An annual competition to find the best of Scottish mountain writing has once more shown the depth of talent to be found among those who love mountains.
In Mountaineering Scotland’s 2016 Mountain Writing Competition, eight top class stories and poems were picked out by judges, with winners spread across the country from east to west. This year was also a first, in having one of the winning poems written in both Gaelic and English.
Mountain bothies featured strongly in the prose entries, with three out of the four prize winners taking very different approaches to the same subject. First prize winner Vera Fletcher, from Stirling, told a disturbing tale of a bothy visit which ended with a definite chill up the spine. Chill of a different nature was expressed in Brendan Hughes’ ‘In the Cold Locker’, about a legendarily cold few days in some of the Cairngorms’ once notoriously spartan bothies. Brendan lives in Glasgow, and his tale won him second prize.
Third prize was shared between John Coughlan, from Elderslie, with his touching tale of a bothy vagrant in ‘The Bothy King’, and a mountain rescue tale with a twist – ‘The Last Call-Out’ – from Alan Laing, from Balbeggie in Perthshire.
Poetry was once again well represented in the competition, with the judges unable to separate two poems for first place: ‘The Coffin Road’, by Roderick Manson from Blairgowrie, and ‘Why You Go Hill Walking’, by Ellie Danak from Edinburgh. Second prize in poetry went to Catriona Malan, from Helensburgh, with ‘Death of a Climber’, and third went to the dual language ‘Moladh/A Praise’, by Kate Langhorne from Glasgow.
Praising the quality of all the winning entries, the judges remarked: “It brings home just how important the Scottish hills are to people – there was incredible depth of feeling.”
The first prize in the prose category was a cheque for £150 and tickets for the 2016 Edinburgh Mountain Film Festival, with the top poem winning £100 and tickets for the festival. The competition is open to anyone as long as there is some relevance to mountains and mountaineering, and regularly attracts entries from all over Britain. Judging is blind, with neither names nor addresses known to the judges while they make their decisions. The independent panel of judges read through over 50 entries, fairly evenly split between prose and poetry.
The winning entries will be published in the February edition of the Mountaineering Scotland membership magazine, Scottish Mountaineer, and can be seen now on the website.