Before children and sore knees, I used to climb a lot of mountains. Not for me the soaring Alpine peaks and blue skies of the von Trapps however. No, I’m more your mud, mist, rain and biting insects sort of person – this is because I’m Scottish and spent my early years in penury, so if I was going to climb anything a hitch hike to the nearest bit of the Grampians or Wester Ross was, pretty much, my only option. Because climbing hills back in the late 20th Century was a bit niche, I also climbed alone. (I’m also very slow, so I usually end up climbing alone whether I like it or not as everyone else clears off ahead of me into the fog)
There’s a few things that you need to climb mountains – especially wet Scottish ones – the first is a level of bloody mindedness. Without some grim determination you aren’t going to get to the top of very much. The second is understanding where you’re heading when you can see, in essence, sod all. Next, you need to be convinced that the journey is worth the effort, otherwise you might just as well play golf. Finally, you really do have to be able to use a map and compass otherwise you’re going to fall off something (GPS isn’t accurate enough to save you from being stupid).
You can see where I’m going with this. Climbing mountains is exactly like being a search specialist. Okay, we all occupy different niches, some love the clean rock and exposed faces of Patagonia, others take it to extremes of altitude in the Himalayas. Me, I think that all mountains are interesting and offer challenges, however I like the Scottish version most of all because I spent a long time getting to know them. It’s the variety you see, that moment when the ground in front levels out, the cloud clears and you’ve reached that blissful moment where you can have a cup of tea and a squashed sandwich in lashing sleet and head off to the next summit.