There are so many things to love about climbing. It’s intense, exhilirating, physically and psychologically challenging, it takes you to some of the most beautiful parts of the world, and introduces you to some amazing characters. It’s also a great form of preventative medicine – no need to worry about dieting, or becoming an alcoholic. When you’re faced with a promise of good company, crisp clear air, unbroken vistas across empty landscapes and raw unconstrained adventure, self-motivation flows freely on tap.
But the thing I probably love more than anything about our vertical pursuit is the fundmanetal beauty of certain routes. Some would talk fondly about certain “styles” of climb, while others might quest for a certain”line” or routes with “character”. And we’ve developed wn entire jargon around the idea – corners, slabs, grooves, roofs, overlaps, aretes, bulges, ramps and more. And then we add in the adjectives – shallow grooves, beetling slabs, tenuous overlaps and striking aretes. These attempts to describe intimately what we see and feel when we climb our rocks are a reflection of the emotion and passion they generate within us.
And that’s a word very much bang in context here – emotion. This is precisely the impact the really great and inspiring routes the world over quickly generate in our climbing mind’s eye. – an emotional response. As climbers, we see a picture of a route and in an instant we are there, in amongst it – a familiar topography, a sense of drama and exposure, and an internal retrospective on all our other adventures on that mountain, that crag or that particular rock type. It’s not a feeling, as such, but an awareness of feeling that’s almost as tangible as the real thing.
Yesterday was an emotional day. I was blessed with the most wonderful opportunity to attempt one of the most beautiful and compelling lines anywhere, and in the company of one of the finest winter climbers I’ve ever known. The summer line of Shoot the Breeze (E2) on Beinn Eighe’s terrifying West Central Wall is perhaps not the first winter objective that would spring to mind for most – quite literally a soaring knife-edge arete in the truest sense of those words. But look closer and you’ll find a (nearly) continuous line of cracks for torqued picks and nano edges for cramponed feet, promising one of the most outrageous and genuinely “out there” climbs to be found anywhere in these tiny islands.
And there we were – completely out there. Boldly teetering where no winter climbers had gone before. And in the end, under a cloak of darkness, we soared. Intense, exhilirating and most certainly challenging. But most of all, just beautiful.