ‘quality mountain days’ (a familiar term for anyone working towards Mountain Training qualifications). This just wasn’t possible every month due to time constraints (mine or my walking companions). Once I realised this I looked for smaller, more local hills, or longer walks that had equivalent height gain to mountains but presented themselves as more undulating terrain. This ended up giving real variety to my walks that I may not have had otherwise.
A ‘mountain’ is whatever you define it as. To me it ended up being a high point or a walk with some definite height gain. Be creative and look locally, no peak is too small – could you visit a different high point in your county each month? Could you climb the stairs of a different tall building each month?
Setting goals like this definitely added a few more mountains to my outside time in 2017, so have a look early in the year when you might be able to take a trip away to supplement your local mountains with some bigger challenges.
Get friends and family involved. Some of my favorite walks were because of the people rather than the location.
The hallowed list of 2017’s ‘mountains’:
January: a failed attempt at Fan Brycheiniog
February: Ben Ledi, The Trossachs, Scotland
September: Casa de Campo, Madrid, Spain
October: Shivling, Uttarkand, India
November: Bath Skyline, Somerset, UK
December: Craig Wion, Snowdonia, Wales
What does 2018 hold?
It’s certainly going to be a busy year; there will be mountains but there might not be one every month. There are some running goals forming; a first adventure race and a trail half marathon in the form of The Dramathon. There’s also the small matter of getting a van converted into a little indoor tent on wheels and taking that on a few voyages. Mountain of the month worked brilliantly in 2017 but life works best when it’s a true smorgasbord. Maybe 2018 will see trail runs and van trips of the month, after all variety is truly the spice of life!