When mountains are your salvation, what keep your mental weather calm and free of storms, how do you cope if they’re out of reach?
After spending a decade restlessly globetrotting in search of a way of life that worked for him, journalist Kieran Cunningham alighted on Sondrio, a small town in Lombardy, Italy. A stone’s throw from the Alps, there he found the perfect combination of fresh mountain air, a strong network of local friends and lots of climbing. Finally he was able to accept and manage his diagnosis of Bipolar 1. And then Lombardy found itself the European epicentre of Covid-19 and subject to the strictest of lockdowns.
What does a climber do when his beloved peaks are off limits? When he’s only permitted to leave the house for his weekly sanctioned grocery shop? When all the things that help him maintain his delicate equilibrium are taken away? As Kieran feels his mental health begin to crumble, he looks desperately for something he can climb to help rid him of his excess energy and hopefully get him back on track.
Kieran finds himself navigating the walls of his house over and over while gazing at the mountain ranges so tantalisingly close. He dreams of that first euphoric climb – alone in the clouds, tired, happy, sated. Climbing the Walls is a memoir about mental health and the power of nature and exercise. It’s both a devastatingly honest account of living with Bipolar 1 and a love song to small-town Italian life and the high places that keep him healthy.
Kieran Cunningham is a Scottish climber and journalist who lives in Sondrio, a mountainous part of Lombardy which lies south of the Swiss border and about fifty miles from Lake Como. He has lived there for six years, having arrived as a teacher and then switched to a full-time career as a climbing journalist, writing for the Observer, Little India, Cool of the Wild, and Moja Gear as well as editing the outdoors blogs My Open Country and Take Outdoors.