Tuesday, 26 November 2013

A crow starts from the spruce

A crow starts from the spruce, rasping call and black flapping away.  Crunching through frosted grass, the cows steam in a huddle, lowing loud.  Despite the chill I sweat up the slope, through the fence marking the divide between the farmed strath and the heathery slopes.  Part way I stop and turn to drink it in: the frosted flat expanse of upper Strathspey. Smoke hanging above cottage chimneys,  green belts of fir and pine and golden stripes of birch and beech, and down by the river the sheep flocks grazing, as ever.  Then above, the hills rise and rise.  Late November's snow in patchwork with the brown of last season's plants, then above, perfect uniform white.  Beinn a Chrasgain and the rest of the Monadhliath, once more in winter's grip.

Pushing on, the ground levels out and I follow paths made by sheep and deer through the heather.  A raven honks overhead, and for a second I'm transfixed by the rush of sound of it's wings beating the air, nearing and retreating.  Grasses rustle and the Allt na Cubhaige burbles round ice-petalled pebbles.

Yesterday I went back to Laggan.  It was my first visit for well over a year, since moving from Aviemore up to Inverness.  I'd been meaning to return for a while, partly to try a few problems I'd not previously managed, but partly just to go back, to see the place and remember its shapes and colours, and the times I've spent there.  So far this bouldering season I've been more involved in the siege process than ever before, determined as I am for this to be the year of Malc's.  I'm still relishing the battle, and starting to see some benefits come through, but there's no doubt that the more you focus on the specifics of holds, moves, conditions, skin, the less you open your eyes to your surroundings.  Yesterday it was good to re-connect with a place, to remind myself of the journey this microcosm of obsession has come from: the mountains and glens, the woods, the rivers, the fields.

And, I could barely do this move a year ago.  Which was nice.

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