As lockdowns came and went, with a final easing of pandemic restrictions, the special freedom that comes with going climbing was never more appreciated. We checked-in with a few of our climbing team to ask them for their impressions and what special moments stood out for them over that strange period, to finally being able to get back outside with friends and family.
Cuillin Ridge, Isle of Skye
“It was beautifully cold and crisp as I walked through Glenbrittle campsite, the stones crunching beneath my feet as a distant cuckoo broke the morning silence. The Cuillin mountains stood tall and proud, ready to offer themselves up for adventure once again. Did they enjoy their little break, I wondered? A long and peaceful year with a scarcity of climbers scrambling up their spurs and along their mighty ridges; did they miss us?
I walked eagerly up to Coire Ghrunda, captivated as ever by the other-worldly rock formations and piercing blue water of the Lochan. Looking down, I saw a man sat up in his sleeping bag on the shoulder of the coire. Just like me, he was on a little mission, to reignite a part of his soul.
There were long sections where I saw no one, which felt special and intense. Yet on the other hand, it was sheer joy to meet fellow climbers and enjoy that familiar exchange of stories and plans and good wishes.
My legs were tired as I reached Sgurr nan Gillean, the final munro of the ridge! I felt like I had reconnected with a bit of myself and as I sat on the summit looking back along the way I had travelled, I thought about how much there is to look forward to. As life returns towards normal again I vowed to never take for granted the freedom of the hills. And right then, I knew what I craved most of all. To re-join friends at our campsite and share big dinners and tales of our days, with tired bodies and energised souls.”
– Anna Wells
Having made a name for herself on the UK dry-tooling circuit, represented Great Britain at Ice Climbing World Cups, Anna set the female fastest known time for both summer and winter traverses of Skye’s Cuillin Ridge and having climbed 55 of the 82 4000m peaks in the Alps, she is now turning her attention to the high mountains and is certainly one to watch in the field of fast and light alpinism.
The Mourne Mountains, Northern Ireland
“I haven’t been climbing that much recently - I’ve had my hands full in other ways. My partner Alexa and I ‘fell’ pregnant when lockdown eased last year. I like the expression ‘fell’ pregnant - for me it implies feelings of letting go and what was meant to be, similar to decking out. A wee surprise for us and one we grabbed with both hands. Rock climbing wasn’t a priority and maybe it never really will be in the same way again, but now something has changed and it’s hard to explain.
Since our good news, I got out climbing the odd time when the lockdowns had eased to chase my little hit list. I decided I’d pick one thing to focus myself and day dream on: a new little line that inspired me in the rolling granite of the Mourne Mountains. It was pretty high up on the list and it coincided with a few things my climbing partner/best friend bumbler wanted to check out too. It was a new route up the side of Lamagan. Quite short, like something on the grit with big grips and a few seams for gear but with an hour and a half up hill. From my first look, I predicted it might take around three sessions to get it done.
Well - that was about two months into Alexa’s pregnancy and now we have our first child. A daughter, Eva. Beautiful, very smiley and a sleeper! And with this news, my expectations have changed. I still haven’t climbed that little wall but my sessions on the route after Eva was born have felt more satisfying and the Mournes have never looked so beautiful.”
– Ricky Bell