Sunday, 4 November 2012
When Neil calmly declared "this is unjustifiably dangerous" before lowering off an icy crux pitch on Nocando Crack I understood completely. After several metres of protection-less, delicate and irreversible thin ice placements above an ankle (if not leg)-breaking ledge, Neil finally contrived a secure pick placement. With no immediate prospect of gear, his decision looked easy and pre-meditated. The rope was carefully clipped into a carabiner on the shaft of the axe and Neil was lowered to the safety of the belay. At least in the accessible Northern Coires gear retrieval is not a significant problem and on finishing up The Migrant, Harry and I were able to abseil back down and return the crag-swag to its grateful owner.
Risk and the associated adrenaline high has always been fundamental to my climbing experiences but as I age, life priorities are changing. Accentuated by my newly married status I am not craving the fear factor and I am more conscious of "unjustifiable danger" than ever before.
The fire is not burning as fiercely as it did through the last three seasons but, two weeks and two moderately difficult but excellent routes into the current early winter, I am reassured that it is still smouldering. I am not ready to fade into retirement just yet as I slip into contentment.
Today is a beautifully peaceful Sunday. I am more than happy to be at home with Shona (my life and wife) scavenging for fire wood, reading the papers, drinking tea, writing this blog and preparing for our roast dinner. Changing life priorities are delivering happiness and contentment in abundance. But make no mistake, there is still room in my life for winter climbing sufferance. Albeit more dilute.