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My Outdoors Q&A: John D Burns

By John Davidson

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Outdoors author and writer John D Burns.
Outdoors author and writer John D Burns.

Name: John D Burns

Age: 65

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you normally do.

I’m a semi-retired author and I’m currently writing my fourth book Wild Winter which is a sort of diary of the past winter. The book has been cut short by the virus but I still managed to get about quite a bit. Although I still walk the hills an visit bothies regularly, I am becoming increasing interested in Highland wildlife and have been watching whales, mountain hare and pine marten. I’ve also been out looking for otters etc.

Where are you based/where do you live?

I live in Inverness although I travel all over the Highlands pursuing my interests.

How have you been filling the void of the great outdoors during lockdown and what has been the biggest change for you?

The biggest change for me has been that I can’t roam around the remote parts of the Highlands staying in bothies and watching wildlife. I’m not keen on urban walking but I have taken my bike out of the shed and I’m enjoying cycling during lockdown.

Since a lot of folk can’t get out, I’ve been making podcasts mostly aimed at outdoor people who can’t get out. The podcast is called Outside In. Here’s a recent episode with mountaineer Mick Fowler. Mick is the master of the small and remote Himalayan expedition. He has been at the forefront of this pioneering approach to alpinism for over 30 years, balancing his family life, a full-time job at the tax office and his annual trips to the greater ranges in order to attempt mountains that may never have been seen before by Westerners, let alone climbed by them.

What are you missing most about the freedom of the outdoors just now?

The thing I miss most is seeing the seasons change. I miss seeing the snowdrops come out and checking pools for frog spawn. It was lovely to see the house martins come back this year. There is something really hopeful about seeing those small birds come all the way back from Africa to fly over the River Ness once more.

Have you found any positives in lockdown?

The main positive I have found is that I have reconnected with a lot of old friends. In many ways this crisis has brought us closer together.

What is the first place you plan to visit, or route you plan to do, once lockdown restrictions are eased to the point we can travel more freely?

The first place I’ll go will be Inver mountaineering hut in Achnasheen. It’s a lovely place and gives access to so many great areas including Torridon. I was supposed to go there and fix the broken door catch just before lockdown, so the job still needs doing.

What event or events are you looking forward to once things are up and running again, whenever that might be?

I’m really looking forward to Kendal mountain festival. It’s such a good chance for me to meet up with everyone I know in the mountaineering world. I’ve missed it the last couple of years so I am hoping it’ll take place in November this year. Fingers crossed.

Do you have a favourite outdoors book or author?

My favourite mountain book is Joe Simpson’s Touching the Void. It is such a dramatic book and captures so much of the excitement and adventure in mountaineering. Disasters make the best stories.


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