Desert Island Peaks: Keri Wallace

© Keri Wallace

If you were marooned alone, with only a few hills for company, which would you choose? To help pass the time while we all sit it out in isolation, we've posed this question to some UKHillwalking regulars. With apologies to Radio 4.

I love beaches and I love the sea, and especially sunshine – so right about now (in the middle of a lockdown in Scottish winter), a desert island is sounding pretty good. Is there sangria? Unfortunately, I'm only capable of sitting on a towel for a little while before I get all fidgety. I'm definitely going to need a few mountains to keep me sane - so here are the ones I would take with me (in my Mary Poppins suitcase!).

First love - Hound Tor and surrounding area

This was where things first began for me. I was living in Bovey Tracey when I took up trail running and rock climbing (around about the same sort of time).

The magical Hound Tor, one of Dartmoor's finest  © Mark Glaister
The magical Hound Tor, one of Dartmoor's finest
© Mark Glaister

I pretty much started by climbing with anyone who would have me on UKC, running trails from tor to tor and generally falling off great boulders at nearby Bonehill Rocks. I was a complete novice and think fondly of my first ever trad climb on the modest crags of Hound Tor (where I accidentally completely untied myself mid-route!). The thing I loved most was how it reminded me of childhood days spent scrabbling and weaselling through the outcrops of Rough Tor on nearby Bodmin Moor, nearer to my home town. In many ways, rediscovering the outdoors as an adult was like reconnecting with that buried part of me that still wanted to explore and play. I was so all-encompassing and exhilarating that I marvel now at how I ever managed to keep the inner child quiet for so long! I'll always have a soft spot for the extremely abrasive granite and unruly, sculpted mounds of Dartmoor National Park.

Hound Tor  © Justin T
Hound Tor
© Justin T, May 2010

For inspiration – Ogwen Valley

OK so this one is kind of a cheat, being an area rather than a single peak, but I'm happy to pay the excess-luggage fee. Before moving to my current home in Scotland, I lived for a single year in North Wales, working in Joe Brown's climbing shop and generally being a dirtbag. It may have been only one year of my life but it was more than enough. North Wales is like that in so many ways – a compact mountainous area, a close community, and an intensive hit of rock, history and ambition. It was a completely inspiring period for me (meeting my husband notwithstanding!).

Ogwen - never short on inspiration  © Rachael Crewesmith
Ogwen - never short on inspiration
© Rachael Crewesmith

One day I came across this little book on the shop bookshelf entitled The Welsh Three Thousand Foot Challenges by Roy Clayton & Ronald Turnbull. It was my birthday the next day and I didn't have a climbing partner lined up. So I took that little book and decided to see how far I could run over the hills. I started at Idwal Cottage with no real plan, and ended up running over the hills on both sides of the valley, coming home late (for birthday cake), with a big grin on my face. The blocky fin of Tryfan, the Mordor-esque majesty of the Glyders and the sprawling hulk of the Carneddau – inspiration for every day of the week!

Later this year, Covid-19 permitting, I hope to race the historic Dragon's Back Race and revisit some of these fantastic peaks. If I could bottle just a little of this inspiration as I pass through the Ogwen Valley, then I think it would go a very long way.

One and only - Buachaille Etive Mor

Buachaille Etive Mor is a great hill for runners  © Keri Wallace
Buachaille Etive Mor is a great hill for runners
© Keri Wallace

If I had to self-isolate on one mountain it would be Buachaille Etive Mor. Not only does it have an iconic shape that I could photograph all day, but there is so much to go at! Since moving to Glencoe, I have enjoyed countless days of skyrunning, scrambling and rock climbing all around this compact, pointy peak. Following the lockdown last spring, I climbed the six classic ridges of Buachaille Etive Mor in a link-up that gave 1642m of brilliant Scottish scrambling. I've lived here for nine years and I'm still finding new ways to climb that mountain!

If you're prepared to get hands on, The Buachaille's route combinations are practically endless  © Keri Wallace
If you're prepared to get hands on, The Buachaille's route combinations are practically endless
© Keri Wallace

Small but mighty – Beinn Lora

On the coast of northern Argyll, near Oban lies an unassuming little hill called Beinn Lora.

Beinn Lora - a small hill with mighty views!  © Keri Wallace
Beinn Lora - a small hill with mighty views!
© Keri Wallace

From the village, meandering forest trails eventually give way to open fell-side – complete with thigh-sucking bogs, steep tussocks and a trig point. The view from the summit is top bang-for-your buck and overlooks the islands of Seil, Kerrera, Mull and Lismore, as well as back towards Glencoe. I have run on this hill with so many friends over the years that it has taken on a real personality in my mind. Trees and trails have come and gone, as have people passing through, and lives of friends and colleagues. At just 308m, this mini fell-running adventure is close to my heart and is always worth a quick dash to remember.

  • UKH contributor Keri Wallace is a trail and fell running guide for Girls on Hills.

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