In Memoriam

It was a year ago today that climber and mountaineer, Will Wilkinson, died in an avalanche on Ben Nevis (see here).

Although I never met Will, I enjoyed following his exploits on his blog and was shocked to hear of his death whilst in the Lake District last year where I had been out in the fantastic conditions.

It is hard to explain why I should be so moved by someone I never knew to remember his life on an obscure blog on the internet. Perhaps it is the shock of a life lost young or the absence of a person fulfilled in his life’s passion. Whatever the reason, it seems appropriate to mark the occasion quietly, and whilst holding close memories of those lost, look forward expectantly to what lies ahead.

Enjoy your new year, whatever it might bring, and perhaps take a moment to read some of Will’s tales from the hills he so enjoyed.

Will Wilkinson’s Tales from the Hills

A Time for War, and a Time for Peace

 

Kent in the bleak midwinter

I am currently taking a break in Kent, far from any mountains, and the crags that are near, such as Harrison Rocks, do not appeal. However, I feel content to rest after a very busy autumn, and it has been satisfying to have the time to do the things that have been sidelined. I took the photo above from the house, and it is strangely satisfying watching the snow and ice take control and adapt life according to its terms.

Apart from that, I have been running in the local area to keep my fitness up, and have enjoyed picking my way through the snow that has transformed the quaint, gently rolling scenery. The cold, watery hues of the snow and winter sun have drawn out a different side to this landscape – it almost has a harsh, broody edge.

I am content also, as I know there will be many opportunities next year: climbing on the Gower in January and winter action in the Cairngorms in February. By contrast, many climbers (well, those on UKClimbing.com – clearly a representative sample!) seem to be quite bitter and moody. I refer to a comment in reply to a fairly innocuous question about the funicular railway on Cairngorm. I recognise the irritability, as I have seen it in myself – there is nothing worse than wanting to be out doing what you love, but being constrained by circumstances, and then reading about other people doing it instead of you. Forums such as UKClimbing are a bit of a blow out in that way.

My wife was pretty incredulous, asking what I was laughing about, and said it was either that, or that these men were not ‘getting much of it’ at home, if you see what I mean. You have to see the funny side of it all…

Anyway, it reminded me of something: ‘For everything there is a season… a time for war, and a time for peace.’ We go through life and there are times where we do one thing, but not another, e.g., work versus leisure. Each has its place and cannot be altered. In this way, I am happy (predominantly!) not to be able to climb until the New Year. I remember this time last year and the great walks I did up Great Gable and Blencathra in conditions that will not forget for a long time, and I know there will be chances to climb – I just need to wait and be patient. For now it is a time of peace, but soon it will be a time of war, as such, and I will be able to continue working towards my goals.

Enjoying the views on Blencathra last year

So then, why get angry and frustrated? What does one gain from being bitter and yearning after what cannot be? In one sense climbing mountains is utterly pointless – beyond self satisfaction, what does one ultimately gain? It is also said that ‘the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing’, so satisfaction will never be found, if it is placed solely in the hands of a climb or walk.

It is a challenge to lay down the things we love – definitely true for me – but often it is necessary. Just remember, though, the mountains will always be there and it might soon be your time for war.

Matt Heffer, MIC

The beauty of the outdoor world is that you meet professional and personable people who are keen to pass on their knowledge and experience.

Matt Heffer was one such person. Although he was in an official role on my ML Assessment back in March, as the course supervisor, I felt thoroughly enriched through spending time with him on the hill and in the valley.

I mentioned Matt in passing after the Assessment (see here), and noticed a steady flow of hits relating to him. However, on searching the internet, I found little mention of him, so got in contact the other day to see what he was up to. Interestingly, he has moved to Oban, Scotland and is considering a venture in guiding, both on the mountain and sea.  At the moment, he is operating both in the Lakes and in Scotland and would be happy to offer guiding in both venues. He holds the Mountain Instructor Certificate and is currently working towards the 5* Leader Award Sea Kayak.

If you have come across Matt through a course or otherwise, you can get in touch with him via e-mail here, and check out some recent activity here.

Almost my first ice climb…

The obligatory early morning winter start...

We headed off to the Brecon Beacons this morning to have a shot at climbing the Torpantau Falls (grade III**). This is a relatively low waterfall at around 600m altitude which has come into condition fairly often in recent years, but never in December, for a long time, as far as I am aware!

Unfortunately, as none of us has climbed it before and we had to be away fairly early on, we did not manage to get on it. Instead, we investigated the small falls on the Nant Bwrefwr, which are slowly forming at the edges, and made a short walk around the area.

It was worth it for the outing in the Brecons, which are now in the bleak midwinter, with the wind sweeping in, dark clouds dumping snow and paths iron-hard with ice. However, we were not a little frustrated and vowed to return soon.

Here are a few photos of the lower falls:

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