Hiking, reading and photography – 3 of my favourite things

Bookcrossing on Spidean Coire Clach, Beinne Eighe
Andrew Grieg’s When They Lay Bare – on Spidean Coire Clach, Beinne Eighe

I love books. I buy many books, mainly used. I read many books, and I have bookshelves stacked full to bursting. But I simply do not have room to keep all the paperback fiction I read, so I pass them on – to perfect strangers.

Today I celebrate 9 years of participation in Bookcrossing. For those who don’t know “bookcrossing” is the practice of dropping a book off in a public location with the intent that someone else will pick it up and read it. Before leaving the books participants register them on the bookcrossing website. This gives each book an unique number which is written inside the book in an obvious place – usually inside the front cover – along with details of the website. When anyone finds the book they can go to the website and log in their find.

Many of the 900,000 members around the world leave their books in urban settings: coffee shops, city parks, train stations, shopping centres, etc, but I rarely visit these places. I live, work and play in the countryside so I leave books in the countryside. (The terminology we use is a ‘wild release’).

Bookcrossing mosaic

Sometimes I like to match the book to the location I plan to leave it; this is known as a ‘themed release’. I placed the children’s classic The Secret Garden in a lovely big tree house in a local community-owned woodland; I placed Gavin Maxwell’s world famous, classic Ring of Bright Water on the memorial stone at the site of his house and where his ashes are buried (his fans will remember the house burnt to the ground, with the death of one otter). The book The White Mare is about the Roman invasion of Scotland. This ended with the battle of Mons Grapius and this is thought to have taken place at Bennachie.. Aberdeen-shire, where I left this copy and I’ve left a couple of copies of The Highest Tide at the beach.

A few of my mountain releases are themed too.
Bookcrossing on Ben More Asynt
Ffyona Campbell’s Walk Around the World on Ben More Assynt.

Jack Londen’s White Fang was placed in Ryvoan Bothy near Glenmore where they hold the UK Husky Dog Championships.

Electric Brae by the Scottish writer Andrew Greig (a book about climbing) was left in Inshriach bothy

I left Joe Simpson’s Touching The Void on top of Schiehallion; his Beckoning Silence on Creag Meagaidh and last week a copy of his novel, The Water People on the summit of Moruisg.

One of the best mountaineering books I’ve read, Rick Ridgeway’s Below Another Sky was released in the Cairngorm mountains.

Bookcrossing mosaic

In the past nine years I’ve left 900 books in total and am always delighted when I get an email from bookcrossing to say one has been found.

Sometimes I get amusing or charming little stories by the finder, such as the guy who found Be My Enemy by Christopher Brookmyre in Glen Affric in December 2008.

Bookcrossing in Glen Affric

He said:

Cold winters day at the viewpoint high above Loch Affric where I’d arrived after a great walk . I’d decided that would be the ideal place to drink the Thermos of coffee that had been calling to me from my pack for the previous hour . I’d been drinking in the splendour of this long view for some time when the call of caffeine brought my eyes down to my feet in search of the pack and the soon to be released coffee…I was simultaneously remembering this was sunday and the earlier disapointment of arriving at Gows only to find it locked and in darkness meant I really had lost track of days and time….but mostly it meant…. no bun! As I wrestled with this grim realisation my eyes fell on a plastic bag neatly placed in a niche at the bottom of the cairn….I wondered could it be a sandwich left by a previous walker? or maybe an Eccles cake…..but no, it was my new book….and suddenly I wasn’t hungry anymore. The book’s back in London with me now and I plan to read it over the Christmas period….I will make sure it continues its journey onwards.

Or this comment for The Irresistible Inheritance Of Wilberforce by Paul Torday left on the wee hill above Drumnadrochit, Meall Fuar-mhonaidh
Bookcrossing on Meall Fuar-mhonaidh

I’m training for entry into the royal marines at the moment so i decided I would go out walking in the most awful conditions with weight on my back on sun 11th jan. The rain was hammering down and it was hard trying to keep moving through the gale force winds. So when i finally made the summit of Meall Fuar-mhonaidh i was pleased to find a wee suprise waiting for me, i felt i’d really earnt it.
Loved the book, very strange main character choice and subject but brilliantly written. I liked the way he went backwards through the story too, nice touch. It was pretty bleak and i nearly stopped reading it at first, but i enjoyed the style of writting and so persisted. I’m going away for the next part of my training next week so i think i’ll take the book and leave it on a train somewhere between inverness and lympston in devon.

The weather is no deterrent to leaving books in hills – as long as they are weighed down under a stone or two – as I put all the books in a sealed plastic bags. Sara Wheeler’s Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica was left on the top of Ben Klibreck in the snow and spent 10 weeks there before being picked up and journalled on the bookcrossing website.

Bookcrossing on Ben Klibreck

Some of you may think I’m a wee bit of a bampot, because after carefully selecting lightweight gear for hiking, I then stuff a book in my rucksack to carry up a hill or for miles. But I’m not alone; some of the folks who find my books leave them in similar places once they have read them.

This book jumped from Loch Morlich, Scotland to Løgnin Fjord, Norway
Bookcrossing at Loch Morlich

And many of those who find my books on hills promise to leave them in hills at home or abroad. One of my most ‘famous’ wild releases (and one which has often been written about in newspaper articles about bookcrossing) was Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity I left on a wee bittie hill on the Southern Upland Way. It was picked up and left by the finder on Kilimanjaro. I didn’t hear anything more about it until two years later, when it I was chuffed to receive the following email from the website

I’m a german physician spending a volontary year at the Kibosho Hospital here in Tanzania. Kibosho is situated on the south side of Mount Kilimanjaro a few kilometres north of Moshi.
I got this book from a patient who gave it to me as a reward for helping her. It was really sweet. I didn’t want to take it first but she said she wasn’t able to read it anyway and pointed out the stickers inside. Thus I learned about bookcrossing. I literally had to laugh out loud. Funny concept! And the book travelled all the way from Scotland and then right on top of Mount Kilimanjaro. Wow! A place I’ve always wanted to go but still haven’t managed. I wonder how she got hold of the book? I can’t ask her anymore, though, since she already left the hospital. I’m not a big reader but as I’m doing night shift right now (thankfully it’s pretty quiet) I’ll give it a try. Thanks for the book! It looks a bit battered but still ok. If I’m allowed to leave another message I’ll try to update you on its further travels.

If you ever come across one of my books, do pick it up! After all, I went to the effort of carrying it up a hill – you only have to carry it down. 😉


5 comments on “Hiking, reading and photography – 3 of my favourite things

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