Why does a (wo)man climb a mountain?

Stress management norwichI’m pretty well read, but I have to be honest I wasn’t really aware of Wainwright until this week. Three friends and I, who have a pseudonym ‘The Tramps’ – so called because in New Zealand hiking is called tramping, (which tickles me) – took a trip away from the big skies of Norfolk to clutter it with hills in the Lake District.

My lovely friend of around twelve years was clutching an old tattered book in her hand which her mum and dad gave her to take up the mountain. Wainwright’s Western Lakeland Fells. She received gentle instruction to read the soliloquy aloud when we reached the skafell pike summit, the highest mountain in England.

I’ve had a tough few weeks. Not in a way that involves anything tragic, or necessarily bad, just in a way that I have a few big decisions to make that will mean a lot to me and my family, big work decisions. The problem that a lot of us cope with is being so busy it is hard to just think things through.

As a yoga teacher I believe in mindfulness, meditation, time to process the busyness of the brain. But as a human, a mum of two kids that need shipping around from club to club, someone who needs to run a home, be a good partner, and a woman trying to run two businesses fitting in around school hours, like everyone else, time is in short supply.

When I made my usual new year reflections and promises last January the thing I promised myself was more time with my friends. Has this happened? Well as much as I would like, I’m not a lady ‘who can lunch’, and I have struggled to see my oldest and bestest pals. So this was going to be a wonderful weekend, mountain walking, space, time to think and drink a glass of Prosecco with my dearest friends.

img_0374We set off at 9.30 in the morning on The Tramp with great gusto, with no kids in tow this weekend the pace was set by us. That in itself was a treat. The first hour was lush, we stopped by a waterfall for snacks, we were in great spirits. Ninety minutes later the mist had set in, visibility was bad, and the chat had subsided to give way for oxygen and focus to supply the Norfolk legs that just had to keep climbing up.

Luckily we came across a cheery bunch of blokes, who had climbed Ben Nevis this day before – ‘youth’. As we were flagging they told us to keep going because the view at the top was amazing. Just the inspiration we needed for a last spring in our step. When we got to the top we were not disappointed. The peak was above the cloud and four old friends were exhilarated with vision, and space, and the feeling of being alive. My dear friend Kate opened up her tatty old book and read this:

Scafell Pike 24, Southern Fells:-

“Why does a man climb mountains? Why has he forced his tired and sweating body up here when he might instead have been sitting at his ease in a deckchair at the seaside, looking at girls in bikinis, or fast asleep, or sucking ice-cream, according to his fancy. On the face of it the thing doesn’t make sense.

Yet more and more people are turning to the hills; they find something in these wild places that can be found nowhere else. It may be solace for some, satisfaction for others: the joy of exercising muscles that modern ways of living have cramped, perhaps; or a balm for jangled nerves in the solitude and silence of the peaks; or escape from the clamour and tumult of everyday existence.

It may have something to do with man’s subconscious search for beauty, growing keener as so much in the world grows uglier. It may be a need to re-adjust his sights, to get out of his narrow groove and climb above it to see wider horizons and truer perspectives.

In a few cases, it may even be a curiousity inspired by A. Wainwright’s Pictorial Guides. Or it may be, and for most walkers it will be, quite simply, a deep love of the hills, a love that has grown over the years, whatever motive first took them there: a feeling that these hills are friends, tried and trusted friends, always there when needed. It is a question every man must answer for himself.”

img_0384When she got to “these hills are friends, tried and trusted friends…” her eyes got really wet. So did mine, and my two buddies too.

Now home and having had time to think, I feel filled with a renewed energy, but a soft and nurtured state. Having given myself just what I needed, space to work it all out, marvelling at a truth far greater than us, which doesn’t just involve the outrospective love for the marvelling of a mountain, but a very deep introspective love for my friends. A clear and warm head and heart, and some much needed answers.

Man, or woman, you don’t need to climb a mountain, just make sure that you get some space, you connect with old friends and remind yourself you’re alive once in a while.