‘The Day A Mou■tai■ Cha■ged My Life’


One of my favourite unattributed quotes is ‘Life is not made up of the num­ber of breaths we take but the num­ber of mo­ments that take our breath away’. For me this is never truer, lit­er­ally and emo­tion­ally, than in a moun­tain­ous land­scape. From the breath­less, sweaty pull up a moun­tain­side, to that mo­ment when you stop, turn around and take in the view. Breath­less and breath-tak­ing. It still sur­prises me that there are peo­ple who imag­ine that walk­ing up a steep hill is point­less.

My mem­o­rable day in the moun­tains didn’t have an aus­pi­cious start be­cause of this. I spent two hours per­suad­ing, ca­jol­ing, and at cer­tain points risk­ing ru­in­ing a friendship, coax­ing a friend who I had per­suaded to join me on a walk dur­ing a hol­i­day on the beau­ti­ful island of Cor­sica up a moun­tain trail. Cor­sica has a stun­ning coast­line and also quite chal­leng­ing moun­tains, and I had, I was told “failed to de­scribe the walk ac­cu­rately”.

For quite a while af­ter that com­ment, we steadily as­cended in com­plete si­lence. It was a low point of the day, if not a low point of the walk. But she didn’t give in. And then when we got to the top I saw her trans­form. The joy of the stun­ning views, be­ing able to stretch your eyes as far as they can see. Such a sense of achieve­ment. She told peo­ple for days how amaz­ing it had made her feel. How alive. To this day she is a com­pletely con­verted hill and moun­tain walker.

It stands out for me that I was able to in­tro­duce some­one to some­thing so amaz­ing. Some years af­ter that, when her mum was se­ri­ously ill, it was days in the hills of our lo­cal Peak Dis­trict that kept my friend sane and re­stored a sense of per­spec­tive. But that’s the thing. There is no rule in na­ture that says a big sky and end­less land­scape is nec­es­sar­ily beau­ti­ful and in­spir­ing, but I defy any­one to not feel the primeval tug – that sense of be­long­ing that sits deep in our hu­man­ity. So it’s not re­ally one day in the moun­tains that changes my life, its each and ev­ery one of them. Cur­rent think­ing is catch­ing up, with wilder­ness days pre­scribed for peo­ple with men­tal health prob­lems and the re­al­i­sa­tion that we need to re-con­nect with na­ture. It’s a hu­man thing.

This month’s win­ner is HE­LEN SKIN­NER

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