So, what did we think of BBC1’s big venture into the mountains?
En route for the Cuillins: Griff Rhys Jones in the first episode of Mountain
The mainstream press is awash with nitpicking crits of Griff Rhys Jones’s irritating cackle, the fact it was obvious the production team had beaten him to the Suileag bothy (tyre tracks and a smoking chimney) and his interview with a laird long-gone.
Mountain graced the screens last night and, frankly, Scotland stole the show. While Mr Rhys Jones can be viewed as an acquired taste by some, the sight of Suilven’s shapely slopes cloaked in winter mantle, or the summit trig of Ben Hope magically appearing through the whiteout when even Cameron McNeish seemed to be in some doubt as to where he was – these were the moments that gave an insight into why we slog up these big hunks of rock.
And we think that’s the point of the series. How to explain to the mortals that it is worth the sweat, the palpitations and the bloody knees to gain a height that enables you to look across the Atlantic and glimpse Iceland or experience the absolute solitude that the North-West of Scotland provides.
Yes, you can have a dig at the fact there are lots of eccentric incomers inhabiting the wildernesses of Sutherland; snigger at why two women would want to run a post office miles from civilisation or question why the late John MacLeod of MacLeod should get such an easy ride with his risible quest to sell Britain’s only Alpine range, whose ownership has been the subject of long conjecture. But all this is to miss the point.
Anyone who watched cannot be but enthralled by the beauty and savagery of this most remote of Britain’s upland stretches. We know that we wanted to be there after we watched it; it’s clear that many viewers will have had a tweak at that inner mountaineer that has lain buried within them. And hey, you don’t have to jump on a plane to Chamonix to get mountain excitement, though it would probably be quicker to get there for those in the South of England.
We’ll certainly be setting the recorder for episode two when Griff tackles Helvellyn’s Striding Edge and follows the footsteps of Lakeland’s first adrenalin junkie, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.