A Mountain is a Valley is a Mountain

My neighbor and I, about to go for an afternoon hike, stood on my deck, and faced the hills. I shaded my eyes with one hand and pointed with the other at a grassy hilltop across the valley. “Let’s go over there, to the Glebe.” She looked looked confused, pointed to a hilltop a few degrees north of my “Glebe” and said, “But isn’t that one the Glebe?”

I had no idea idea, having learned the term and location from our house’s former owner. There are certainly no signs, and these minor hills don’t appear named on most maps.

“Well, I don’t know, but let’s just hike over in that general direction?” And so we did, down our bit of hill, into the tiny valley carved by the west branch of the Ompompanoosuc river, and back up into the hills until we reached a spot that I call the “Glebe” and she does not, and from which spot we could look back at the house and porch we left an hour earlier.

That was years ago. A couple of weeks ago, a friend came over to the house for the first time. We went out back to meet the goats. She took a look around our yard. “You live on the Glebe!” she said.

I live in a valley of hills with unfixed names.

Morning Fog

I suppose when people think of Vermont (if they think of Vermont at all), they think first of the confetti colors of the fall leaves, the maple syrup, and the skiing. The downhill skiing mostly happens in the Green Mountains ( Verd-Mont), the spiney range that divides the state lengthwise into west and east in terms of population and weather.

Here on the eastern edge of the state, on the west bank of the Connecticut River, we live in the rumpled valleys between Vermont’s Green Mountains and New Hampshire’s Whites. We’re ringed by hills and a few elevations that are accorded mountain status (Mount Cube, Black Mountain, Smarts Mountain, Cardigan Mountain and, further off, Mount Ascutney and Mount Moosilauke), but most of the ridges I see from this patch of green are nameless and personal, known by those of us who live next to them or hike their trails, but of little interest or consequence to peak baggers or serious mountain types.

Which is just fine by me.

Most weekdays in the year, the dog and I take ourselves down into the river valley. Our river valley is one among many in the region. Our little river, the Ompompanoosuc (the “Pompy” if you’re on familiar terms) is split into two branches that wend their way through the valley that cradles it. The hills that rise on the western shore slope gently down to the Connecticut River valley. The Pompy feeds that river, as I like to imagine our hills (the gentle diminution of the Greens to our west) somehow feed the more majestic Whites to our east. Certainly they are all connected in my mind, as stepping stones or dotted lines on a map or the flow of water from one place to another.

But that is neither here nor there, because when I’m on my daily walks, I’m not thinking of mountains.  I’m surrounded by them, but my feet and my thoughts are on the gently rollercoastering trail, into the valley then back above the valley, from one nameless rumple to another.

riverstone

When I walk, I think and I write. Or, at least, I think the thoughts that later become what I write. And I’ve recognized lately that my thoughts often follow the contour of the land I traverse. I’m thinking as much about the hill as the valley, of the negative as the positive, of the what-is as the what-is-not.

The fact that you cannot have a valley without a mountain is plain to any schoolage child. The fact that you cannot have a mountain without a valley is maybe not as obvious at first because when you’re on that mountain, that’s all there is: the uphill trail, the miniature trees, the rocky outcroppings, the promise of a summit that will show you distant peaks, the ones with names marked on your map.

But down here in the valley, in the untitled hills, we’re living our mountain life, too. The mountains stop the clouds, divide the rain and snow, make a barrier between us and the westerly wind. The mountains draw the tourists who stop at our restaurants and farmers markets. The mountains make the bold statements on the terrain, while we spend our working days in the italics.

On a summer day, you’ll find the dog and me walking the trails, stopping at the river for a cool wade. There are birds everywhere, speaking their own language, and a constant buzz of insects. There’s a steady hum going on around us, the hum of life living and the world doing what needs to get done before autumn. There’s probably a perfect word to describe this, but I’m suddenly wordless, planted solidly as a white pine, feeling the valley breeze in my needles, and my roots digging far beneath the soil.

 - Rebecca Siegel (all words and photos author's own)

Rebecca lives in Vermont amongst the hills, and is a writer and poet. Her own blog and writing can be found here. She is also on twitter @hobnob. 

The Joy of the Second

Sometimes I am predictably English. I drink tea for life support, happily make small talk about the weather, queue politely at any given opportunity and relentlessly support the underdog. And when it comes to the latter, I even support the underdog mountains: the unloved and unvisited, but also the second best, or in this case the second highest. You see, I have a curious love for second place, and this is most evident when we compare the second-highest’s of the UK, to the firsts: Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon.  

But before I carry on I need to clarify my definition of second highest. Both Snowdon and Scafell Pike have sub-peaks in Crib y Ddysgl and Sca fell, respectively, which are technically the second highest points, but I’m discounting these on the grounds that they are not entirely separate mountains, perhaps in the case of Sca Fell only separated by a col. So when I say second I refer to the next highest that is more than a few metres apart from the highest and not immediately attached to it (It’s a good argument for mountain folk to have après-hike). So with the technicalities taken care of let me introduce you to my three ‘second-highest-bests’.  

Looking from llywelyn to carnedd dafydd. 

Looking from llywelyn to carnedd dafydd. 

First up, we have Carnedd Llywelyn in the welsh Carneddau and this broad, flat-topped beauty couldn’t be more different to Snowdon. The Carneddau sit on the edge of the next valley along from the Snowdon massif, running NE-SW and stretch to the welsh coast, and here you’ll find no trains, no café’s and almost no people. The mountains sit just over the road from Snowdonia’s second busiest mountain, Tryfan, and yet walk for less than 30 minutes and you will probably find yourself blissfully alone in the hills of this classic mountain range. Owing to its position in the massif, Llywelyn is a long walk in either way, and this makes for a great ‘wilderness’ feel on a snowy day. Don’t get me wrong – Snowdon is a visually beautiful piece of the earth’s work, she stirs the soul like no other and casts a devastating triangle shadow over her lesser peaks, but in high-season you might feel that you’ve found yourself walking on the M25. In the Carneddau you get a different experience from Snowdon and have the choice to make your route to the top via comfortably-walked ridges in all directions.

broad chest and skinny arms of helvellyn

broad chest and skinny arms of helvellyn

Second up, we have Helvellyn in the Lake District.  Not only does it have a name that feels amazing as it rolls off the tongue (go on try it!), it also possess a fine set of walks from all directions containing some of the finest ridges in the Lake District, in Striding and Swirral Edge. Like Snowdon it has its own glacial pond in Red Tarn home to Brown Trout and a little known Whitefish called Schelly that is only found in three other Lakeland tarns. Notwithstanding the sometimes perilous ridge routes, the walks to the top of Helvellyn are arguably easier than Scafell Pike, and give you extensive views across Thirlmere and Ullswater – if they weren’t beautiful it wouldn’t have been called the Lake District after all! And if that wasn’t enough Helvellyn also boasts a small population of the rare Mountain Ringlet alpine butterfly hidden away on its slopes. Scafell Pike has the kudos of being part of an ancient volcanic caldera, and has stunning views to most of the highest peaks in the Lakes, but the top is eroded by boots and most approaches are rubbly and broken underfoot making it feel a little soulless after all of the effort to get there. Helvellyn however, pulls you into its chest with skinny arms and affords you enough scrambling to feel like a pro!

View to ben macdui. all slopes!

View to ben macdui. all slopes!

Last up, we have Scotland’s second (with no debate over satellite peaks!) and indeed the UK’s second-highest mountain, Ben MacDui. The second Ben stands proud on the southern extent of the beautiful Cairngorm Mountains, a reason which makes it superior to The Ben straight off the bat in my opinion. Getting to Ben Macdui feels like a real achievement on a cloudy day when the plateau stretches ahead for miles, and if you see others on your walk they are likely to be equally committed to this hill. On a good day, two routes that offer unsurpassed beauty are those that take in the Lhairg Ghru mountain pass to the west, or the beautifully remote Loch Avon. Ben MacDui is a completely different mountain to Ben Nevis having a different geology and thus an altogether different look and feel. There are no wondrous arêtes here like the CMD on Ben Nevis which make it a serious winter alpine-style prospect, but high-rolling slopes that give the impression of infinite vastness and make navigation nightmarish in the winter. This is a place to get lost and stay lost.

Ben Macdui is also home to the ghostly Grey Man that reportedly haunts the surrounding plateau. More than once I have given myself the heeby jeeby’s wandering around in the gloam, convincing myself I can see giant shadows. The route to MacDui is comparatively long by normal UK standards but you pass some other fabulous mountains (and Munros) on the way and the wildlife is an undeniable draw. If you’re patient and know where to start looking, you’ll likely come across gobbling Ptarmigan, and might be lucky enough to see Mountain Hare and the only free-roaming population of Reindeer in the UK.  

Looking south on the cairngorm plateau towards ben macdui 

Looking south on the cairngorm plateau towards ben macdui 

Finally, and by way of a side note, it’s not just the UK that I feel the pull of the second best. Need I mention the, in my mind, unequivocal superiority of K2 relative to Everest? Yes, if you pay enough money you can buy your ticket to the top of the world, but K2 will dismiss you with a likelihood of over 25%. Money and fame means very little on K2, you just have to be exceptional and exceptionally lucky. K2 is the moral man’s mountain relative to Everest, and one that I’d never climb, but still love nevertheless.

Thanks to WikiPEDIA for the photo of the Northside of K2. Brrrrrr. 

Thanks to WikiPEDIA for the photo of the Northside of K2. Brrrrrr. 

So you see, there is nothing shabby about these seconds at all, and I really recommend embracing our second or technically third-placers because in these places there are rich rewards to be found. I’d love to know about the mountains where you are? Is second the best? Let me know so I can come and fall in love with it myself!

 

 

 

An Overview of Lake District Geology: Part 1

To understand geology – or rather, to picture the way the world once was at a time so long ago that it’s almost incomprehensible to the human mind - you have to have a really great imagination. You have to be able to forget the way things are in front of you, and instead be able to visualise a world that may look unlike anything you’ve ever seen. This is never more the case than in the English Lake District, where what you see today is the end result of a complex history of rock deposition and mountain building episodes that by turns takes you through deep sea, shallow tropical seas, subduction zones and volcanic island arcs at the meeting of two tectonic plates. On top of that, much of this action took place far south of the Lakes' current location; somewhere near or above the current equator in fact, when the south of the UK was on an entirely different landmass to northern parts of the UK, and we gave those landmasses different names.

Landmasses

To explain the geology of the Lake District would take a long time (and for that there are very good books, albeit a little technical) and much of the detail is only likely to be of interest to experts, aficionados and zealous amateurs with too much time on their hands. But to understand the main bits of the overarching geology and how things have come to be can be enough to deeply enrich your enjoyment of the mountains and take you to a deeper understanding of them that will enliven your walks, and always give you something more to look at than just the views. Knowing a little about their history will also silence the naysayers who think mountains are not mountains unless they are Alpine. Not so!  In this first post on Lakeland geology I’ll cover what has generally happened over the last 500 million years (!) and give you a sense of why certain areas in the Lakes look as they do, and why parts look different from each other.  Being able to read the landscape in broad terms is often the most exciting bit of geology, and the precursor to being able to pick up a rock and talk about its origin. I have tried to bring this in under 1500 words and with silly pictures to help!

For ease of understanding we can break the main Lakes up into 3 zones of interest that run roughly SW-NE. These zones are broadly underlain by a huge dome of granite that peeks out at the surface in several places (for example, Shap where beautiful pink granite is mined) but is covered in most areas by the 3 zones we are about to look at. In later posts I will go into a bit more detail about each zone so that you can look for rock features yourself whilst our walking!

Lake district geology simplification

Furthest North and representing the oldest rocks in the Lake District are the Skiddaw Group – the collective name for a group of rocks that were formed through slow and gradual deposition of sediments into a sea environment, starting 500 million years ago. These would have been 1000s of metres thick and accumulated over millions of years when nothing much else of note was happening. This is where you first need your imagination; removing the mental image of the Lakeland fells, and instead imagining sediments being carried through rivers and down slopes into the sea! No mountains at all. Over time these layers of sediments were compressed into beds and turned to rock  (‘lithification’). We’ll return to them later. 

Looking North to the gently sloping mountains of the skiddaw massif and surrounding peaks. Lake district uk (R.Allen 2015)

Looking North to the gently sloping mountains of the skiddaw massif and surrounding peaks. Lake district uk (R.Allen 2015)

The next major group of rocks is the Borrowdale Volcanic Group (BVG). These rocks aren’t restricted to the Borrowdale valley, but this is where the ‘type examples’ of rock are found and best documented. Once you’ve got to grips with the idea of no mountains in the Lake District yet (and indeed no lakes!) you really need to get your imagination working. Rocks of the BVG, as the name implies, are volcanic in origin and were erupted from low-lying volcanoes that formed an island arc similar to the Indonesian volcanoes we know today (see below!). These volcanoes developed around 450 million years ago (in spasms of activity over millions of years) as a result of tectonic activity driven by currents in the earth’s mantle, which moved the continental and oceanic plates together that had previously been moving apart whilst the Skiddaw Group (as we know them now) were being deposited.  As they moved, the sea that lay between land masses sat on the converging plates, began to close and the oceanic plate was forced under the continental plate. As it dragged sea water down with it over time, this water needing to escape, did so through vents with magma….and these were what we now know today as the BVG. Some appearing as effusive lava that flows and glows orange as we imagine lava to, and other material blasted out of the earth as explosive debris and pyroclastic flows. Think Mt Pinatubo or Mount St Helens.  Over time these hardened into igneous rocks which would be durable to erosion compared to the Skiddaw Slates. These rocks account for the highest peaks in the Lakes, and are the reason for the rough terrain and craggy edges. But again, hold your thoughts there! We need to quickly cover one last group before we even get to the mountain building bit. 

subduction zone

The Windermere Group is the third zone of note, that formed after the volcanic period about 420 million years ago and these are comprised of more sedimentary rocks deposited in a sea environment. Again we have to imagine an end to the volcanic period, and a return to more gentle deposition over slopes and into the sea. This to-ing and fro-ing of activity over hundreds of millions of years, is partly why Lakeland geology is so hard to get your head round: the land we know today is so old that it has been through millions of years of movement both in terms of upward and downward movement (by turns submerged below water and exposed at the surface) but also horizontally; the landmass having started below the equator! This is not just the story of the Lake District, but also the Scottish Highlands, Snowdonia in Wales and the Appalacians in the United States which all have similar (though not identical) histories. 

the craggier peaks of bowfell and surrounding peaks which are comprised of the harder volcanic rocks of the BVG. In the distance are the foothills of the windermere group. (R allen 2015)

the craggier peaks of bowfell and surrounding peaks which are comprised of the harder volcanic rocks of the BVG. In the distance are the foothills of the windermere group. (R allen 2015)

So, we know our overarching rock types and we know they were created in an environment nothing like we see today, and nowhere near where we are today! The exciting bit then really started happened at approximately 400 million years ago when ALL of the above rocks were smashed together as the oceanic plate was fully subducted and the continental plates on either side of it met. This was the Caledonian Orogeny (Orogenesis, meaning mountain birth) which thrust all of the rocks we’ve looked at to a level higher than the Alps sit today. At this point the Skiddaw group was baked by underlying volcanism again (to give Skiddaw Slate), bedding was bent into all directions and everything from all the groups got moved about and mixed up.

mountain building


But that’s not the end because we’re still only at 350 million years and at this point the whole lot was worn down again when mountain building ceased. Think of the Alps or the Himalayas disappearing almost completely. In fact, what was by now just hills again went back under the sea – a warm tropical sea full of life! I could talk at length about the following 347 million years and how the area became a dune system, and how at 250 million years we were still only at the latitude of the Sahara, but let’s cut to the chase now and rejoin the story at 2 million years ago. 

the lake district shows some devastatingly beautiful glacial features - here in the middle is the glacial valley of honister and fleetwith pike (R allen 2015)

the lake district shows some devastatingly beautiful glacial features - here in the middle is the glacial valley of honister and fleetwith pike (R allen 2015)

At this point the ‘Lake District’ was just an area of gently sloping hills but was finally out of the sea for what would be the last time. The earth was entering into a phase of glacial cycles, and the land that was to become the lakeland area gradually covered with ice sheets and glaciers. The melting of these ice sheets, and the movement of the glaciers that sat within the hill valleys is what created, eventually, the Lake District we know today with all of it's u-shaped valleys, aretes or 'ridges' that are popular for walking, and of course the plentiful lakes and tarns! Almost everything we see today in broad landscape terms is the result of how those 3 distinct zones of rocks were created, moved and changed over time. The softer, sedimentary Skiddaw Group and Windermere Group were eroded into sloping, softer hills such as Skiddaw and Blencathra (and the lower foothills around Windermere and Kendal, respectively). The harder zone of rock created at the centre of volcanic activity are today’s Sca Fell, Bow Fell, Crinkle Crags, Great Gable to name just a few, and are much more resistant to erosion and thus show steep crags and deep valleys where glaciation couldn’t do as much damage and instead could only cut downwards. The Lake District as we know it today is therefore a product of it's mountain building phase, but crucially of it's earlier volcanism, and later glaciation.

In future (shorter) posts I will return to the glacial beauty of the Lake District in more detail, we'll look at how the Westmorland Green Slate that you may have on your roof or dining table came to be, and I’ll show you some beautiful areas where you can see rocks of each 3 groups in situ. Until then, happy landscape reading!

Bullseye: On Painting Plein Air by Wes Martin

When I was a kid, my parents bought us a dart board. It wasn’t one of those pulped wood affairs, which retain holes and are usually found clattering on the back of the bedroom door. This was a pro-tool, with real self-healing fibres, encased in its own wooden box, to be displayed proudly. The sparse dining room, cleared of hindrances and the oche set like a runway. This was the 80’s. Darts was big; Eric Bristow had a little finger; Jocky Wilson was inadvertently on top of the pops, and Jim Bowen a Sunday teatime favourite. My sisters and I would practice and play for hours, days, years even. A target before us, it wasn’t about hitting the bullseye, none of it ever was. 501, quick mental maths, treble twenties, finish on a double. However hard we tried, we never really came close to our heroes. They were razor sharp, masters, effortlessly owning the occasion. I really loved that board. Eventually, my parents bought an expensive dining table. Replaced old furniture. The oche became cluttered, the board a nuisance. Eventually, clearing it for a game became too dangerous in many ways. Technology crept into our lives and I rode off on the back of Pacman and Space Invaders. 

A strange analogy for art and wild camping? For slowing the pace of our lives? For divesting of the mental strictures that ail us? Well, I think not. Bear with me. I’ll try not to harm too many metaphors along the way. The thing is, as an artist, in my own humble way, and despite the rigours of life, I still have a wee vision of where I want to be. I know what my perfect painting looks and feels like. I know if I paint and paint, tirelessly, any shortcoming in talent will be overcome by a gradual, empirical slog up the mountain of desire. Some experts say that if you expend 10,000 hours practicing your craft, you can become expert at almost anything. I kind of believe it. When I do create a good painting and someone remarks how talented I am (not too often!), I fall to my default way of thinking: ‘Yes, because I’ve spent years in front of an easel, not because I was born with the ability’. Eric Bristow wasn’t born with a direct connection to the treble twenty and the nine dart finish! I didn’t get this as a kid. I was still about 9,500 hours away from that nine dart finish when I gave up. I think ‘talent’ is just a meaningful flourish or a way of presenting your vision. A character trait. The real work is done out there, on that Sisyphean mountain of toil. And there’s the real kicker. We never really get to the summit of our own personal mountains, there is no rest. Everyone who enjoys the hike invariably looks across the ridge to the adjoining peaks and considers striding out for that next summit. Just a bit further. The next hit. 

Can you see where I’m going with this? Yeah, I know. As an avid explorer of mountains, these metaphorical massifs always serve to remind me of the struggles, joys, woes, and dangers of life. When I stride out with a tent or a bivi bag and sweat my way up a mountain in the dark, fall to my knees in the gloom and hunker down for the night, I know there will be a payoff. To watch the rising sun from a mountain side; or walk through cumulus clouds cocooning a mountain ridge; even listening to the rain on the stretched nylon of a tent;  there is something so unutterably ‘of the moment’ and ‘distilled’ about these times that it’s hard to ignore. Those amongst us who are reflective and mindful enough will take adversity and let it inform the rest of the journey. Easier said than done. Broken ankles and tent poles eventually make for stronger hearts out on the hills. It’s about sticking out the journey, getting your 10,000 hours in and enjoying the ride. With this in mind, as an artist and a lover of wildcamps and the outdoors, it was only a matter of time before my painting gear was packed alongside my tent and taken out to play.

I’ve read much about ‘plein air’ painters over the years. Man, it drove me nuts at college: Cezanne, Monet, Van Gogh etc, etc. All out there, battling nature, reflecting the world face on. Personally, my favourite plein air painters would be closer to home. W. Heaton Cooper for instance. The Lakeland watercolourist. Photos of him and his easel out before some Lakeland or Alpine ridge used to fire my imagination. And what a painter! I love his work and indeed his accompanying words. Alfred Wainwright, though working from photos, always astonishes me with his drawings. Every line earned out in the field, on the mountain side. You know these artists have a connection. A love, even, of the subject, and their art is their love letter, a mark of gratitude and a gracious nod of thanks. Since my college days I’ve therefore dabbled in plein air painting and drawing. In forests, fields, mountains and shore lines. From painting Blackpool Tower on a busy promenade to sitting before an Oak in a quiet forest. It’s an activity that is still secondary to my studio work, but something I am re-engaging with. I mean to turn dabbling into ‘practice’. The only way is to stop thinking and do. 

Newlands sketches  -AWM

Newlands sketches  -AWM

Last December I wild camped on Martcrag Moor. The nights are long, 16 hours or so around solstice, and one needs ways of whiling away the hours, so I packed a sketch book and a head torch, as I had no room for paints and easel. This was unbelievably the first time I’d taken any art related implements on a camp with me. I should have packed gloves....very little drawing was done after sunset. Cold fingers and a darkness thick enough to suffocate saw to that. The second time, in Spring I took a converted cigar ‘pochade’ box, a photographic tripod, a wooden folding chair, an umbrella AND gloves. Hurrah, my first paintings, out in the Newlands valley. To say I was over equipped, and overburdened by my hideously heavy rucksack would be an understatement. I didn't enjoy it. Back, literally, to the drawing board. I could feel those mistakes informing my next outing. There now follows a list, of sorts:

New, tiny Snugpack sleeping bag,
 wee Gorilla tripod,
Sit mat,
Lightweight tent,
Upcycled cardboard boxes cut to size to paint on,
Paintbrush handles cut down,
‘Pochade’ box discarded in favour of a drybag,
Paints reduced to a tube of just black and white and/or burnt sienna and Ultramarine, 
 Turps clipped into its airtight pot. 

Off we go. Note to self, ‘airtight’ doesn’t necessarily denote waterproof or liquid tight. Half way up the hill and one new sleeping bag engorged with the decanted contents of my turps container later...the Ziplock bag proving laughably ineffective too, as secondary measure. Back home. More resolve. More determination, and a reluctant change from oils to acrylics, and therefore from turps to water. Oh, and a metal watertight container.

painting kit

painting kit

The last and most recent outing I did before writing this was by far the most enjoyable. I’d ironed out those newbie ruffles and, with a keen eye on the weather, set out for Gummer’s How, a small, friendly knoll in south Cumbria. I set camp just before the ‘golden hour’ (the hour before sunset, or after sunrise) and sat alone and painted. It felt good to have arrived at a more comfortable place. I like to be alone painting. Mountain and hill tops at sunset are as good a place as any for these conditions. There is a sense that everyone has left, and that the mountain is yours for the evening: bliss. DEET infused midge repellent on, it’s time to start. I paint monotone in either black and white, or just degrees of burnt sienna/ultramarine. These outdoor paintings serve as underpaintings or studies for bigger works. Working like this I can paint tonally, and concentrate on the ‘bones’ of the scene before me. Working on cardboard gives a freedom and a non-precious mindset from the outset, while the mid brown acts as a perfect tinted ground. Environmentally too, the box is ticked and of course money saved. Those precious Golden Hours slip by very quickly when you are in the zone, so to speak. You learn very quickly painting before the subject, especially if you allow yourself not to be too precious, and accept that the biggest steps are taken through trial and error. 

When the sun slips over the horizon, the brushes set down, the jet-boil goes on, coffee is brewed, brandy poured from a Nalgene lab bottle and paintings laid out on the sleep mat to dry, out of the wind. Time slows again now. Skies darken, colours mellow in the gloaming, reds and yellows overhead wash away with the cooling coffee and softening brandy. Senses heighten as the nocturnal world awakens. Foxes, owls, bats, you can hear and sense them all. Midges subside and birds roost. Paintings dry and are packed away. I slide into my sleeping bag and set my alarm for 4.30am. Another golden hour awaits. It is never hard waking to good conditions on a wildcamp. Even more so with five small squares of card and a few brushes for company. And it was a stunner the next morning.

I am planning and formulating more trips and better ways of kitting myself for these combination painting/wildcamps. Book-ending a day with an overnighter is one thing, but I need to figure the logistics of multi-day trips. Whatever comes, it’s on the whole an enjoyable way for me to combine two things I love in life, to develop as an artist: to engage further with nature, and  to explore the inner and the outer worlds as I find them. I do find myself increasingly doing more with less, regardless of the outcome. Stopping to look. Taking time to be still, painting forces these things. I enjoy the journey as much as ever, but now I’m finding new ways of embracing the destination too. I’m metaphorically clearing the oche again and looking at the dartboard. It’s still worth working towards my 10,000 hours, and as I said earlier, it’s not always about hitting the bullseye.

Author - Wes Martin

You can see more of Wes' adventures and his beautiful art (available for sale on Etsy) on his own Blog, Facebook and Instagram as well as his musings on Twitter.  

A very warm Hello from tSMCo.

Welcome to The Slow Mountain Company; a different sort of outdoor blog. Here at tSMCo. we hope that you’ll find a home and good company amongst fellow folk who enjoy everything about the outdoors, and don’t mind going at a pace which means you can savour the view, notice the nature around you and absorb the energy that only quality time outdoors can give you. Whilst we call it ‘slow’ we don’t expect you to stand still for long; in fact we hope you’ll join us in sharing your experiences of getting out into the hills whether you’re a beginning or long time mountain climber.

Snowdonia, North Wales. 

Snowdonia, North Wales. 

Go wander!

Go wander!

I don’t want to say too much about why we’re different; instead I hope you’ll follow or bookmark us to find out for yourself. We’ll be posting new writing, opinion, reviews and trip reports at least twice a week from launch, so come back in the week and at the weekend to get a shot of inspiration when you most need it. Because we’re all about the real outdoors for real people we hope that you’ll find our ideas accessible – everything is done with value and budget in mind, and with escapes for all abilities. Most of all you can trust us – most of us are a creative bunch in one way or another but collectively we have decades of experience in the outdoors and between the core team and contributors hopefully we can bring something for everyone.

Whilst we’re different from other outdoor blogs in approach, we’re also not restricting our content to summits. Oh no! The mountain environment is so much more than peak bagging when you consider the whole system.  We’ll have something for meadow, forest, ocean, river and great plain lovers also. So don’t worry if you’re not a mountain climber…you’re still in good company here.

Over time we’ll be adding new content and features to the website and new items to our shop – but for now we hope you’ll enjoy with us an exciting time to launch. The summer is hot, the mountains are as steady and inspiring as ever and there is a real buzz in the air for communities that are sharing a passion. There has never been a better time to rethink how we approach the natural world, with greater commitment than ever to ethical and sustainable approaches.

At tSMCo. we’re absolutely committed to underpinning everything we do with a green mindset. These aren’t the hippy days where Green meant to be slightly on the edge of eccentricity; these are the days where making better environmental and social choices should be the norm. If you’d like to know more about the Slow movement in general, there is plenty out there on a google search but Carl Honore’s book, In Praise of Slowness, will be a good start. But for us Slow means considered and thoughtful; products with conscience in their production and delivery, and an appreciation for the local as well as the far flung.

So let’s see where we go with this! Welcome to the Company.  

High Tatras, Slovakia. 

High Tatras, Slovakia.