Published 13th December 2019, 20:35

    HARD to believe a year has gone by, but here we are again at opening night for one of the main events on the mountaineering calendar.

    The Dundee Mountain Film Festival, which started in 1983, is the country's longest continuous running mountain film festival.

    Every year it manages to attract an international array of speakers and award-winning films and exhibitions. Among the big names featuring are Doug Scott, Dave MacLeod and Keith Partridge.

    There's also a photography workshop with Nadir Khan, and another chance to catch the excellent Munro Legacy Exhibition, which has been touring the country during this centenary year of the death of Sir Hugh Munro.

    A stellar line-up, but I reckon one of the main reasons the festival remains so successful is that it also has the overall feel of a family reunion. This will be the sixth year in succession I have had a stand in the trade area, and my main focus this year will be on the new book, Mountains of the Moon.

    The timing of this publication has meant a more relaxed agenda than that for the previous two. I have done a few talks and some interviews, but it's generally been more of a slow burn and most of the big stuff doesn't kick in until next year.

    It's a better pace than having everything crushed into a frantic couple of months. It gives me more time and opportunity to engage with regular readers of the blog and the books and, as always, I'm looking forward to meeting and chatting to faces old and new.

    And, of course, there's also the chance to get your hands on the 2020 Moonwalker calendar, but you will need to be quick – there are less than 50 remaining. All the profits go to Scottish Mountain Rescue, and with the additional sale of second-hand books, the total is already heading north of £500.

    I never imagined that when I announced the new book would be the last of the Moonwalker series there would be such an upsurge in interest in the previous two. Unintended circumstances of ending up with a trilogy, it would seem.

    I knew it would be difficult to replicate a regular programme of night walking after a ten-year gap. Although I have never stopped going out at night, I have been more choosy than in the old days, picking only the best nights and the best routes.

    The period that covered the first two books was governed largely by working hours. Now, with all the time in the world, the structure was altered. Also, and this is probably the biggest factor, I was ten years older with all the aches and pains that brings.

    The 2018 full moon year was tough, the walking a lot tougher than I had remembered, and having to go out on a set date with set time parameters added to the angst.

    Last year at this time, on the eve of the Dundee festival, I was hauling myself to the summit of Ben Cruachan in pitch darkness on the night of the penultimate full moon, the Beaver Moon, the only light coming from the snow showers which were being driven horizontally across the slopes by a fierce wind. Fair play to the three friends who accompanied me – it certainly wasn't a night to remember for the right reasons.

    I managed to cover most of the main mountain areas over the year; Cairngorms, Torridon, Skye, Affric, Knoydart – or at least the Rough Bounds – Etive, Sutherland, but inevitably there were some great peaks that never made the cut.

    Ben Nevis was a notable absentee, as were Ladhar Bheinn and Ben More on Mull, but none really slotted together with the profile of the moons. I reluctantly decided to leave out Buachaille Etive Mor as I have watched the sunrise from the summit of Stob Dearg on more than one occasion. 

    The loss of the remote A' Mhaighdean was also regrettable but necessary for safety reasons. I was able to console myself with the fact that I had recently sat at its summit for two hours watching the sun take its time to burn through the horizon, and then walked out over the rest of the Fisherfield fraternity in the burning oranges and reds of dawn. 

    The biggest regret was that I didn't manage to fit in a visit to my favourite mountain, An Teallach, so you see, there are still plenty of options on the moonlight to-do list even if the books have reached a natural end.