Sunday, 25 March 2007

Mountain fever

As soon as spring is sprung, my thoughts turn to the dazzling beauty of the Mourne Mountains, and it isn't long before I find myself driving down to Newcastle and clambering up those wild slopes for the umpteenth time.

The urge came yesterday, when I spent an ecstatic four and a half hours trudging up Slieve Binnian (747 metres) in a mixture of mist and brilliant sunshine, gasping at the incredible views across the Mournes and across Ben Crom and Silent Valley lakes.

Why are people drawn back time after time to these soggy, windswept lumps of rock? For me, it's a kind of spiritual cleansing, a kind of purging of the soul from all those everyday pressures that can set my nerves jangling and my mind racing. I guess we all have our own spiritual pickmeups. For other people it's God, or Mozart, or cocaine or even Celebrity Big Brother. All I can say is, when I'm up on one of those peaks, drinking in the scenery, walking briskly, listening to the infinite silence, I feel uplifted and revitalised.

How strange that a few years ago I had never set foot in the Mournes, having spent most of my life in the unrelieved flatness, the merciless horizontality of London - and never realised what I was missing. I would stroll round the feeble hillocks of Hampstead Heath, fighting for space among the jostling throngs of nature-starved Londoners, and kid myself it was some kind of recreational high. Mountains were as far removed from my everyday life as icebergs or koala bears.

Even the slightly undulating Cotswolds were several hours' drive away through miles of gridlocked traffic on fume-ridden motorways. Whatever tonic effect they might have would be instantly extinguished by the soul-destroying grind of the journey there and back. No surprise then that I'm firmly ensconced in Northern Ireland and have no wish whatever to return to the vast concrete jungle that is London.

And I haven't even mentioned the Antrim coast road - according to some tourist surveys, even more spectacular than the Grand Canyon or Machu Picchu. Say no more.

1 comment:

  1. I am looking for the trailhead and route up Slieve Donard. I will be there in early June. Could you please please email this information to a fellow climber. Thanks

    richard_hambrick at