Wednesday, 3 August 2011

This week: David Craig looks back on his lost horizons

Bill Peascod above the great flake of Central Buttress: Photo Bill Birkett

"When I can't sleep, usually around 3 to 5 a.m., I find myself picking my ten favourite rock-climbs. Over the past five years the list has settled down to something like this:- Gimmer Crack, Haste Not (White Ghyll, Great Langdale), Right Angle (Gurnards Head, West Penwith), Moonshadow (Blouberg, Transvaal), Satan's Slip (Lundy), Swastika (Etive Slabs), Grooved Arete (Rannoch Wall, Buchaille Etive Mhor) -and on and so forth. Or I can move on to one-pitch routes:

Right Unconquerable (Stanage),Cravat (Neckband, Great Langdale), Salome (Round How, Buttermere)~ Demo (Sennen, West Penwith), Porkers Parade (Swine Knott, White Ghyll), Jean Jeanie (Trowbarrow Quarry, Silverdale), and so on, and on... Or I can do hill-climbs: Liathach, Beinn Eighe, Beinn Alligin (all in Torridon), Lochnagar, Cairn Toul, and Braeriach (Cairngorms), Adam's Peak, Huayna Picchu, Towaya'lane (the 'Corn Mountain' of the Zuni in New Mexico), Monte Matanna in the Apuian Alps... Or I can do walks, long walks: the Lairig Ghru from Deeside over to Speyside; the east coast of Raasay from Brochil down to Hallaig; Upper Loch Torridon through the mountains to Grudie Bridge on Loch Maree; Keet Seel Canyon in Arizona; a big circle through the forest near Kakadu in Arnhem Land, Northern Australia...

  Last month I began to do favourite islands (Lundy, Barra, Mingulay,  North Uist, Cape Breton). Then rock sucked me in again and I began to do crux moments: stepping left into the flakey wall on pitch 4 of Overhanging Bastion on the Castle Rock of Triermain; launching right, then instantly upward on pitch 2 of Harlot Face (Castle Rock); starting the traverse near the top of Venusberg at Bosigran (West Penwith); craning backwards, then pulling up onto and over the roof on Moonshadow in the Transvaal; laybacking the upper section of the Great Flake on Scafell's Central Buttress... I'm awash with memories now as the great black peat bog of sleep comes swelling up around me.'

This week-a poignant piece from one of the UK's finest outdoor writers David Craig. In this exclusive work, David considers his own 'twilights last gleaming'. A time in his life when advancing years and health problems has curtailed regular activity in the mountains and on local outcrops.. A time now to reflect on what it has meant to be a climber and the unique passions and relationships which still burn bright in the memory.