As I'm writing this post, having just spent a great week in wintry Scotland, I can't help but think about recent events in the very hills I walked in this week. At the time of writing, the search for Rachel and Tim on and around Ben Nevis is still ongoing and this weekend 30+ rescuers were out again trying to find them. The amazing volunteers with the Lochaber MRT and other teams who joined them on and off have been out and searching almost every single day since the two climbers were first reported missing on February 15th. Conditions have been testing if not dangerous for a fair few days in this time and I can only imagine the exhaustion some of the teams must feel by now. Sadly it is reasonably expected that the search is no longer one for missing climbers but indeed their bodies at this stage. In the wake of their story hitting the national news once again many none climbers and mountaineers have asked why we do what we do given the risks involved at times.
I always find it very hard to concisely explain why I love climbing cliffs, crossing moors, scrambling ridges and sleeping in wild places. There are so many things that motivate me and indeed others to push ourselves, discover new places and explore our surroundings.
For the snow on the peaks and rain drenched clothes.
For sunburn, windburn and a cold runny nose.
For freedom and glory, achievement and pain.
For trying and failing, again and again.
For sunsets on peaks and mornings on ridges.
For dodging all those damn Scottish midges.
For rubbing our faces with “skin so soft”.
For counting our paces and aiming off.
For the trickling sound of mountain streams.
For the big days out when feeling keen.
For dark skies at night with the stars above.
For the ones we’ve lost and the ones we love.
For slowing right down in a fast paced world.
For savouring time, as it is gold.
For bonds between friends and moments shared.
For thinking of home and others who care.
For laughing at ravens those cheeky birds.
For feeling small in a great big world.
For seeing the glens from high above.
For thinking of life, our goals and love.
For moments of sorrow, remorse and thought.
For teaching the willing and being taught.
For finger skin lost to gnarly climbs.
For listening to nature’s enchanting chimes.
For lifting clouds after hours of clag.
For watching the deer or indeed a stag.
For laughing at grouse in feet of snow.
For birds of prey putting on a show.
For feeling exposed high on a cliff.
For fingers and limbs getting cold and stiff.
For that one piece of bomber, quality gear.
For trusting our guts and playing it by ear.
For legends and myths, stories and tales.
For the calm before storms and sitting out gales.
For ice cold lochans and warm fires at night.
For the moments of joy and pure delight.
For walking off with a torch on our head.
For settling down in our tented bed.
For cooking on stoves and drinking tea.
For bum-sliding snow slopes with yelps of glee.
For stomping through heather and jumping streams.
For aching legs and shattered dreams.
For connecting with nature, a world far away,
For pushing our limits day after day.
For getting lost, testing your nav.
For telling our friends and having a laugh.
For taking our chances and winning the most.
For raising our glasses to those who’ve lost.
For so many people asking us why.
Simply to live - not to die.
My thoughts and indeed those of most of the climbing community are with Rachel and Tims’ families and friends. I hope they are soon reunited and given the opportunity to lay them to rest in peace. I also hope that they will be able to do so without judgment by armchair climbers and walkers. Fact is that many decisions made on the hills can only be fully understood by those who make them at the time in their exact position and those precise conditions.
To those who've lost.