2012 was always going to be a bit of a question-mark for me…would I be able to maintain my momentum for yet another year in Glencoe? After having totally immersed myself in the glen and the West Highlands since 2009, would I be able to keep finding new things to climb and having new great experiences to the same degree for another year?
The Northern Cuillin after soloing Pinnacle Ridge on Sgurr nan Gillean.
2012 has been a brilliant year to spend in the West Highlands. In total contrast to the almost perpetual rain of 2011, this year has been defined by how much the sun has shone. After a poor second half of the winter, the spring and early summer were gorgeous and two lengthy heat-waves gave me the most memorable period of climbing I've ever had in a Scottish summer so far. The autumn was beautiful with stunning displays of colours and sunrises and starscapes amongst the best I've seen, and this winter started with a long cold snap and plenty of winter routes in good condition.
Early morning drama over the Aonach Eagach, Glencoe
But I knew that this year, my approach would have to change in order for me to remain as inspired and energetic as previous years. After you spend a certain amount of time somewhere (even somewhere as awesome as Glencoe) you can find your level of enthusiasm for getting out a bit more stretched than it used to be. The excitement of being somewhere new has calmed.
Sunset in GlencoeBut I didn't just want to retain my enthusiasm and momentum, I wanted to increase it. The excitement of being new here has left and been replaced by a deep love for the area and a desire to get to know it again through a different set of eyes.
First ascent of "The Surprise" (Severe*), Aonach Dubh, Glencoe
I needed to take my hill-fitness to a new level, to increase it to a point where I could be taking on normally 6-8 hour hill-days in a quarter of that time instead. I wanted to be fit enough so that I could enjoy the views from Ben Nevis and the Aonach Eagach on the same morning without having to think about aching legs. I wanted to be able to climb long mountaineering routes during a 3 hour break during a work-shift.
The Northern Lights, a meteor shower and the finest star-scape I've ever seen - an incomparable night on Rannoch Moor.
Soloing the North-East Ridge of Aonach Beag in scorching May weather. A very memorable and adventurous mountain route.
But I knew that increasing fitness was only one stepping stone towards achieving the kinds of days in the mountains I was after. Whilst some of my finest ever days in the mountains have not been the result of boldness, aiming higher this year on the routes I was soloing was going to be the key to opening up more possibilities.
A golden eagle above Sgurr Thuilm, Glenfinnan.
Soloing "Archie's Ridge" (III,4*), Aonach Dubh West face.
At the base of Beinn Eighe's mighty East Buttress, one of Scotland's best Difficult mountain routes.
Schiehallion viewed from Carn Mor Dearg.
So 2013 is here, and it is time for me to re-define my own boundaries yet again. I have a bit of hard work to do to raise my fitness a bit higher again to open up another new set of possibilities, and I can't wait to get my teeth stuck in.
A very happy new year to you all folks. Keep safe and have fun in the mountains in 2013.