Insomnia has been a constant companion in recent months. Despite regular exercise and ending my smoking habit, sleep of any quality or duration has been hard to come by.
Until the last 3 nights.
A visit by a friend from Northern Ireland gave the opportunity to have 3 days revisiting the gritstone crags of the Derbyshire Peak District and spending time climbing and walking.
Gritstone climbing is powerful and intense. Short routes, usually between 6 – 15 metres, pack a lot in.
The walk to the crags (Stanage, Froggatt, Curbar and Birchens Edges) are a delight in the late spring. The grades of green as the plants and trees sprout their new growth. Flowers of all colours punctuating the old bracken and heather. The new bracken expanding the fractal patterns as they, too, reach for the sunlight.
Gritstone encourages the imagination to roam, seeing patterns or animals in the shapes and textures of the rock. Light and shadow, constantly changing with the angle of the sun and the movement of the clouds add to the constant movement.
The heritage of quarrying from a long forgotten industry remains through the scattered querns hacked and chiselled from the rock for mills. See one and suddenly you notice dozens more.
The contrast in the microclimate can be staggering. An Easterly wind bringing a chill and windburn to the top of the crags. Fleeces and jackets needed to keep warm. A few metres away in the lee and the temperature can be 15c higher and no wind. T-shirts and shorts and the potential for sunburn are found.
Working out the right routes – grade and style – to meet the aspirations for the day, and consultation and conversations with your climbing partner concentrate the mind.
The exertions of both body and mind gritstone require for a successful ascent takes your mind away from normality. The brain fixed on the problem solving of placing protection, seeling the scoops, cracks and edges that can be negotiated to move upwards in safety. The lack of protection on some routes forces awareness to relax breathing, be confident, use flexibility at a time that small doubts can invade like nervous worms into your consciousness.
”Can I do this?’ becomes ‘I will do this!’
Sitting on the edge after a successful ascent taking of the climbing shoes to enable the feet to breathe. Watching kestrels, curlews and grouse. Noticing beetles, wasps, bees and butterflies. A few words to your climbing partner to let them know our ready to manage the rope for their ascent. All factors that take you away from daily life.
Conversations on what is seen, felt, experienced and compared during and between routes. Sitting in quiet contemplation with someone. Or discussing all manner of subjects. The activity and environment appear to expand all.
Climbing is my ‘vertical yoga’. For me, it is the perfect exercise in mindfulness and well being.
Ideas become possibilities. Possibilities start to become plans. The future becomes positive.
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