Scottish Enterprise Awards 2023

SME News | Scottish Enterprise Awards 2023 | 22 Best Guided Mountaineering Experience 2023 Owned and operated independently by passionate mountaineer James Orpwood, James Orpwood Mountaineering is a small business that offers guided hill walking experiences and mountain skills courses for individuals and small groups in the Highlands of Scotland. Based in Aviemore, James is ideally placed to offer a range of fantastic adventures, from the Cairngorms to Ben Nevis and beyond. Here, we speak to him to find out more about his business. As a former fisheries scientist, James Orpwood has been exploring the Scottish hills for more than 20 years, since he first moved into the country to pursue a career in science. Eventually, he was inspired to follow his heart, hoping to make a career out of his love for hillwalking, climbing, mountaineering, and mountain biking. To this end, he decided to establish his own small business, James Orpwood Mountaineering, through which he would share his love for Scotland’s nature with others, whatever their age, ability, or personal aspirations. Committed to empowering his clients by enabling them to enjoy the great outdoors at all times of year, James offers both summer and winter guided hill walking sessions. As part of this, he provides individuals and groups of up to six with tailor-made experiences according to their prior abilities and aspirations. Additionally, James provides multiple seasonal courses, including ‘Introduction to Mountain Navigation’, ‘Hill and Mountain Skills’, and winter skills courses. Whether they wish to climb Ben Nevis, tick off a classic round of Munros, or just enjoy a few days in the hills, customers are guaranteed to be provided with a fantastic experience, crafted by a seasoned and knowledgeable local guide. From his base in Aviemore, where he lives in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park with his wife, Ellen, James benefits from easy access to some of Britain’s most reliable mountains when it comes to winter conditions. The Cairngorms, home to five Scottish mountains that are over 4,000 feet tall, as well as many other Munros and Corbetts, offer plenty of places for James and his clients to explore. Characterised by vast tracts of high mountain plateau, corries, and spectacular glens, these impressive mountains can be accessed from either Speyside or Deeside. Alongside the classics, James can take his clients to some of the less-visited parts of the beautiful Cairngorms National Park. Should clients choose to venture further afield, Scotland’s west coast offers a landscape of steep mountains, white sand beaches, rocky shores, desolate moorlands, and a diverse range of islands. It is home to classic Munros like those in Glen Coe and the Mamores, in the Lochaber area. With James, clients can choose to tackle mountains like those of the classic Ring of Steall, or Stob Ban and Sgùrr a' Mhàim, accessed via the Devil’s Ridge. For those who wish to head up Ben Nevis, James offers two routes to the top, depending on their prior experience. The Ben Nevis Mountain Track is the preferred option for those with limited experience. However, despite its reputation as the “easiest” route up and down, this option should not be underestimated and requires a good level of fitness. If they don’t mind exposure, those with more experience may prefer to climb Ben Nevis via the Carn Mor Dearg Arete. Clients will first tackle the adjacent Munro to Ben Nevis before continuing to Ben Nevis via a long and narrow rocky ridge. This route will allow them to enjoy a wonderful day out, whilst bagging two Scottish mountains that are over 4,000 feet tall. In terms of other areas that clients can choose to explore with James, the Southern Highlands are easily accessible from Scotland’s Central Belt, making them a good choice for those based in Glasgow or Edinburgh. As well as this, the hills of the Central Highlands are often overlooked, enabling them to offer a unique sense of solitude and remoteness. There are also many more excellent places to explore in the Northwest Highlands, including the beautiful Glen Affric and the wild and remote Assynt and Coigach regions. Serving a diverse and multinational client base, James is an enthusiastic, approachable, and encouraging individual with a friendly and personable nature. He is always thrilled to share his love for the outdoors with others, inspiring and enabling them to achieve their personal goals. In the services he provides, James’ primary goal is to ensure the client’s safety and enjoyment. He shares, “I hope that your time with me will be both rewarding and fun! With so much of my work coming on the back of personal recommendations, prospective clients want to make sure they’re getting me.” Luckily, clients can rest assured that any walk they book with James Orpwood Mountaineering will be guided by James himself. “I do not subcontract any of my work, meaning I deal personally with all aspects of your booking, from initial enquiry to our time together on the hill,” he explains. “If I am not available for the date(s) you are interested in booking, I will put you in touch with another trusted professional who is known to me personally and who is suitably qualified, with extensive local knowledge of the area you are interested in visiting.” As a result of his excellent work, James has received much positive feedback, available to view on his website. For example, one satisfied client explains, “I had a fantastic day. James really listened to what I wanted to get out of the day and picked the perfect route for me. He helped me brush up on my map reading skills and has a great way of explaining things. James has excellent local knowledge and is a great person to spend time with in the hills. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend him.” In recent years, more and more people have become keen to spend time in the great outdoors, particularly in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Whilst this is great and enables them to experience enormous benefits in terms of their physical and mental wellbeing, it has resulted in an increase in the responsibilities held by outdoor activity providers to foster respect and appreciation for the environment. James comments, “I do my absolute best to promote responsible enjoyment of the mountain environment, making sure we leave it just as we expect to find it. As well as the obvious aspects of education with respect to mountain safety, I very much see my role as being one of fostering a responsible and caring attitude to the wonderful and unique landscapes we are fortunate enough to have on our doorstep.” Considering his unshakable commitment to the work he does, the people he serves, and the area in which he operates, it is no surprise that James has been awarded Best Guided Mountaineering Experience in the Scottish Enterprise Awards 2023. Having recently returned from a much-needed holiday in Ecuador, which culminated in the ascent of the magnificent 5,753 metre mountain Antisana, he is looking forward to a busy winter, hosting winter skills courses and guided hill walking experiences in the Cairngorm Mountains. To find out more about James’ journey, anyone interested is invited to read his 2020 debut book, ‘A Quest For Fulfilment’, in which he tells the story of how he went from mad keen angler and fisheries scientist to finding professional and personal fulfilment in the mountains. To purchase a copy, simply contact him using the enquiries form on the James Orpwood Mountaineering website. Contact Details Contact: James Orpwood Company: James Orpwood Mountaineering Web Address: