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Wednesday, 6 March 2013

To go or not go?

RR queried how much importance walkers attach to a summit view, and would we set out knowing there would be none?

Here are my own thoughts - others may differ.

The summit view is not the principle objective, but it can be a chunk of double metaphor icing on the cake.

The attraction is in just being amongst the mountains.

Often swirling cloud with  glimpses through to mysterious crags and ridges is frequently more inspiring than brilliant views on sunny days, and in those dramatic circumstances I can fantasise that I maybe the first human to set foot there. Along with such enhanced perceptions there is the challenge of navigation which can be rewarding when successful, like a physical version of solving a crossword puzzle. The sentient human has an innate satisfaction with problem solving be it mental or physical -  read Darwin. 

As the wind freshens just below the final ridge you know you are close to the summit, and arrival there is always a matter of satisfaction in the achievement for its own sake, coupled with the aforementioned compensations on the ascent, regardless of view or no view. I have never found myself thinking that lack of view had nullified the experience.  Descent from a Himalayan peak with odds against survival would be a different matter - you may well regret having set out in the first place, but this is not view related and something I have no experience of.

The most off-putting occurrences, although not view related, are non-stop rain and violent wind. The former is difficult to be philosophical about, except for the smugness of having bought some excellent clothing which is doing its job, and the latter has on two occasions made me turn back before getting to the summit, but even then I have retained powerful memories of exciting days in the hills.

I suppose the philosophical defence to myself is that if I don’t have a go there will be no reward, and if I do and the outcome is incomplete, I know that I have given it my best shot and retained, or maybe enhanced my own self respect.

Burnmoor Tarn from Scafell Pike - an old slide from the Sixties - for me it was worthwhile on a mediocre day - no views from the summit


Anonymous said...

ah, memories -
you will, therefore, no doubt, be more than happy to know that Waitrose is now stocking two brands of 'authentic' Madeleines, fabriquée en France !

Phreerunner said...

I can relate fairly precisely to your well constructed analysis, Conrad. Well done!

Anonymous said...

I'm with you Conrad: I'd rather have a view than not, but would rather be out than not, if there is no view on offer.
Days when the cloud parts or lifts and reveals extensive views are the absolute best.

Roderick Robinson said...

Received wisdom seemed to be that madeleines themselves were pretty dull to the palate; in any case the narrator cheated by dipping his into a tisane which probably had a stronger flavour than the confectionery. The wobbly paving-stone always seemed the more persuasive memory jolt.

You made a heroic effort but couldn't resist bringing in glimpses, etc. Congratulations anyway on getting to the most interesting part of the matter which touches on our wilingness to go in for self-delusion.

Perhaps I should have posed a more difficult question. Would you embark on a whodunnit (which was otherwise full of well-drawn characters, a gripping plot and an interesting background) if you knew the last ten pages had been torn out. And, just to keep you honest, let's assume you are snowed-in on the South Col with no other reading matter than the labels on your Gore-Tex anorak.

Sir Hugh said...

gimmer - I don't think Marcel would have shopped at Waitrose, more likely to have had everything delivered by Fortnum and Mason. Sadly in this part of the deprived North we don't have a Waitrose within fifty miles; I would have to go to Otley, Harrogate, or Manchester.

For other readers: gimmer was present when that atmospheric shot of Burnmoor Tarn was taken.


Phreerunner - thanks for your comment.


Beating the bounds - Good. Is there anything you fantasise about when on your own out in the wilds?

On my LEJOG walk and others I have taken a pocket radio, usually listened to whilst reeling in a straight six mile section of railway converted into footpath with parallel borders converging into the distance.


RR - Glimpses are intriguing, and contrast, interestingly with views.

First of all there is no way I would ever be on the South Col even if I was young enough and physically capable. The one in ten odds of death for Himalayan big mountain climbing outweigh, for me, any of the attractions I have outlined in my post, so that is another part of the answer to your original query: there are limits. Hypothetically the answer is yes, I would read it, but probably push my companion, who had ripped out the ten pages for toiletry purposes, off down the slope. I have seen somebody fall off Swirral Edge (Helvellyn) wearing Gortex - the impression gained was that Gortex is specially designed for frictionless fatal descent on snow.


I have just realised why I don't get as many comments as others on my blog. My replies are compressed into one instead of being individual.

afootinthehills said...

I can identify perfectly with your excellent analysis Conrad and admit to even enjoying quite hostile weather. Is this some sort of 'climbing replacement therapy' I wonder?

Sir Hugh said...

Afoot - I don't think that walking in adverse conditions gives quite the adrenalin rush given by that committing move into the unknown on a climb, but there have been times when I have been completely lost in hostile surroundings necessitating that self control dredged up from goodness knows where to suppress panic, and devise a pragmatic solution.

Bowland Climber (John), who comments on my blog and blogs himself: has been a good friend for many years, met through Tony who I climbed with for seven years before he died through illness in 2003. John is still actively climbing, and I must say his posts do make me feel nostalgic for the old climbing scene.

afootinthehills said...

Conrad - no it can't compare, but I think poor conditions can add a little bit of uncertainty, missing in fair weather walking.

The only thing stopping me from climbing at present (apart from my knee problem) is Dupuytren's contracture in one finger on my right hand. I declined surgery because of reports of variable outcomes and unless I reverse that decision I am, at best, going to be restricted to easy climbs.

I can't say the prospect of possible knee surgery followed by hand surgery holds much appeal!

Sir Hugh said...

Afoot - Well Gibson, I could have written that myself. I have the same affliction and have refused surgery for exactly the reasons you state.

Anonymous said...

Any-time you want to relive your 'relative youth' I'll take you climbing up some nice Yorkshire or Lakes VD.
The last route we did together was in August 2003, Oliverson's Variation and Lyons Crawl 56m VD on Gimmer Crag with Tony's son Robert and Tony's ashes!
Think your hands could cope as well as your knees do.

Sir Hugh said...

bowlandclimber - I remember it well, and the one before that: Gilercoombe Buttress, 104m, severe.

An easy climb I wanted to do when visiting Cornwall with our late friend was Commando Ridge (Bosigran Ridge), 660 ft., V. Diff. on Bosigran, but I was given the definitive fright of my life instead on Paragon, 200ft HVS.

Anonymous said...

Is there anything I fantasise about? At times my mind wanders all over the place, at others I'm sure it's virtually empty. Here's something I have almost posted about several times: 30 years ago, on my first round of the Welsh Threes, I was helped to get to the top of the long hot climb up Elidir Fawr by the advice to count steps and only to rest after a predetermined target - 500, 200 ,100. I've used this strategy countless times since and it's become a bit of a habit.
I note that Buddhists count steps as a form of walking meditation and would like to think that I'm on a spiritual higher plane when I'm at this trick, but I suspect that I'm just a happily empty-headed dullard!
I haven't spent several days in the hills on my own for many years, but recall that after a few days of my own company my train of thought could become a little weird.

Sir Hugh said...

Beating the bounds - Thanks for that Mark. I hope you don't go to the ultimate Buddhist (I think) pilgrimage strategy of getting there by lying flat out on the floor, body length after body length; could be a bit tricky on Crib Goch.

Anonymous said...

What an image! Actually, the first time I went up Crib Goch was very early in the morning on that same round of the 3000 footers. Having done hardly any hill-walking outside the Peak District I was a bit blown away by the exposure. I think I probably did just about worm along it on my belly!

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