First and foremost, this book is approachable. While many outdoors books can become bogged-down in technical detail and intimidating feats of endurance, Townsend writes as though walking is everyone’s game: ‘With no instruction or mentors I learnt initially by trial and error, mostly the latter.’ Though he recommends being prepared, Townsend speaks as a guide with a tone that is open, personable and encouraging. He is an outdoorsman who clearly sees the value in mistakes: ‘A torch would have been useful, as I stumbled into bogs and fell over rocks. Just a week later I realised that carrying spare batteries was also a good idea when my new torch failed.’
He explores people’s reluctance to try it for themselves, as well as the fear of going solo: ‘In the wilds there is so much to see and do, from the practicalities of campcraft, route finding and dealing with the weather to watching everything from the landscape as a whole. Solitude and loneliness are very different. I have never been lonely in the wilds.’ He also takes the time to defend the practice of ‘peak bagging’, or the deliberate climbing of groups of mountain summits – a practice often criticised for being a tick-list approach to the mountains.
Ranging from the Pacific Crest Trail to the Sierras to the peaks of Britain, Out There is as a collection of essays from the many walks of his own life. Brought together, they read as a singular celebration of wild spaces.
This review was published in the May 2016 edition of Geographical magazine.