Monday, 29 September 2008

One wish: the sun and a morning run

SOUTH, originally uploaded by averylongwalk.

Have you gazed on naked grandeur
where there’s nothing else to gaze on,
Set pieces and drop-curtain scenes galore,
Have you strung your soul to silence?
Then for God’s sake go and do it;
Hear the challenge, learn the lesson, pay the cost.
Then listen to the Wild -- it’s calling you.
Have you suffered, starved and triumphed,
groveled down, yet grasped at glory,
Grown bigger in the bigness of the whole?
The simple things, the true things, the silent men who do things
Then listen to the Wild -- it’s calling you.
Let us probe the silent places, let us seek what luck betide us;
Let us journey to a lonely land I know.
There’s a whisper on the night-wind,
there’s a star agleam to guide us,
And the Wild is calling, calling. . .let us go.
- Robert Service

If you squint your eyes real tight it's like being a kid and flying your imaginary spaceship. The dashboard lights glow red, the white cats-eyes flash past at warp speed. The headlights rake the curves, lighting them then throwing them back to black as the wheels rip round the corners. The music thumps my head and it's on nights like this that (when I'm alone) I wind down all the windows and see how long I can tolerate the freezing night air. This night though I just settle for enjoying the squirming excitement in my stomach and the anticipation of the mountains ahead.
Even leaving London had felt exciting. Ben, Andy (the exped manager) and I hurled our rucsacs in the boot of the car and headed for Wales. By sunset we were in Merthyr Tydfil's finest/only curry house.
Curry. Beer. Pause. Relax. Chat. Andy nips outside to phone his girlfriend. Ben and I stretch out and enjoy feeling full and unhurried...
We stir ourselves into action. It's dark outside. Back into the car, and the music's loud and soon we're in a deserted carpark at the base of Pen y Fan. We change, heave packs onto our backs, light up our headtorches and point our noses upwards.
We climb, steady but fast, away from the car, the road, London, civilisation, the world. The night is clear, still, starry and silent. We feel hot in the cold air. The night is ours.
We pitch camp on the summit of Pen y Fan. I've climbed the mountain many times, yet never have known it so still. It's as well that there was no wind; this was our debut night in the expedition tent and it took us an hour to put up!
Happy chat, whisky, a pipe, a good sleep then morning arrived shrouded in cloud. Pot Noodle for breakfast, packs on, and a good-paced day of yomping lay ahead.
By the end of the day the weather was glorious, sweat poured and we spoke of little but food and how good it felt to have escaped the clutches of London. The only irritation was that the video camera mysteriously broke; an inconvenience on a film-making and mountain training outing. Still, it was so much fun that I know we'll be back out there soon.
Back in the car, back into London and straight to the pub to meet a buddy who's just back from some crazy times in Afghanistan. Burgers and beer to offset all the goodness of the hills, but to perfectly round off a brilliant training trip.

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