Last spring, I spent two weeks searching out climbing zones with British Mountain Guide Chris Ensoll and Arc’teryx athletes Katy Whittaker and Mina Leslie-Wujastyk. Over thousands of kilometres, zig-zagging from North Yorkshire, to the Lake District, to the Peak District, to North Wales, to the Isle of Skye, and finally, to the Old Man of Stoer on the high Scottish coast, I asked climbers that we met what made UK climbing so unique? Young and old, weekend warriors, camper van dwellers, and veritable legends, with a single voice they answered: It’s the diversity.
As we drove through the lakeland fells, Chris told me about his shepherd friend, a man in his nineties who had walked and scrambled over the fells his entire life. He had a particular dialect, highly precise, to describe the landmarks vital to everyday living, working, and moving around. Termed as the ‘mountain languages’ of the British Isles by author Robert McFarlane: