Saturday 2 March 2013

To look but not to touch - Glencoe at its finest

With the excitement of my book launch, it's easy to overlook the fact that I have been lucky enough to spend a few days in Glencoe during a spell of grand beau temps. We are currently in the middle of one of the longest periods of calm, settled weather the Highlands have been lucky enough to experience for several years.

I didn't climb any mountains this time, but Hannah and I went for a walk into Coire Gabhail (the Lost Valley) and witnessed the stunning conditions for ourselves. Our friend Steve climbed the North Face of Stob Coire Sgreamhach and reported perfect snow conditions and baking sun.

Days like these offer the very best of life to the mountaineer. Standing on a hard-won summit suspended between an ocean of ice and the limitless sky is a moment of sublime perfection that will change the way you experience the world. Blue and white sear themselves into the deepest recesses of your brain, a dreamlike interplay of colour and form that can never be forgotten. When walking along a pavement on a hot morning in the city, you will look into the sky and suddenly be reminded of a distant mountain day with ice axe in hand, miles from the nearest inhabited place and an icy wind in your hair. Experiences like these offer lifelong rewards.

This time, it was 'look but don't touch' for me. To look upon these wonders but to remain distant from them is an exquisite, bittersweet pleasure, in some ways more valuable than actually being on the mountain and satisfying the itch. The jewels of Glencoe, seen from afar but not from close at hand, are suspended as visions of perfection unspoiled by fatigue and danger. Imagination and memories fill in the blanks and the mind comes away from the divine scene with the impression of untold wonders waiting patiently for your return.

To me, Glencoe is the most beautiful place on earth, one that will continue to inspire my writing for many years to come. What better place could there be for me to release a new book to make its first steps in the world?

"Our most sanguine expectations had been met; our eyes feasted and our hearts elated. We had set out in search of adventure; and we had found beauty. Thus we had found both in their fuller sense; for in the architecture of hill and sky, as in great art and music, there is an everlasting harmony with which our own being had this night been made one." -- MURRAY, "The Evidence of Things Not Seen"

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