Whilst the prospect of face-to-face meetings still seem like a distant possibility we have to look elsewhere for our mountain medicine CPD. Podcasts might just be the perfect solution - free to access, completely portable and full of inspiring content! In my last appraisal I somewhat nervously listed several podcasts and wrote short reflective pieces on each. My appraiser looked them up and was so impressed that they're going feature in her next appraisal too! Here's some suggestions to get you started...
Niall Grimes describes his Jam Crack podcasts as, "recordings of me chatting to someone I really like and putting it out to the world". But of course it's far more than that. Each podcast starts with a monologue, stuffed full of reflections and stories on climbing and climbers, bristling with humour. These often lead to interviews with well known figures in the climbing world but there's one or two that really try to do something a little different - a reading, some poetry or a well told story. Highlights include Paul Pritchard's memories of Trevor Hodgson, Helen Mort reading extracts from her novel Black Car Burning and Angus Kille's account of climbing Indian Face. But perhaps the best is the moving tribute to John Allen who died earlier this year. Well known to many in the Peak District, John set the standard for gritstone climbing in the 1970's and 80's with first ascents of climbs such as Caricature, London Wall and Strapadictomy (all E5 6a's). Armed with his recording equipment Grimer sets up on a park bench in Sheffield and with a copy of a well thumbed guidebook recalls the times he spent climbing Allen's routes. It's chatting at it's best. Long may it continue!
In his touching tribute Grimer describes how John Allen "sizzled up gritstone". Here he is in action on Shirley's Shining Temple (E5 7a) (Image: Paul Williams)
Much missed, Mountain ran for just 20 episodes between 2015 and 2017. Nevertheless in such a short time, Christopher Sleight's series set an impressive standard for others to follow. Put simply, the podcast focuses upon people's lives and how the mountains have shaped them. Sometimes the stories are dark - whether it's finding the source of a blood curdling scream on Ben Nevis or accounts of winter nights spent lost and frightened in the Cairngorms - but there's also one or two rays of light. Moments of kindness, thoughtfulness and even romance burn through and warm even the coldest of hearts! Always dramatic, often full of suspense, they're hard to resist. Try episodes 19 and 20 (in that order!) You'll want to listen to the rest.
Bob Graham Sounds is a 15 part podcast describing the year of preparations that lay behind an attempt on the iconic 66 mile Bob Graham Round. Like so many extraordinary projects it's all about the details - from the choice of clothes and equipment to the minutiae of tactics, training and motivation. But what really lifts this above other "How To..." podcasts is the warmth and wit of it's presenter, Bob Diggles. As a middle aged man, prone to injury and self doubt, Bob is an engaging everyman and someone who you urge on to the very end. Fascinating interviews with Nicky Spinks, Richard Asquith and Ricky Lightfoot (what better example of nominative determinism?) are a bonus, but what you really want to find out is - did he do it?
Well known writer, speaker and climber, Andy Kirkpatrick has in recent months recorded a series of fascinating podcasts called Psychovertical. Start at the beginning and the interviews with Hazel Findlay, Jim Herrington and Jon Barton. Not only are they incredibly entertaining but they'll also help you grow accustomed to seeing the world through Andy's eyes. Next, head for his "Q and A" podcasts where he responds to questions on a multitude of climbing related topics. These are incredibly insightful and "laugh out loud" funny. Finally, take a deep breath and head for his more recent episodes. Try "Resilience", "Failure" and "Fear", but be ready to step out of your echo chamber! Andy is an iconoclast and loves nothing better than to poke fun at established thinking. Be careful, some might find them an uncomfortable listen. But, and here's the thing, the very best podcasts not only entertain and inform, they also get you thinking in a different way. Andy's podcasts do just that!
In 2011 Margo Talbot published her fascinating memoir, "All That Glitters..." in which she talks about her struggles with addiction and depression, as well as the role ice climbing has played in her recovery. Her interview with Paula Wright can be found here
The next is just one of many brilliant podcasts that have come out of the USA. For many years Alpinist has been amongst the world's leading climbing magazines. Now with the help of Paula Wright, Alpinist's Associate Editor, it's podcast is gaining a considerable following too. It's not hard to see why - the list of interviewees read like a "Who's Who" of rock climbing and mountaineering. Why not kick off with the podcasts featuring Conrad Anker, Barry Blanchard or Margo Talbot? But before you do - a quick word of warning! These guys take their climbing seriously. Don't expect the lightheartedness and dry wit that you find on this side of the pond. Forgive their earnestness and give them a chance - it's well worth it!
Fadein? Crottle? In "Landmarks" Robert MacFarlane celebrates the rich history of landscape language describing it as a, "great gleaming chest of wonder". Bemoaning it's loss in recent years he argues we should, "reseed the golf course we've grown to accept" with a, "wildflower meadow of words"
Finally, a recommendation for a single recording rather than a podcast series. Robert MacFarlane, writer, poet and campaigner, joins Kirsty Lang on the Radio 4 flagship arts programme "Front Row" to talk about his literary life. Whether it's his best known "Mountains of the Mind" or more recent works such as "The Wild Places" and "The Old Ways", they all help illuminate the natural world and our place within it. In the interview, Macfarlane tackles head on the devastating impact humanity has had upon nature. Whether it’s oil exploration in the Arctic National Wilderness Refuge or the cutting down of trees by Sheffield City Council, he emphasises the need to live with nature in a much more thoughtful way. A gentle call to arms that shouldn't go ignored.
In the interview with Front Row, Robert MacFarlane movingly describes a visit to the beach at Formby where he walked alongside the footprints of a mesolithic family made almost 5000 years ago. More on the Formby footprints can be found here
** News has just reached us of Tessa Coulson and Hywel Evans' "The Last Season in Nepal" podcast. The series follows Tessa's medical work at the IPPG rescue posts in Nepal's Sagarmartha National Park. Next week we’ll publish an interview with Tessa and Hywel. In the meantime why not give their podcast a try? **
There's a lot more podcasts out there that might prove useful for mountain medicine CPD. Has anyone heard Enormocast, Factor 2, Sharp End or Scotrock? They're on our "must do" list. Please let us know if you have any recommendations and we’ll publicise them too!
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If you would like to find out more about mountain medicine why not join the British Mountain Medicine Society? See this link for details.