Alex Roddie reviews another cracking book about nocturnal adventures in Scotland’s mountains by ‘Moonwalker’ Alan Rowan.
Alan Rowan, a regular TGO contributor, is known for climbing Scottish mountains by night. It started by necessity: in the 1990s he had a stressful job with long hours, and the only way he could squeeze in his first round of the Munros was to do many of them after dark. In Mountains of the Moon, the challenge is far more narrowly defined than a round of Munros or Corbetts. 2018 saw 13 full moons, one of which was a rare blue supermoon, and so the author set out to climb one Scottish mountain during each of them (along with a suitable song and alcoholic drink for each occasion).
Mountains of the Moon is very different to this author’s first two books. The rules of the challenge are only so flexible, and the moon’s calendar won’t wait for perfect conditions. Alan deals with some truly abysmal weather on the 13 night walks in this book. Electronics fail in the cold and wet. Ferocious winds tear maps and compasses from rucksacks. Car journeys to the mountains become dangerous horror shows on icy roads. It’s a journey that requires dedication, toughness, and vast experience. The writing glows with the wild, alien beauty of the mountains at night – although there are plenty of great one-liners too.
Where Mountains of the Moon differs most clearly from Alan Rowan’s first two books is the sense that the author has set himself a truly formidable task – one that his younger self would find much easier, but now success is by no means guaranteed. This adds tension to the writing and helps to enhance a compelling narrative. Like Compleating the Munros themselves, ultimately the completion of a tick list or self-appointed challenge isn’t really about the list – it’s about the opportunities for adventure and discovery along the way.
Mountains of the Moon is published by Backpage Press (£9.99, paperback)