At 5:45am the alarm goes off, and I grab around in the dark trying to find the thing to silence it.
Quick stretch, lift myself from the slumber and acknowledge the fact that its only been 4 hours since I entered my bed. No matter, things to do and places to see. It’s Sunday, a day where you would be forgiven for having an extra hour in bed or you wanted a lazy day. Not for me, and not today. It’s been several months since completing the Three Peaks Challenge and I wanted to get a hill under my boots as its been far too long.
I love winter climbing, perhaps its the cold air, or being able to see your breath when you exhale as it quickly crystallizes and freezes over. Perhaps it’s just because in winter, things tend to feel harder. The sun comes up later, it gets dark early, sometimes you don’t feel like you have felt the sun on your face at all during winter, particularly if you have a desk job or work inside most of the day. Perhaps it’s both of these things; more effort, and more beautiful landscapes to gaze upon.
My kit is already looked out, I know exactly what I am doing today and I also know exactly where I am going.
A quick breakfast and a mug of coffee down, I grab my kit and head for the car, damn, need to defrost it. Scrape away the frozen water, jump in the car and fire it up. Lights on, it’s still dark.
The roads are empty as I join the motorway, engage the cruise control and relax into the seat as I have the best part of an hour drive to my destination. Music is low, but loud enough to enjoy while nodding my head to the beats. Its a nice feeling being up at this time. You feel like you are the only one awake doing things you want to do, in places you want to go.
Time flies by, no road works, no traffic and no one going slow in the outside lane keeping you from your business. As I drive and think, I reflect back to the Three Peaks Challenge. I was part of a band of brothers that set out to raise money for a best friends daughter. We did well, we completed the challenge, we raised money and we tried to make a difference. Today was different, there was no band of brothers, no camaraderie, no chit-chat and no cause. It was a solo climb of Ben A’an and to be honest, I was doing it to satisfy myself that I still had a love for the mountains.
Parked, out the car and gear on in 10 mins. Slight rain but being from Scotland and used to climbing in Scotland I knew the drill. Besides your skin is waterproof right ?
Heading up the hill, I knew the sun would be up soon and that was the aim. To be at the top for the suns arrival once again. Even though I was here in good time, there was not a single person on the hill, nor did I pass anyone coming down. You could literally have felt like the last person on earth at this point.
The outdoors for me, offers a different type of work. I work for the most part at a desk or in meeting rooms, exchanging ideas on how to solve problems, which in turn leads to big projects, big deals and the usual dividends to the shareholders. Its exciting and rewarding, but I need to be outside at certain times and for certain durations. Climbing and the outdoors offers a different reward and one that you generally earn alone. It’s good to have company for sure, but you can undertake these things of your own will, and at a moment of your own choosing.
Feeling the cold in the air and watching the sparkles of rain falling as they turn to ice, offers me a human perspective that you can only feel when in the elements. You don’t feel them in the meetings rooms I was just talking about, you don’t feel them at your desk or your cosy warm car as you drive yourself to these places. No, you only feel it when you are outside and doing something arduous which after the debate of risk vs. reward, do you find yourself realising that you are exactly where you want to be.
Doing things alone also offers me something that I particularly enjoy….. peace & quiet. It’s the polar opposite to an office environment which can be noisy, telephones ringing, the dull mutter of colleagues chatter over the partitions and throughout the office. The peace of the mountain brings a smile like no other. Those of you reading this, that work indoors and equally enjoy outdoor pursuits know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s not like the quiet you have in your living room when no one else is at home and you have the TV off. It’s not like lying in your bed trying to unwind, before waking up to go at it the next day.
The peace and quiet outside is one where you feel alive. Now im not trying to be all zen Buddha master here, I am merely saying that the silence of the wind is quitter than the hum of your brain working as you try to relax sometimes. Agreed?
It’s getting warmer so I shed a piece of clothing and pop it in the backpack, quick flapjack and a swig of water from the bladder, I am good to go. I have tried to get into the habit of eating and drinking something if I need to stop, why? because you may aswell do something useful when you stop, the food and water will keep you going and you don’t want to stop 100m up the track when your stomach sends you a signal to stop again as it wants fed.
It’s getting lighter, the sun is coming. Realising I don’t want to miss the sunrise moment at the top I start running on the flat. “Running ? You are out hill walking mate” From looking at my GPS watch I glance at my height, and then getting the cogs to tick in my brain I work out I don’t have far left to get to the top.
For most of this walk, and particularly the steep inclines, you are looking down. Making sure your footing is good and placing them in good footholds as you scramble up the rocks. As I near the top, I take a long sweeping left around the bog-land and precariously step on the stones leading to the summit. Like the yellow brick road guiding you home, I follow the stones one by one, grab the ledges and get to the top.
That was the last three things I did when I got to the top. The sun has found me. I am caught by the rays and warms my face. The sun rises and sets every single day and the beauty of it? ITS Absolutely FREE.
We spend so much time working, and grinding, and pursuing endeavours for others that we sometimes forget to take the time out of our lives to do things for ourselves.
We are looking down at the pavement, down at the speedometer in the car, down at the phone, and down at the keyboard at our desks. It dampens the soul and our zest for adventure. I urge you to get out of your comfort zone at the weekend and try something new, go somewhere new, or revisit that hobby you took up and then left it behind because something else “Cooler” came along.
You need to look up once in a while and realise that if you can keep doing that, your persistence, mentality and outlook changes with it.
All the things you are doing for other people, working, helping, listening, giving. Sometimes you need to realise that you need to do all of these things for yourself, to yourself, by yourself.
Keep shining and remember…….look up