Mountain Air


Mountain Air is a podcast about outdoor people. In this series, produced especially for UKHillwalking, Dan Aspel talks with a range of fascinating interviewees, from unlikely adventurers and high achieving enthusiasts, to dedicated professionals in the outdoor industry. Each episode focuses on a different individual with a unique tale to tell. They all have one thing in common: a love of places high, wild, and free.

10. Kirsty Pallas on Scottish Mountain Safety

For the 10th episode of Mountain Air on UKHillwalking, we meet Kirsty Pallas. Hailing from Oban in the West Highlands, Kirsty is an outdoor instructor of more than a decade's experience who the 16,000 members of Mountaineering Scotland may also recognise as one of the group's Mountain Safety Advisors.

Kirsty is one of Mountaineering Scotland's three Mountain Safety Advisors  © Jessie Leong
Kirsty is one of Mountaineering Scotland's three Mountain Safety Advisors
© Jessie Leong

I love being able to share what I get to experience, and taking folk to places they wouldn't feel confident to get to by themselves

Kirsty's progress in her outdoor career has been as swift as it has been successful: inspired by school-age work experience at her local outdoor centre, she leapt straight into outdoor instruction immediately on turning 18. Since that point she's gained her Summer Mountain Leader, Winter Mountain Leader and Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor Awards, and has even found time to be a serving member of Oban Mountain Rescue team for the past nine years. And all long before her 30th birthday.

When not finding time to climb on Buachaille Etive Mor and other classic Scottish peaks, Kirsty puts much of her spare energies into promoting inclusivity in the hills. A co-founder of advocacy group Our Shared Outdoors, and of mixed heritage herself, she has a driving passion for Britain's mountains and believes everybody should feel equally free and welcome to enjoy their beauty and challenges.

Kirsty in her preferred environment...  © Adam Raja Campbell
Kirsty in her preferred environment...
© Adam Raja Campbell

When my Mum went to school the Indian community didn't have the option to do the Duke of Edinburgh award, while the white kids did... To me inclusivity means that everyone feels the hills are a space they would be comfortable in

Hear about all of these topics and more in Mountain Air, episode 10:

00:00 - Introduction

02:11 - Welcome, all about Mountaineering Scotland ("the Scottish equivalent of the British Mountaineering Council") and life as a Mountain Safety Advisor

08:11 - The approach of winter, spreading the message of mountain safety ("it's really hard to change the batteries in your head torch if you don't have a light")

10:39 - A personal history in the mountains: inspired by work experience at an outdoor centre, registering for Mountain Training awards immediately on turning 18

14:56 - A guide to outdoor assessments: Summer Mountain Leader, Winter Mountain Leader, Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor ("they give you as many chances as they can… and if you're deferred on any element it's because of a trend rather than a one-off")

21:51 - Nine years of experience in Oban Mountain Rescue, covering Ben Cruachan to the Black Mount, Ben Lui, and the Isle of Mull ("have a bag packed, ready to go"), use of drones

30:01 - "I love being able to share what I get to experience with so many different people"

33:51 - Long-term goals and fulfilling ambitions in the outdoors (Winter Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor by age 30), "what I enjoy is the variety"

37:21 - "For me, inclusivity is that everyone feels welcomed into the hills", the importance of feeling represented, the absence of generational experience

41:31 - Our Shared Outdoors, "a group of people that want to see things become more diverse within the outdoors", film events that focus on under-represented groups

44:41 - Ways to make others feel welcome in the outdoors, supportive conversations and raised awareness

48:16 - Greatest mountain memory… climbing "The Chasm" on Buachaille Etive Mor, "what decisions did I take in my life that have led me to this moment, and why did I make those decisions?"

51:31 - All the time, money, freedom… what do you do? A climbing road trip across Canada and the US: Yosemite, Squamish and more.

"There's so much I want to do in Scotland..."  © Morna Baillie
"There's so much I want to do in Scotland..."
© Morna Baillie

Mountain Air

Mountain Air podcast is made, recorded, hosted, edited, released and occasionally sworn at by Dan Aspel (he didn't, however, do the theme tune). Dan has teamed up with UKHillwalking to produce a new series, his second, and we'll be publishing regular episodes over the next few months. You can listen to the ten episodes of his first series here:


Instagram: @mountainairpodcast

Twitter: @MtnAirPod

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