5. Sarah Douglas on Solo Summits and Camping Cockups
In this episode of Mountain Air, recorded back in December 2021, we meet highlands-based writer Sarah Jane Douglas, author of the well-received memoir Just Another Mountain. A hill-mad Munroist who's now avidly working through the Corbetts, Sarah is also a regular contributor to UKHillwalking, and an accomplished artist to boot.
In 2019 Sarah published her first book: Just Another Mountain, an autobiographical story of loss and grief, but ultimately joy, love and empowerment found in the wild beauty of the Scottish Highlands. It was a huge success. So much so that it saw her lauded across the national press and invited onto ITV's flagship breakfast show for a friendly "baptism of fire" (Sarah's words) with Lorraine Kelly.
Being up on the mountains soothed me, and made my troubles seem to melt temporarily
You may also recognise her from UKHillwalking, where she's contributed everything from gear reviews, to "top tips" articles, to in-depth walking features:
What you may not know is that she's also: a long-term member of the security team at Inverness Airport, a prolific artist and painter, a mother of two, a cancer survivor, a fanatical Corbett wildcamper, Munroist #5764 ("compleated" in 2015), a habitual destroyer of electronics, a hardened instigator (and resolver) of hillwalking disasters, a shameless follower of many soaps, very much a native Highlander, and one of the most passionate, dedicated and candid mountaineers you're likely to hear on this podcast or any other. She also has an axe.
I always have this yearning to be on the highest spot that's possible for my own ability"
All this and plenty more in Mountain Air, episode 5:
00:00 - Introduction
02:00 - Welcome, airport shifts and winter escapes to the hills, why Inverness is "the absolute best place in the whole of Scotland to live"
06:50 - It's not about the bagging
07:50 - "Being up on the mountains soothed me, and made my troubles seem to melt temporarily"
09:07 - Writing "Just Another Mountain": "Obviously I'm going to have to burn them before I die, because there's no way I could have anyone reading some of the content that's in there, let me tell you…"
11:58 - A "baptism of fire" with Lorraine Kelly.
13:00 - What do people find in the book? "They see a lot of themselves in the words that I've written… there is always hope as well, no matter how dark and grim life can become, there is a way forward through those troubles and difficulties"
14:40 - A family history, loss, tragedy and childhood climbing ("thears a bairn on tha' ruf!")
22:00 - Artwork: "I was always scribbling on my granny's walls. She would go mental". A broken ankle and an opportunity to paint again.
29:10 - Celebrating disaster with "gonzo" outdoor writing, lost tents, drenched electronics, milk-clogged Jetboils, crisps for breakfast, weeing all over yourself… "I can't have nice things, they just get trashed"
42:51 - "The important thing to me is that I am well and that I am restored by the activities I love to do, and I do love the mountains"
45:10 - Being alone in the outdoors, "hill hysteria", people being "subjected to my singing", the nightmare of the hillwalking earworm.
50:00 - Foreign trips to the hills, "I always have this yearning to be on the highest spot that's possible for my own ability". A meaningful trip to Nepal.
58:00 - Greatest Mountain Memory: searching for a memorial cairn in remote Nepal
60:30 - All the time, money, freedom… where do you go? "I would just go away to the mountains and never come back", food drops from helicopter pilots, building bothies, "spend the rest of my days just wandering from mountain to mountain… I'd be very happy doing that"
62:45 - An Eastenders-based revelation
65:30 - House chores… with an axe ("CHOP CHOP CHOP")
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: