the anonymous mountain

Sat, Aug 2, 2014

It’s been a quiet old time lately, hillwise but today I went out for a walk. Nothing much in mind, just a wander, to see where I ended up. On days like these I like to head up into the coire on Blaven and explore. There’s anticipation in the air as a storm is forecast to trundle in around three o’clock and ghostly wraiths wrap the summit now and then and my imagination takes me into another world.

I stopped at the ‘lunch stone’ where I like to lie and watch and a few folk came past and asked directions. The Blaven path isn’t obvious from below and the other route is more difficult. After I’d pointed one old chap to the path, I glanced up at the crags to the east of the main face and suddenly fancied a scramble. It’s a hill I haven’t been up before. I looks difficult ground and it doesn’t have a name.

And then, as quite often happens when you’re out for a walk, lots of strands that have been mingling at the back of your mind come together and you walk a route through your thoughts.

For ages I’ve been seeing the outdoors world fragmented, segmented, named and catalogued. Mostly by gear manufacturers looking for more markets. Once upon a time you went for a walk, or a climb. It might have involved a ride on a mountain bike to reach a remote hill and you might have loaded up the bike for a weekend in the wilds. You would have had a bit of an adventure if the weather was bad or the bike did something daft.

Now that’s all been segmented into ‘microadventures’ while you’re ‘bikepacking’. And there’s tons of gear for you to buy to make your bikepacking microadventure a pleasurable experience.

There are also ‘fastpackers’, ‘raftpackers’, ‘trail hikers’, ‘section hikers’ and a host of other segmented pursuitists. I suppose we should celebrate them all.

And then it struck me that I was heading up a hill with no name. Behind me was a mass of rock the colour of, hmmm, I dug deep for a metaphor, from the current refuse heap of awful outdoors literature (I actually saw ‘the purpling heather’ written in a well known outdoor rag recently). But I was actually looking at:

rocks the colour of nature

I knew this as I had in my pack a wonderful wee book by Chia Tao, called ‘When I find you again it will be in mountains’. Mr. Tao was a 9th century Chinese monk type and has a fine collection of mountain poetry which I was currently taking inspiration from.

This compartmentalisation of one’s pleasures has fascinated me recently as people decide what they are and what they’re not. That’s all and fine but you know what people are like. They’re like, well, people. Innit? If you’re one type of enthusiast, you may not bond with someone from another type. Two examples of this in action are from Tracksterman’s encounter with an opinionated cyclist. Hilarious as ever is Mr. Tracksterman’s writing but the other is from the world of technology and has a much darker side, where Amy Clark says she’s not that kind of nerd. These are two accounts from people who haven’t taken up the offer of being analysed, categorised and mesmerised. Luckily we don’t see Amy’s experiences in the outdoors fraternity. Let’s hope all this fadding doesn’t lead to that. Amy Clark and Tracksterman and cut from the same cloth. They enjoy different aspects of the same thing. Where some folk follow a trend, these people walk the broader path.

But back to my Chinese mountain poet, as I weave a way through suprisingly difficult ground on my nameless mountain.

When will I climb
and set foot there,
and gaze on all
creation below?

My thoughts entirely.

I went steeply up a grassy ramp to the foot of the cliffs but the rock was steep and dripping. So I nudged round on a fading ledge into the next gully. The crack at the top was inviting, maybe about VDiff but it was too wet as well. Eventually I made it to the top, via winding leads of grass and the roughest of gabbro, where a cold wind swept my nature coloured rocks and:

I gaze at the water,
know its gentle nature;
watch the mountains
until my spirit tires

I pulled out my flask and my wee book and settled down for a read, a look, a few thoughts and not much else.

Nestled into the rough gabbro I was a million miles from normal life, where:

Never far from this
secluded place,
what people of the world
could ever find you?

Later, as it colded up, I descended steep and loose ground to the bealach and ran up the other side to my other place. The rock that gives shelter in any wind. I lay there for a while too, then ran back down into the coire and sat at the lunch stone again. Soaking up the atmosphere as the wind rose and the cloud came lower on Blaven. It was time to head back down. The rowans were turning and autumn is not far off.

I’m looking forward to a winter on the tops. The wild blasts, the whiteness, the rawness, the total reliance on self for survival. It’s where life’s at these days. It’s the last bastion of the uncategorised. The Uncategorisable.

Today I’d been, in no particular order, a walker, a wanderer, a thinker, a scrambler, a climber, a runner but above all, I’d been me. It was nice to meet me again. I came running out of the hills to meet me on the way up and I laughed as I swished through the long grass and bog myrtle, together, with me.

They say that going to the hills takes you back to your formative years and that an imprint of who you were back then is there, waiting for you to return. And you never fail to find it.

Mountains are my anchor. I’ll always need them and I’ll always find me when I go to them. In a crazy world, they’re my eternal belay.

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