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Friday 5: author Helen Mort

Helen Mort and scout
Helen Mort and her dog Scout (Image credit: Helen Mort)

Helen Mort is a Sheffield-based author, who has published two poetry collections, a novel and her latest book, Never Leave The Dog Behind (Vertebrate, 2020).

She edited a guide to Lake District Trail Running and co-edited Waymaking, a book of adventure narratives and art by women.

If you could only keep one item out of all your outdoor gear, which would you keep and why?

Can I count a map as a piece of gear? If so, I'd keep an OS map for the area around Gairloch and Ullapool in north-west Scotland because (apart from the Peak District) it's my heart-landscape, a place where I always feel at peace.

I guess I would also need a compass so I'm cheating now and picking two things. Even if I couldn't go there, I would want to study the map.

Helen Mort

(Image credit: Helen Mort)

What's your pet peeve in the outdoors/adventure space? 

I hesitate to say it because I don't want to make enemies but it is men who boulder with their shirts off in the middle of winter at indoor walls. If I can keep my top on without expiring, I'm sure they can, too. I'm being quite flippant here, so please don't attack me, topless boulderers!

If you could be instantly transported to the start of any adventure, what would it be, where and why? 

If I could just time travel and my carbon footprint wasn't going to be an issue, I would go back to East Greenland and the Knud Rasmussen glacier, in summer 2016.

I've never been anywhere like it: the scale, the loud calving of the glacier, the Northern Lights, whales in the water. 

From the first peak we climbed, we sat on the summit and watched three minke whales circling in the water. It was breathtaking.

Helen Mort and dog Scout

Helen's most recent book is called, Never Leave the Dog Behind (Image credit: Helen Mort)

We're sitting round a campfire. Tell us a funny or entertaining story about one of your adventures.   

Staying with Greenland.... here's a story from that trip. This isn't a glamorous opening, but after dinner one night I left the tents around sunset to go for a pee.

I was very aware of the danger of polar bear encounters (for both humans and bears) so of course I took my bear flares with me.

As I crouched behind the rock (I'd faffed around for ages finding one that really did screen me from the camp), I suddenly had this intense feeling of being watched. I froze. This is it, I thought, it's a bear.

I was clutching the flares ready to fire one, when I came face to face with my watcher. It was a slender grey arctic fox, cute as a button. He'd already paid a visit to the camp and had stolen the spork that I'd been eating dinner with. I spent ages chasing him around trying to get it back.

Is there any gear that's on your shopping list at the moment? 

I haven't climbed at all through the Covid pandemic, so gear feels pretty distant to me at the moment. I really should invest in a new rope at some point though, or ideally twin ropes. 

I've just been given some cards and nuts by a friend who has quit climbing so I'm eager to use those soon.

Fiona Russell

Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, who is better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favourite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing, both downhill and back country. Her target for 2021 is to finish the final nine summits in her first round of all 282 Munros, the Scottish mountains of more than 3,000ft high. Aside from being outdoors, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy the great outdoors, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.