2016 has been a mixed year – great in some respects, not so good in others. Here’s my overview of 2016 on Alexroddie.com, and a look ahead to 2017.
Backpacking and the outdoors
At the end of last year I vowed that 2016 would be even better in terms of outdoor adventure, and I’m glad to say that I have kept that resolution. This has been my first year in which almost every single trip has been work as well as pleasure.
In February I took the train to Corrour Station and enjoyed a snowy stomp over some of the Munros in the Ben Alder area, culminating in a bit of bog snorkelling and a stay at Ben Alder Cottage (look out for a writeup of this trip in a future issue of TGO Magazine).
In March I had the weekend of a lifetime on the Lochaber Traverse. This was not only a highlight of my year, but the undisputed highlight of my first decade of mountaineering in Scotland. My feature on this outing was published in the January 2017 issue of TGO, in shops at the time of writing.
In April and May, I went for a 280-mile wander in the Highlands. I hiked the West Highland Way, Alder Trail (published in Trail Magazine, November 2016) and Skye Trail (published in TGO, October 2016). The weather was a real mix – I had a lot of cold and snow on the Alder Trail, but scorching temperatures and sunshine on Skye. This was also my first trip using the MLD Trailstar. It’s become my favourite shelter.
In June, I headed to North Wales to attempt the Welsh 3000ers over two days, but some truly abysmal weather led to me cancelling the attempt after completing the Carneddau section. This was meant for a UKHillwalking feature but I didn’t come back with enough material to make an article. You win some, you lose some!
In July, I hiked for eleven days through the Pyrenees. My original plan was to keep going well into August, but due to illness I made the decision to get off trail after only 113 miles. No regrets, really – I completed what is generally regarded as the most scenic section of the Haute Route Pyrenees, and had a brilliant time. The learning curve was steep, though. I carried my lightest ever pack but I really struggled with the heat, especially keeping food fresh. In hindsight, going stoveless may have been a bad idea, because I was forced to rely on a greater proportion of spoilable foodstuffs. This is certainly a tactic I’ll be rethinking for future trips. Look out for a magazine feature on my Pyrenean adventure in 2017.
In November, after the first serious snowfall in the Highlands, I returned to the Cairngorms for a short backpacking route starting in Glen Feshie. This one’s being published in UKHillwalking. I also started testing the Lightwave t10 Raid, a tent I have on review for UKH.
Finally, also in November, Hannah and I enjoyed a short break in the Yorkshire Dales. On the summit of Fremington Edge, in a burst of sunshine surrounded by new snow, I asked her to be my wife and she said yes.
Writing and editorial work
My writing has been very prolific this year, but it’s almost all been non-fiction. For a while I attempted to keep my novel-in-progress going by serialising it for site members, but circumstances intervened and it soon became apparent that this wasn’t sustainable. In a strange way, I don’t miss writing fiction – I thought I would, but I don’t. I think that itch is currently being scratched by the non-fiction articles I’ve been writing for the outdoor press.
It’s been a significant year for my outdoor writing. I have published a number of pieces in TGO, a publication that continues to go from strength to strength under the editorship of Emily Rodway (who has been hugely supportive of my work). I have continued to publish pieces in Mountain Pro Magazine and UKHillwalking – features and book reviews alike – and have also written my first major article for Trail Magazine. I have started reviewing outdoor gear for UKHillwalking too. You can expect more product reviews from me in 2017.
My editorial business has been booming in 2016, with new clients coming on board and plenty of new projects from established clients. I’ve worked on a couple more Everest books – this seems to be an established niche for me now – plus a wide range of fiction and non-fiction.
I’ve read a lot of great books too, many from Vertebrate Publishing, who have been killing it this year. That’ll be the subject of another piece.
Challenges and pitfalls
2016 hasn’t all been great, of course. The big crisis of the year was my dad’s illness, which I wrote about in The Most Important Thing. Cancer is scary, and everything was a bit overwhelming for a while after I returned from the Pyrenees, but I’m glad to report that Dad is making excellent progress. He’s now been back home for several weeks and has had several courses of chemo. His strength is gradually returning. There’s still a long journey ahead of us, but we’re no longer making daily visits to the hospital ward.
My other significant challenge for the year has been coping with an increased workload. My editorial business is growing, but I haven’t always been very good at scheduling work around my trips to the mountains. The problem is that I’m often away for much of the time between May and August. When I return, I’m often faced with a bit of a backlog. This time, combined with my dad’s illness, I was overwhelmed for weeks. In 2017 I am going to revise my approach to project management in order to avoid this kind of scheduling problem arising again.
Looking ahead to 2017
2016 has been a year of improvements across several areas of my life. In addition to everything I’ve mentioned here, I have worked hard on improving my photography skills, made some key upgrades to the gear I use to get my job done, and refined my backpacking equipment. I hope to continue that trend next year.
In 2017 my outdoor focus will remain on long-distance backpacking, although I won’t be beating any personal mileage records. I can, however, reveal that I’ll be going for a long walk in Scotland around the second half of May, and I’m planning a return to Norway in July. Beyond that I’ll play it by ear. We have a wedding to pay for, so I’m going to be concentrating on growing Pinnacle Editorial in all its forms.