Although the general weather patterns are improving, and I had an opportunity to get on the hill this morning at last, circumstances have intervened. Last night was one of the worst shifts on the bar for quite a while, and by the time I had finished washing all the dishes and cleaning the kitchen it was almost 2am. I am now unable to sleep. So much for my plan of getting up at 8am and going scrambling! Maddeningly enough, Isi is going climbing and today will probably be sunny...
It is getting to that point in the year where my thought and plans turn towards winter, the season where the mountains are better and we can be true mountaineers instead of pretend ones. In that spirit, I have dredged up a quote from a blog entry I made over three years ago, and which still echoes my sentiments about mountaineering.
"A mountain is a symbol and a metaphor for something great and heroic within every one of us, an elevated piece of the world where we can experience life in concentrated form: all the pain, the challenge, the disappointment, the love, joy, pride and energy of being alive. The mountains show us the true substance of life. Going to the mountains is going home. The physical benefits are insubstantial and transient, but what we get from it is sheer joy, and joy is after all the end and purpose of all life (thanks for that, Mallory!)
"A truly great ascent is the nearest an atheist can get to a religious experience. A summit can be a place of pain, exhaustion, worry ... but it can also be heaven on earth, a place of such breathtaking magnificence and emotion that you remember it for all the days of your life. It goes far beyond the things you see and feel there and then. The mountains make us value the good things in life so much more, and make us better people."
To this I will add that the moment of 'summit' can be, on some occasions, the most concentrated distillation of every experience of life. My most vivid memories are of mountain tops: Bidean nam Bian on the 2nd of January, cold and austere, a Brocken Spectre looming over the Aonach Eagach; Stob Coire Sgreamhach after a brutal fight with its North Face; and alone on the summit of Ben Nevis at dusk, coated in ice from head to foot and utterly spent. It is in these moments of pure fusion between triumph, elation, sensory experience, and suffering that we can see a little deeper into the stuff that makes us who we are.
Roll on the winter. With a bit of luck, the snows will start to return in a couple of months.