It was a publication day like no other. Coronavirus lockdown. No prospect of travel in the near future, yet launching a book that extolled just that, a new guidebook about the Tour du Mont Blanc which visits three countries along its trails. The irony couldn’t have been greater. I distinctly remember the words of Jonathan, the publisher of my first book, when he said profoundly; “We produce books for doers, not dreamers”. Roll on a few years, and at present, dreaming is perhaps all we have, of the mountains and trails we all wish to visit. Books provide the escape our minds desperately need.
Publication day is a very weird day for an author. You sit at home, waiting for something, and precisely nothing happens. Normally deep in cyberspace, algorithms detect launch dates, stock is automatically ordered, virtual cogs start to grind, and the post drops orders through your letterbox. It’s a hard day to celebrate, unless you really need an excuse to get out, and perhaps that’s the point. At present we all really want to get out, and there’s been few better times for planning holidays for when we all finally escape lockdown.
But, and it’s a huge Kardashian sized but[t], if you’re inspired to order a copy of my book, please don’t head to Amazon to order a copy. Please order it direct from Vertebrate, the UK based specialist publisher (order a copy here). If this pandemic and lockdown has taught us anything, it’s that it’s not the global mega-corporations that care for you, but the local people, workers and businesses, all of which are run by people just like you. People you’d see in a supermarket, a pub, or on a trail or mountain, though all in a new-world-socially-distanced kind of way.
Amazon aren’t taking in orders of any books at present, just selling their existing stocks. A cynic might argue that with the small profit margins made on books, they are preferring to focus their money making during a pandemic on orders of items with big mark ups, with a huge financial impact on smaller publishers trying to keep in business. Just as you’ve probably adapted during lockdown to shop locally more than ever before, to get your bread from the village baker, the milk delivered from the local dairy, or meat from the nearest butchers, please adapt your book buying to shop direct too.
Ordering directly is helping to keep a UK business going, which pays corporation tax, unlike so many mega-corporations. Businesses like this are contributing paying for the NHS and all the key workers we’ve all recently come to realise are so vital and under appreciated. When times are tough, it’s heartening to see that ethics and standards matter more than ever, and I sincerely hope that we have learned that local community has suffered immeasurably as a result of globalisation. The best quality products and services were always right in front of our noses, close to home.
Anyway, back to the TMB book, I get asked each year how many times I’ve guided trekking and running groups around the Tour du Mont Blanc, and worked out I’d done it well over 50 times, as well as racing it multiple times in the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) running event. Put in context, I’ve spent well over a year of my life on the trails of the Tour du Mont Blanc. Despite that, it was hardest book to write to date, but the one that I’m most proud of. Not only was it key to describe the best route, and its key variations, but to write one that can be used to plan for people travelling at a variety of different speeds and timescales.
The planning stage of the book saw the creation of a new timing formula for different users groups hiking or running. The Jones-Ross formula completely re-imagined the 1892 Naismith rule, using different blended rates, that use variations for the amount of time spent ascending vs descending for each user group. For example trail runners move far quicker in descent, so in this new formula spend 67% of the time in ascent, and 33% descending. This compares to hikers moving at very similar speeds up and downhill. The Jones-Ross formula, much the same as Naismith, needs to be tweaked to individual users and conditions, but it provides customised timings for four user groups; hiker, trekker, fast-packer, and trail runner.
If the TMB is on your radar as a trek you’d like to complete, and you’re bored of lockdown, you could use the time positively, to get planning your trek. You’ll find the book not only has customised timings, but suggestions of where to stay each night, so you can plan your trip to the last detail. As well as the logistics, the book is packed with features such as the best places for wild swimming, the characters of the TMB, local foods and drinks to savour, and the best places to stay.
So what are you waiting for? The book’s out now, and available to order directly from Vertebrate Publishing. When lockdown is eventually over, make sure you look back on it, and are proud of what you’d planned during these days, and the dreams that can become a reality. Sitting watching ‘Cash in the Attic’, wearing just your underpants, isn’t overly aspirational. Not only that, but I need mind bleach, to get rid of the mental image. Anyway, I hope you’re inspired to buy a copy of the book, and a huge thanks to those who do. With luck, I’ll see you on the trails of the TMB again soon!
Anyway, must go. ‘Cash in the Attic’ is on in a minute 😉