The first mountain I ever climbed...
Helvellyn. I was 15, taken up by teachers from Northallerton Grammar School on a summer camp in Patterdale. It was wet and very windy – enough to put most teenagers off. I was nearly blown off Striding Edge but it didn’t put me off. I wanted more! I revelled in the exciting, challenging experience and knew it was what I wanted to do.
ROB JOHNSON, CHAIRMAN OF LLANBERIS MOUNTAIN RESCUE TEAM
Helvellyn in the Lake District when I was seven years old. My parents took my sister and me to the Lakes for a week, it was the start of regular mountain holidays throughout our childhood – usually camping in horrible weather! For me it set up a lifelong passion for the mountains. My sister went the other way!
Helvellyn as a 14-year-old. I’d arranged to go camping with friends in Glenridding, I arrived first and while waiting for my friends I went for a wander and ended up doing Helvellyn via Striding Edge and down Swirral Edge. It unlocked a whole new world of freedom to me and set me on a path to a lifetime in the mountains.
Cadair Idris , aged three. Though I will have to take my parents’ word for that. Apparently on the same trip I banged on the neighbours’ door at 5am shouting “little pigs, little pigs, let me in!”. I think my mum makes these things up.
Probably The Chief in Squamish, British Columbia. Maybe it’s too small to be called a mountain, but my whole family hiked up there when I was little and I remember feeling the danger and excitement of the abyss when we peeked over the cliffs at the top. Since then it’s also been the site of some of my bravest rockclimbs. It’s a great little mountain!
The Old Man of Coniston on a Guide Dogs' hike, bike and canoe challenge in 2006, with my old Veterinary Nursing Journal colleagues. I've been in love with the Lakes ever since.
I was 13 years old when I first ascended a large hill and that was Fairfield along with St Sunday Crag in the Lake District. Being a lover of the outdoors, wandering into Patterdale on a family holiday I was truly dumbstruck by the fells enveloping me and I couldn’t wait to beat a trail up them! Needless to say, this visit had a profound effect on my life and I’ve been addicted to hillwalking (and wild camping) ever since.
I’m not sure of the first but it would have been something in the Lake District. My father used to book accommodation for a week each Easter in Borrowdale and drag me up hills there from an early age.
Moel Famau in the Clwydian Hills. It’s not really a mountain form but it felt like one when I was little. It was a legend amongst Scousers, schoolkids and Scouse schoolkids that there was a chippy on top. There wasn’t, it was a tower that was built for the jubilee of George III in 1810. Probably why, in my memory there were always angry Scousers on top.
I can’t be certain but I’ve lots of childhood memories of climbing Corn Du and Pen y Fan with my dad and younger brother. It’s got nothing to do with the mountains, as fumbling our way through the dark entrance to the wartime gun emplacements at Storey Arms was always the highlight of the day.
Aged 11, I went on a school trip to north-west Wales. The names of the hills were as foreign as the landscape (I come from flat Norfolk) and I don’t recall which was the first, but I do know we climbed Snowdon. I remember peering through the minibus windows at the shadows of giants looming in the dark. I knew then mountains would be a ‘thing’ for me. I still get a buzz from seeing ground rising above the rooftops of buildings.
Snowdon, I was 20 years old, wanting to climb Everest and it was my first peak. I remember the incredible view and wanting to be sick (I had run to the summit).
I’m not sure what my first hill was, but my first Munro was Stob Binnein, from the Inverlocharig side. I’ll never forget the feeling of anticipation, the joy of the climb – even though my muscles were burning – and how a steep pull opens into a wide grassland then tapers to a ridge with the sight of the rocky summit above. The feeling of freedom and joy was like nothing I’d experienced before.