From playful puffins to daunting peaks, we share our top 10 Instagram shots of 2020
Kia has already written about how 2020 has been, uhm, testing to say the least. The year began with great promise, as you will see below, but it wasn’t long before all our trips got cancelled or postponed. As such, many of this year’s Instagram photos were either reflective posts about past trips or shots from hiking and camping jaunts pinched between UK lockdowns.
I was fortunate enough to squeeze in a couple of European trips during the summer. In July, I met up with one of my oldest and best friends for a hiking tour of Berchtesgaden National Park in Germany’s Bavarian Alps. Then, in September, I took part in the Highlander Velebit trek in Croatia.
Despite these trips, there’s no use pretending that 2020 was anything other than a lost year. But there’s no use crying over spilt milk and missed mountains. We’ll just have to chalk it up as a loss and look to the future. As soon as it is safe, we will head back to the trails.
In the meantime, I’ll bid you Happy New Year. We hope that you will keep following along in 2021, both here and on Instagram.
The first of our top Instagram shots of 2020 was a short video from my ascent of Aconcagua in South America, my third (arguably fourth) peak of the seven summits, the highest mountain on every continent.
Aconcagua was the culmination of a 10-year journey and the next step towards realising my ultimate dream of scaling all seven summits.
Given that Asia’s winter climbs were still at their lower camps when I reached the summit of Aconcagua, it is highly likely that for those few moments I was the highest person stood on Earth. Even if I never go on to summit Everest, I’ll always have that moment on the ‘roof of the Americas’.
Namibia is home to the world’s largest free-roaming cheetah population, but due to commercial farming and urban encroachment on wild habitats, cheetahs and leopards often venture onto the 7,000-odd commercial farms found in the country.
Okonjima is a 200km2 private nature reserve aiming to restore the land to what it once was and to protect leopards and cheetahs forced onto farmland from diminishing habitats.
A highlight of our visit was watching a charming display between a female leopard and her mischievous son, pictured in the shot above.
It was almost criminal that I hadn’t yet seen Nepal. When I finally put that to rest by trekking to Everest base camp in 2019, it instantly became one of my favourite countries (oddly joining three others beginning with N: Namibia, New Zealand and Norway).
After penguins, puffins are clearly the world’s most charming birds. They never fail to delight.
Faroese puffins breed in colonies on grassy, steep slopes where they dig nesting burrows. We spent a day hiking around Mykines, the westernmost of the Faroe Islands where we saw dozens of the little sweethearts!
Ever since, we’ve missed our friends and family terribly, but as the pandemic took hold, we were pleased and relieved to be where we were.
Consigned to our local area, we discovered some charming mini-trails around Richmond. This view of our adopted home became one of our top Instagram shots of 2020.
Another mountain shot from Nepal, the 6,749m (22,142ft) peak of Lingtren seen near the village of Gorakshep.
Lingtren is not a particularly well-known mountain, but it’s a mighty good-looking one. I hiked past the Himalayan behemoth during my descent of the Khumbu Valley after reaching Everest Base Camp the previous day.
During the march up the Khumbu, most of the scenery was obscured by low cloud and heavy snow, but by the return journey, the skies cleared and the mountains were simply majestic.
We spent five days on the heart-stoppingly beautiful island in 2015. After all these years, it remains one of the most extraordinary places we’ve visited. This shot captures just a little taste of what makes it special.
Nambia proved to be one of those destinations that completely lived up to the hype. It is a vast country filled with captivating landscapes, beguiling wildlife and a bewildering array of natural wonders.
From desert plains and towering sand dunes to lush wetland and deep winding canyons, Namibia boasts almost every iconic African landscape one can imagine. Our 2018 trip produced some of our most popular photography, including these petrified trees in the surreal landscape of Deadvlei in Namibia.
This short video charts the highlights of my Highlander Velebit trek in Croatia, a 104km, 5-day alpine trail which traverses the Velebit Range dividing continental Croatia from the Adriatic coast.
It was my first post-lockdown trip and part of Highlander Adventure, a collection of organised treks through some of Europe’s classic hiking regions. If you’ve never been on a multi-day trek, this makes for an ideal first expedition.
After two weeks in quarantine following my Croatian jaunt, I was keen to get some fresh air again. I promptly left Kia at her writing desk and escaped to the Dales to knock off the final few ascents of the highest mountains in the Yorkshire Dales.
This night shot of my tent beneath the stars shows just why I love wild camping so much.
The 41 mini-mountains of the Yorkshire Dales were no match for Aconcagua, but they were thoroughly entertaining and offered some classic English views including this across Barbondale from a cairn at Eskholme Pike.
The last of our top Instagram shots of 2020 shows me and Kia sharing a moment in Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni salt flats back in 2015.
A last-minute u-turn by our hapless prime minister meant that we were not able to see our families over the festive period. We took the opportunity to reflect on how fortunate we’d been to face the various lockdowns and restrictions together. However bad 2020 has been, it would have been a lot worse without each other.