A few weeks ago, whilst on a winter mountaineering course with Adventure Peaks, we climbed Buachaille Etive Mor via Curved Ridge and back down the main gully. I had climbed the Buachaille a year before by the gully route with my school and I always enjoy returning to mountains that I've climbed on before. This day had everything – rock climbing at the start due to the lack of snowfall, a lunch break with incredible views, and a nice snowy descent. I remember thinking as we crossed the last kilometre or so of nice flat ground that it had been pretty much a perfect mountain day, and the below is my very paltry attempt at summing up the sense of peace and relief from the usual whirr of everyday life that I experienced then in one of the few places I believe it still can be found; the mountains.
Like the air beneath me
Worries drop away
School? What school?
Boys? Who needs them?
Give me wind on my brow,
A summit above,
And a handhold to hang my heart upon.
The endless drudgery of chasing grades,
The beautiful trudge of
Crampon up, crunch,
Crampon up, crunch.
The rhythm the sound of peace.
Thing at a time.
Up a tower for lunch, then
The coming down.
Then the top,
Adding a stone to the cairn,
A geological sacrifice
At the altar of calm blue skies and deep hard snow.
Along the ridge, an old friend,
Into the arms of the gully and out of the enlivening wind.
We wonder at this valley of souls.
What price our passion?
Off the rope, strange
Off the shoes of spokes,
Unsteady now on boots, back on rock,
The crunch of gravel not of snow.
An easy slope, brook glissading icy by.
Such colours in the glen.
Far now from the end, the
Cup of tea and sigh
Of quiet satisfaction and group evaluation.
My sack is heavy on my back,
And shirt soaked through with sweat.
I shall parade my bruises,
Later back at home.
All glorious hardship past
Only clear blue view ahead,
It hardly seems to matter.
I have a head full of photographs,
Snapshots of the day.
I have a thermos in my bag,
The cocoa better-tasting for being carried up the hill.
I turn back, up, up, up to where we have been, the
Gullies and the ridges known now,
A granite mystery unearthed,
A body tired but a mind released.
Dear Lord, is this not the life?
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