Friday, 15 February 2013
The thin end of the wedge?
Seven people have died in avalanches in the Highlands in the last 28 days. A horrible statistic, but also one which now appears to be being used against the winter mountaineering community. Condemnation by some members of the general public of the whole idea of venturing into the mountains in winter, and now the proposal on live radio that access should be restricted to the mountains when the conditions are bad.
My feet were numb this morning as I ran through the wet snow in Coire Giubhsachan. Spray from a waterfall covered my face and hair, cold mud trickled down my legs and arms. But I barely noticed the effort of running uphill….my mind was so filled with concern at some of the things I've read in the media during the last 24 hours.
I reach a sloping wet rocky slab, and carefully slide down it into a snow drift on the other side. It's precarious, the drop to my right here is gaping. I mustn't make a mistake, I'm by myself and you don't get many folk up here.
I emerge underneath the noble West face of Aonach Beag, pause to gaze at the huge snowfields and soaring buttresses. The river is roaring, but the sound of an icefall collapsing somewhere on the face is still loud enough to impress.
I start running back, every footfall deliberate and calculated on the wet snow and steep mud. Getting hurt up here would be easy, but that is the price of the ecstasy of hillrunning and the extreme beauty of Coire Giubhsachan.
Places that are incredible are usually hazardous as well. There is an inherent element of risk and personal responsibility involved with visiting them. Restricting access to the winter mountains when the conditions are bad? Whatever we do, we must never, ever limit people's opportunities to be amongst the extraordinary.