What it is to climb a mountain

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 April 2009

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What it is to climb a mountain

What it is to climb a mountain
It’s hoping for bad weather as the alarm beeps at six, only for silence to creep in after its final chime; no hammering of rain, no tile bullying maelstrom, no excuses. And so it’s a long lamp lit motorway that finally twists into a dark road to the rendezvous, where being the first one there you hope your friends come (and they do).

It’s a big fry-up in a café with misted up windows – with one more brew and another round of toast – before stiff boots and bones at the road head, putting on all your layers – a barrier to the wild – wishing you’d just had muesli when your waterproof trousers won’t zip up.

It’s getting light, stepping in puddles with their skins of ice, smelling the air and leaving it all below – stopping only to take off another layer – being glad you didn’t stay in bed as you watch the colours grow more vivid with the morning light. It’s passing those on the way up and feeling fitter, only to be passed by those fitter still, picking up drinks cartons and tissues as you go, knowing the mountain will repay you for it one day.

It’s the sudden rain and mist that sends you all scrabbling for crags that make you feel invulnerable, then on again, no views this time, only easy conversations. You know it’s not far as you hear the kind encouragement from fellow climbers of mountains, those coming back down through the mist, shouting “not long now”.


It’s the big push, legs feeling tired now, looking at your feet, feeling the wind beginning to bite, and so it’s on with your odd gloves and hat; water droplets beading up on wool, the bones of a base jumping sheep reminding you why the stuff keeps you warm up here, and why you should take care of the drop.

It’s being a little bit lost, finding you have the wrong map, and a Southern hemisphere compass, but sort of knowing the way anyway and bluffing that you do.

It’s still not getting there, and hoping for a cloud inversion that never inverts.

It’s the top; a pile of stones and faded orange peel.

It’s soggy sandwiches and damp crisps that never tasted so good, and tea from flasks that tastes both foul and wonderful until the cold forces you down.

It’s headtorches with almost flat batteries all the way back to the car, and on to the café for a quick brew before you travel home, with heavy eyes, a light stomach, in clothes that no longer stink of clean chemicals but smell instead of doing.

Andy the climber