‘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.