Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Cabin fever!

The weather continues along its autumnal path, with the usual maddening Glen Coe trick of only being sunny, dry and warm when I am at work, and raining whenever I have the opportunity to get out on the hill. We are basically writing August off for any real mountain routes, which might be unfair as I know a lot of other people are getting stuff done, but the last time I had time off which corresponded to a good forecast was last month when we were in Skye!

This is doubly frustrating for Isi, who has her SPA assessment booked early next month and wants to get some more leads in. For my part I have wholly returned to "Autumn Mode", ie. hillwalking, scrambling, and scheming for the winter. For the most part it feels like autumn here, with the odd sunny day when I am trapped behind the bar!

To be perfectly honest, my enthusiasm for rock climbing is cooling significantly, as I knew it would towards the end of the summer. Rock climbing is for the most part a diversion for me. This year I am unable to visit the Alps, and for the past two years, the Alps is what I do during the summer. I often describe myself as 'mostly a mountaineer', but I think this summer has highlighted the extent to which this is true. Of all the (climbing) staff at the Clachaig I am the least enthusiastic about rock climbing, except in mountaineering situations, and the most at home on snowy and icy ground.

Increasingly since the end of the winter I have found myself erring towards scrambling as a way of climbing mountains, which was how I started climbing in the first place, and certainly holds a sort of purity for me: it is a simple, unfettered way of climbing complex and sometimes difficult ground. When scrambling with others I use the guidebook, but when scrambling alone I prefer not to refer to it, and to find my own way up. One of my favourite things is to simply explore and find new routes, or to re-discover old ones. In this way I have climbed twelve low-grade routes in Glencoe that are unrecorded, and 're-discovered' a number of others without reference to the guidebook. It is a hugely satisfying way of climbing: discovering some obscure, traditional arete, vegetated and loose and hidden away out of sight in some forgotten corner of a neglected mountain face.

Left to my own devices over the summer months, this process of exploration is what I will naturally gravitate towards--quite a different activity to visiting a sunny crag with friends and ticking off three-star routes. This is something I also enjoy in its own right but it does not have quite the same immediacy and sense of discovery, even if the rock is bound to be better! I think this fundamental difference has highlighted to me what kind of climber I am, and now that I am more aware of this, the possibilities for next winter are already starting to excite me.

In the meantime, though, I would like the weather to get its act together, please!

1 comment:

  1. Autumns an incredible time in the highlands, the roar of the stags, the colour, the clarity in the air returns. You get some cracking days out. But sadly you do get a lot of driech days.

    Makes the good days stand out though.

    The seasons are a big part of the highlands though, each season is so distinct, so differenyt, evoking different memories. When I was out in Wellington, NZ. it was the autumn I missed most, watching the leaves turn.

    Hope you're enjoying it up there.


    Iain (from UKC)