Wilderness, walks and Wensleydale cheese: Chris Townsend answers your questions

Posted by Carey Davies on 14/04/2014

What would you ask wilderness walking legend and BMC ambassador Chris Townsend if you had the chance? We gave our Facebook followers the chance to do just that, and the resulting questions ranged from the profound to the more practical. Here is the pick of the bunch.

WINNING QUESTION: Is wilderness a state of mind, an approach to the environment, or a location free of humanity’s influence?

It can be all three. For me it's anywhere that feels wild and is free from visible human influence. I don't think there's an absolute division between wilderness and non-wilderness. It's a gradual shift. It's hard to say at what point somewhere becomes wilderness as opposed to wild land. As an approach to the environment I think wilderness is about letting places become more wild.

Where is your favourite view?

There are many but if forced to choose I'd go for the view from Sgurr na Stri on Skye. The panorama of Loch Coruisk and the Cuillin is just stunning.

If you were told that you will pass away during your next trip, but you could choose your time, would it be at sunset or sunrise?

Wow! What a question. Sunset would seem appropriate.

Do you still have the cap you bought in a Tesco, Cumbernauld? (I'm chuffed that a Hillwalking Hero of mine shops in the same place I buy tatties!)

Yes. It lasted the rest of the Watershed walk and is still in good condition. Best £5 I've spent in ages!

After reading reports by, for example, Lake District mountain rescue teams, it seems that that there are more and more walkers who head out without any knowledge. So do you sometimes see people outside on hills you feel you should advise to sooner get back down to shops and tourist attractions?

I have occasionally given advice to people who I thought were a bit out of their depth and slightly more often have been asked for advice by people. There are of course far more walkers than climbers, which is why I think the accident figures are higher among walkers. The figures are still very low given the numbers on the hills. I would advise people to learn the skills needed but I’d never want to say that anyone shouldn't be in the hills. I had a few escapades when I began walking and could well have been the person others thought shouldn't be up in the hills!

What does walking mean to you?

Freedom, beauty, nature, adventure and all that encompasses.

What piece of equipment do you always take with you on a walk? Not including the essentials.

Something to read. That used to mean a paperback book, now it means an e-reader. I don't take this on day walks but always on backpacking trips.

What are your a) top three UK walks, and b) top three non-UK walks you have undertaken and what made them so memorable?"

In the UK I'd say the continuous round of the Munros and the Scottish Watershed for long walks and the Lakes 4 3000ers, Cairngorms 5 4000ers and the Mamores for shorter ones. Yes, I know that's five! Abroad I'd go for the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Arizona Trail for long walks and the John Muir Trail, Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim and the trek to Makalu Base Camp for shorter ones.

Sometimes that's true but not often. That's mainly because I've made walking and writing about it what I do - some might say I was escaping all the time!

What is your most memorable moment in the mountains?

There have been so many! Most recently it was watching a golden eagle spiralling up on thermals in the Cairngorms.

When on foreign walking trips have you ever found an outdoor walking or camping product that you found so clever, innovative, lightweight or cheap that you've stocked up on and brought several home with you? The reason I ask is that I used to do it and wondered if I was normal!

No, but there are times when I wish I had as the product then disappeared. Actually my best buy abroad was a titanium pot I purchased over 20 years ago. It was the first one I'd seen and I still use it so there'd have been no need to buy more.

When sleeping under a tarp on your US walks have you ever had cause for concern about the local wildlife? I can guarantee the first time I try it I'll wake with a snake in my bag and a bear or mountain lion arguing who would eat me!

No, I haven't. Often I sleep out under the stars and don't bother with a tarp. With bears a tent is no more protection than a tarp - and a tarp would be easier to escape from!

What is your most notable memory from all your expeditions so far?

Oh dear, that's difficult! There are many. I think the three-weeks going through the snowbound High Sierra on my Pacific Crest Trail hike is perhaps the most memorable of all.

Do  you prefer Wensleydale or Cheddar?

I like both. What matters is the quality. But for cheese on toast you can't beat Wensleydale.

Where is the best-kept secret in the British mountains?

If I told you it wouldn't be a secret! But if you're looking for somewhere quiet and little-visited try most hills in Scotland that aren't Munros.

 

Watch Chris Townsend in this clip from "The Cairngorms in Winter"

Check out more clips from 'The Cairngorms in Winter' on BMC TV.

Go to Chris Townsend's blog.



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