International Mountain Day 2015

It’s bigger than Christmas, Easter, St Pat’s Day and birthdays (well, yours not mine, of course…).

Today is International Mountain Day, a celebration of those big pointy things that cover around 20% of the Earth’s land and, once loved, are never far from your heart. Here’s a little photographic ode to some of the mountains that I consider family…

Simien Mountains, Ethiopia

 

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Possibly my favourite mountain range in the world, inhabited by the likes of gelada baboons and Ethiopian wolves and with escarpments that drop up to 2000 metres into the heat-hazed lowlands below. Spectacular at every step.

The Eiger, Switzerland

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It pretty much spawned the term ‘North Face’ for the epic wall that rises above the Grindelwald valley. I’ve told my kids that if we get a dog we should call it Eiger… they seem less sold on the idea than me.

Ngauruhoe, New Zealand

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I’m a sucker for a good volcano, and Ngauruhoe sure fits the bill. The central volcano of a trio across the Central Plateau of New Zealand’s North Island, it’s as classically volcanic as it gets… and a little bit Mordor, as the Lord of the Rings films proved.

Torres del Paine, Chile

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Pretty much the prototype for rugged mountains the world over. The trio of towers – the Torres – is just a taster of the greater massif and its cuernos (horns), glaciers and narrow valleys.

Frenchmans Cap, Australia

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One of Tasmania’s most prominent mountains, Frenchmans Cap really is like family, after I climbed it with my then 10-year-old daughter a couple of years back. There’s something very special about a shared time like that.

Ama Dablam, Nepal

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If I get to climb just one 6000-metre-plus peak in life, I want it to be Ama Dablam, the thumb-shaped mountain that you pass on the way to Everest. It actually makes Everest look a little passé, really.

Guangzi, China

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They’re not high and nobody is scrambling to attain epic first ascents here, but the limestone peaks that angle out from the banks of the Li River are really quite the lookers.

El Capitan & Half Dome, USA

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Rock stars in every sense, El Cap and Half Dome dominate everything around the Yosemite Valley and half the world’s climbing stories. If I had the climbing skills, I’d happily call Camp 4 home.

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Long Walk, Little Legs

Andrew Bain with daughter Kiri on the Overland Track

For all the dozens of hiking trails and thousands of kilometres I’ve hiked, one experience stands high above all others. It was the week I spent walking Tasmania’s Overland Track in the company of my then nine-year-old daughter. It was probably the heaviest pack I’ve ever carried, and the slowest I’ve ever walked, but there was something entirely refreshing and revealing about seeing the world through young eyes again. Over the course of 65 kilometres and one week, I watched a child absorb the wilderness and come to feel at one with it. Continue reading

Friday Foto: Hidden Tongariro Valley

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Walking on a trail can be like threading a line between words in a book – you only see part of the story. Move off the line – read the entire page – and a place expands and changes, developing new shapes, angles and experiences as you step through untracked land.

In a forest or in heavily mountainous country, you quickly sense the possibility of this change if you were to step away from the trail. On my recent visit to New Zealand, however, I discovered there can be just as much shift in an open, barren landscape such as that around the volcanoes of Tongariro National Park. Continue reading

Friday Foto: Mt Anne, a great Abel

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Far-reaching mountain quests – aka peak bagging – are universal. Scotland famously has its Munros (mountains above 3000 metres in height), Colorado has its 14ers (peaks above 14,000 feet) and Japan has its 100 Famous Mountains. Even tiny Tasmania has a stake in this world of mountain missions, with its own list of chart-topping peaks known as the Abels. Continue reading

How Children Walk Differently to Adults

Those who’ve been following this blog until now will know the importance I place on introducing children to the outdoors, hopefully generating a love for the natural world and confidence in their own self-sufficiency.

Last week I spent four days hiking with my 10-year-old daughter, climbing to the summit of Frenchmans Cap, one of the most prominent mountains in Tasmania. I then took my eight-year-old son for a three-day hike around Freycinet Peninsula, circuiting its beaches and crossing the summit of Mt Graham. Continue reading

Friday Foto: Mt Roland

View along the summit plateau of Mt Roland, Tasmania

Think of great mountains across northern Tasmania and most people think only of Cradle Mountain. But to reach Cradle Mountain, you invariably drive past another imposing and isolated line of rock that is the breastplate of Mt Roland, a mountain that’s arguably the equal of its more famous neighbour.

To most who drive through here, Mt Roland is just windscreen scenery, a moment of ‘I wonder what that mountain is called’, before it’s forgotten in the quest to reach Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain. Continue reading

Top 10 Mountain Treks: (#1)

It seems suitable to wrap up the year with the final, and top, pick in my selection of the 10 finest mountain trails I’ve had the privilege to trek. My favourite trek over the many pairs of boots I’ve worn out is in Ethiopia, atop the mountain range known as the Roof of Africa.

The Simien Mountains aren’t the highest peaks in Africa, though at 4550m Ras Dashen is often claimed as the fourth-highest on the continent (which conveniently overlooks a few unnamed peaks in the Ruwenzori). But it’s not the head-spinning glory of altitude that elevates the Simiens to the head of my list. It’s the headiness of its escarpment, combined with the life – both human and animal – that’s scratched out on its plateau. Continue reading

Top 10 Mountain Treks: (#2) Monte FitzRoy

It’s a pretty short journey from No 3 in my list of mountain treks to No 2. From Torres del Paine National Park you need only skip across the border into Argentina to find yourself at the foot of Monte FitzRoy, less than 200km away. Perhaps the single-most impressive mountain I’ve had the pleasure to ogle, FitzRoy is an enormous bubble of rock – its summit escarpment is more than 1km in height – rising out of the fierce Patagonian Andes.

It’s been 10 years since I hiked here, and still the walk and the landscape live with me. It was a hike of both expectation and frustration, since I walked for almost a week in FitzRoy’s shadow before the clouds parted to grant a glimpse of the mountain I’d travelled half the world to see. Continue reading

Top 10 Mountain Treks: (#3) Torres del Paine

I’m getting towards the pointy end of my list of favourite mountain treks…and quite literally with this entry. Chile’s multi-pronged Torres del Paine are one of South America’s pin-up images, with the massif’s sharp peaks rising as bent and broken as a fisherman’s fingers. Continue reading

Lessons from Bogota

I recently wrote an article for BBC Travel about the remarkable cycling culture in the Colombian capital city of Bogota, where every Sunday roads close and up to two million people ride their bikes in a brilliant event called Ciclovia. The hero of the article, at least in my eyes, was former city mayor Enrique Penalosa who, when taking office, took millions of dollars slated for highways and poured it into the creation of bike paths instead. Continue reading