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Wednesday, 8 April 2015

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Steve Goodwin, Lake District Climbs and Scrambles

We caught up with Steve Goodwin, author of our new guidebook Lake District Climbs and Scrambles, to discuss life in the hills.
 

You spent twenty-five years working as a journalist in London. What made you decide to leave for the Lake District?
 
Isn't twenty-five years in the hot houses of Fleet Street and the ‘Westminster Village’ enough? Reporting politics for a daily newspaper – The Times and then The Independent in my case – is pretty intense. It didn't leave much time for climbing and ski-mountaineering. There came a day when we decided as a family to head for the hills.
 
How do you go about the process of putting a guidebook like Lake District Climbs and Scrambles together? Do you walk/climb all of the routes yourself?
 
Well quite a few of the classic climbs and scrambles in the book I'd done many times before. They're just so good. But not necessarily as part of a day-long round, the model I've used for the guide. So yes, I went with friends, repeated old favourites, sussed out new ones, and did all the routes exactly as I've set them out in the book. And I loved every day of it.
 
Do you usually spend your days on the hills in company, or do you prefer to go solo?
 
Mostly I'm in company. I'm not a bold solo climber, well, not once above the easy grades. I like the comfort of a rope and that means a partner. There's something about a day on the hill that really frees the mind, so conversation can be wonderfully wide ranging – from joshing banter to politics (I'm still a bit of an addict) to art or perhaps the ‘wilding’ of the fells. Sometimes though, a day out on the hills alone is what's called for – you see more intensely for one thing.
 
What would you say are the most important ingredients for a good day’s climbing, walking or scrambling in the Lakes?
 
Fine weather to start with – certainly for climbing and scrambling. Fortunately there are more fine days in the Lake District than the area is sometimes given credit for. A partner whose company you enjoy and whose climbing judgement you trust. A third ingredient would be plenty of time – the routes in this guidebook should be savoured like a fine wine, not gulped down. Allow yourself time to drink in the situations – poised on a sharp ridge, perhaps, or gazing out to the Irish Sea after a satisfying ascent.
 
What’s your response to the recent announcement that land in national parks – including the Lake District – is being sold off to cope with budget cuts?
 
Uneasy. In theory ownership shouldn't be vital if access and all the other benefits of national park oversight remain unchanged. But suspicions linger that sell-offs could lead to restrictions or a change of character of familiar places. Maybe fears are groundless; I'd much rather the government provided the national park with sufficient funds in the first place – and found the money through a hefty tax on second-home owners in the Lakes.
 
As well as writing your own books, you spent a number of years working as editor for the Alpine Journal – the oldest mountaineering journal in the world. How did you decide what would go in it each year?
 
I stepped down as AJ editor a year ago. Ten years (2004 to 2013) wielding the editor's blue pencil was enough. 2013 was also the 150th anniversary of the AJ so it was nice to bow out by producing a special celebratory volume. What goes in the journal each year depends to a great extent on what British climbers have been up to. But I'd also have an eye out for any developments affecting the mountain environment or new scientific research that might benefit climbers – say on the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from stoves. Then there are book reviews to commission, photos to select ... It becomes quite a balancing act! 
 
Finally, where’s your favourite wilderness area to visit outside the UK?
 
Inner Dolpo is probably my favourite. It's not a people-free wilderness, but they are pretty thinly spread. It's an enclave of traditional Tibetan culture on the northern border of Nepal – a magical place of arid mountains and immense blue skies. Snow leopard country, though I've yet to see one.
 
 
Lake District Climbs and Scrambles is published on 16 April 2015 and costs £16.95. It can be bought direct from Vertebrate for a special pre-order price of £12.95 until 1 May 2015.
 
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