1) My wife Gina

WE met 50 years ago and have been married for 48 years, a lifetime in which she has constantly supported all my whims and mad plans, climbed mountains with me, trekked remote trails with me, travelled the world with me and, occasionally, became cold, wet and scared with me.

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More importantly, she is the one who often kept the home fires burning when I was away on extended trips. She is the mother of my two sons and she is my sounding board because she is a damned sight wiser than I am.

2) The 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh

THIS hugely successful sporting event was a crucial point in my life, mainly because I wasn’t involved in it.

I was Scottish junior long jump champion in 1968 and won two Scottish international vests before I was 20. I had my heart set on making the Commonwealth Games team but a series of injuries put paid to that.

The disappointment made me consider my future as an athlete. I think I knew in my heart of hearts that I wasn’t good enough to reach the higher echelons of athletics and I was beginning to feel the pull of the hills.

After the closing ceremony, which I attended as a spectator, I took myself off to the top of Arthur’s Seat and gazed across the Firth of Forth to the dim outline of the Highland hills. It was at that moment I decided to spend my life climbing mountains and exploring wild places.

3) Meeting John Anderson

MOST folk might remember John as the Scottish referee in the television series Gladiators, but I met John as a 14-year-old on a Scottish schools athletics course at Inverclyde sports centre near Largs.

John (right) was the Scottish national athletics coach. During that course he took me aside and told me if I worked hard I could become the first Scot to jump further than 27 feet. The world record at the time was 27 feet 5 inches. I never fulfilled his ambitions for me but John became my coach and during my teenage years he was like a second father to me.

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He taught me so much – self-discipline, self-confidence and the ability to push myself physically when I thought I was exhausted. I owe him a lot and it was a huge delight to meet him recently for lunch in Glasgow and present him with a copy of my autobiography There’s Always the Hills.

4) Mountaineering in Scotland, by WH Murray

AS I youngster I spent a lot of time in libraries. I was an avid reader and loved books about adventure and exploration.

One evening in Paisley Library, I found a copy of Mountaineering in Scotland by WH Murray (below). That book changed my life.

I had read exciting accounts of mountaineering expeditions to the Himalayas and Greenland and such places, but here was someone relating similar adventures in the mountains of home.

I loved the book, I loved the Germanic/Gothic descriptions of winter climbing ascents in places like Glen Coe and on Ben Nevis and I was fascinated by the spiritual overtones of the book.

Later I came to know Bill Murray and made a film about his life as a climber, a television programme that went on to win a Bafta award.

I still think he is Scotland’s finest ever mountain writer.

5) My first major accident

I WAS fell-running on some hills close to my home in Newtonmore when something went wrong.

To this day I don’t know what happened. Perhaps I slipped on wet rock, perhaps I tripped over some heather. I just don’t know. My last memory was descending the hill just after crossing the summit at about 2400 feet. My next memory is of climbing over the wall beside the road, thinking that it had been a particularly hard run. I recall a woman stopping in her car to see if I was OK and then driving off.

Then, fortuitously, one of my neighbours passed in his car, saw that I was covered in blood, and tumbled me into his car. He phoned for an ambulance and I was taken to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness where I had 40 stitches put into head wounds. I had a badly broken wrist and I had fractured my right ankle. Judging by the time difference I had probably lain unconscious for a good hour or so before coming round and making my way off the hill, although I can’t remember it.

Some years later I was at a local village party when an elderly neighbour asked how I had recovered from my accident. I asked her how she knew about it and she confessed she had been the lady who stopped in her car. But, she explained, it was brand new car and since I was covered in blood she didn’t want it messed up, so she drove off.

With friends like that …

6) First visit to Nepal

THIS tiny country, squashed between the super-states of India and China (Tibet), is home to the highest mountains in the world.

It is also one of the poorest countries in the world and, in the foothills of the Himalayas, people still work the land using wooden ploughs and oxen.

On my first visit I went as an assistant trek leader and I overheard a number of our trekkers complaining about a new road that was being built into the foothills. They claimed the road would destroy the ambiance of the place and spoil the “medieval” experience of trekking there.

They appeared to have little regard for the folk who actually lived there and how a road would make life so much easier for them. It made me change my thinking about the “empty lands” of the Scottish Highlands and Islands and I realised that those wild areas I loved so much were only wild and unpopulated because the local people had been cleared out.

I’ve since come to appreciate there is plenty of room in the Highlands of Scotland for folk to enjoy the hills and glens and for some of those glens to be repopulated.

Sadly, many hillwalkers make a lot of negative noise about developments that are important to highlanders, mainly because they don’t want their views to be spoiled. It’s exactly the same attitude as those trekkers in Nepal had.

7) Learning about risk

I WAS born in Govan in Glasgow and when I was school age we moved a few miles to another working-class area of Scotland. But this new working -class area was different from Govan. It had trees, and hedges and, best of all, a river running through it.

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My literary interests had been weaned on Mark Twain novels, The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, tales of adventures on the mighty Mississippi. It took a lot of imagination to compare the Mississippi with the River Cart in Glasgow, but imagination was something we had in abundance. We made rafts and tree houses and the river and its banks became our playground. Inevitably we fell into the water, and learned to swim. We fell out of the trees and sprained wrists and ankles and sometimes someone would break something, but we accepted that accidents happened and they were not necessarily someone’s fault.

We pinched apples from gardens and occasionally deserved a skelp round the ear from the local cop but we never felt it was abuse, just something we probably deserved. Through it all I learned what risk was and, more importantly, how to manage risk – lessons that have held me in good stead throughout my career as a mountaineer.

8) Moving to the Highlands

I WAS born and brought up in Glasgow and when I left school I had a number of false career starts. Essentially I just wanted to climb mountains and try and make a living from doing that.

Gina and I eventually became youth hostel wardens working for SYHA and after a couple of years running the hostel in Aberdeen we moved to Aviemore.

It was a revelation. Here I was living in the shadow of the Cairngorms. I couldn’t quite believe it. Every night I took our dog for a walk and we passed a signpost that said “Cairn Gorm, 11 miles”. Every time I read that sign a little shiver of delight would run up my spine. Forty-three years later we still live in the shadow of the Cairngorms and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. The Cairngorms are my hills of home and I’m passionate about them. They have shaped my life. We left the youth hostel after seven or eight years and I set out to be an outdoor instructor and writer. Eventually the writing took over and I moved into radio and TV.

Twenty books later I still love what I do and I believe I’ve been richly blessed. I’m often asked when I’ll retire but I truly expect my retirement will be coffin-shaped.

9) Tom Weir

VERY early on in my writing career I came home from the hills and Gina told me we’d had a visitor, a wee man with a nose the same colour as the bobble on his woolly hat. I knew instantly who she was referring to.

Tom Weir was a national treasure whose television shows about the Scottish countryside had captivated huge audiences.

Tom and his wife Rhona returned later that evening and we became firm friends until his death in 2006.

Tom gave me so much good advice about writing about hills and mountains and when I started working in television he carefully outlined the various pitfalls so that I could avoid the mistakes he’d made.

He was my friend and mentor and I was thrilled a few years ago when Rhona asked me to unveil his memorial statue at Balmaha.

10) Meeting Richard Else

IN 1993 I met Richard Else, who was to be my television producer for the next 25 years.

I was leading a group of trekkers on Elbrus in Russia, the highest mountain in Europe, and Richard was directing a small crew who were making a film about Chris Bonington’s attempt on the Seven Summits, the highest mountains on each of the earth’s continents.

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We all climbed Elbrus together and later on I spent time chatting to Richard and Chris. Richard said he hoped to make an archive film about WH Murray for the BBC and we discussed Bill’s work in some depth. On our return to the UK Richard called me and told me the BBC were up for it, but as part of a six-part television series about Scottish mountaineering and would I like to present the series. It was called The Edge – 100 Years Of Scottish Mountaineering and it was a fantastic opportunity for me.

Richard and I went on to make a number of TV programmes for the BBC over the next quarter of a century, including Wilderness Walks, Wild Walks, The Adventure Show and Roads Less Travelled.