When Robert Macfarlane sought an answer to roughly the same question, he wrote a book. Mountains of the Mind, which he will be talking about at the Edinburgh International Book Festival,
He contests the notion that mountains automatically lend themselves to good writing. “They lend themselves to very good photographs,” he says. “I think it’s easy to write incredibly badly about mountains. For me, there isn’t enough said about their beauty, their wonder. I wanted to do justice to that without resorting to cliche.
“In North America there’s an amazing tradition of writing about the landscape and the outdoors, and I think it’s something we’re lacking in this country.
There are some fascinating facts, too. That Everest “only” became the world’s highest mountain 200,000 years ago; that in a million years it will be twice as high as it is now; that 400 million years ago a Himalayan-sized range of mountains existed in Scotland, and that now “only the eroded stubs remain”.
Mountains of the Mind