Each month through to September, we will be asking one of our Pro-Team judges from this year’s #MEclimbing competition to share a photo that symbolises a significant moment to them from their climbing journey so far. This month is the turn of Uisdean Hawthorn, who discusses how surprising events can occur, even on some of the most unassuming routes.
Words by Uisdean Hawthorn
Uisdean Hawthorn is Scottish climber and alpinist best known for his bold ascents winter climbing in Scotland, he has repeated many hard routes and established new routes all across Scotland. Uisdean grew up on a small farm in the remote North West and is now a fully qualified joiner. He enjoys all disciplines of climbing and running but is happiest in the mountains.
It was 2:30pm on Monday when we sat on the half way ledge, finishing all but two sips of water.
Susanne enjoying the heat; me wilting in the baking sun. At that point, I felt content that we had climbed 350 metres and that we could just make the sensible choice… walk around the ledge, start descending in daylight, and be back at the van by early evening.
At 8:00pm the climbing finally stopped as I scrambled up the last 20 of 700 metres to the summit of Torre Treste, of the Cevitta Group in the Italian Dolomites. Susanne and I had climbed the Cassin (Southeast ridge) VII- or VIII- or VI/A2 depending which guide book you believe. It only has one pitch of VII-, or five, or one pitch of VIII – many VII and a few IV+ pitches, on loose rock that were actually VII.
Either way both of us, having had a full-on fulfilling adventurous experience since leaving the van sixteen hours ago, now relaxed and enjoyed the summit for a mere thirty seconds.
Looking towards the banks of cloud, with the setting sun colouring them red as they made the dreaded deep rumble of thunder, we each had a last sip of water that we had saved, and felt happy we had continued to the top as the second half had provided some superb climbing. We swapped tight rock shoes for comfortable trainers and started to follow the varying guidebook descriptions of complicated descent.
By midnight we were only two thirds of the way down the descent, wandering around some rubble strewn gully, trying to figure out the way down.
Up, down, left, right… nothing but loose limestone and head-torches searching through the blackness of night. The dreaded thought of having to spend the night up here seeping into our heads must have forced our brains into gear; we somehow found the way and arrived at 2 a.m. back at the bags. We dragged ourselves downhill for the next few hours back to the van, a full moon allowing us to switch our head torches off. Our feet crunching on the gravel track broke the complete silence in the valley. Moonlight shimmering off the river far below and illuminating the towering faces on either side, etched a deep and meaningful experience into my mind.
This picture reminds me of those days rock climbing that aren’t meant to be particularly tough but somehow surprise you. You’re running late but keep climbing even when you know with some certainty that it’s going to cause problems later in the day or even into the next morning. I always think it out logically and realise I don’t need to keep going but I always seem to.
You have to accept that if faced with this choice you probably did something wrong at some point in the day but don’t give up and kick yourself because it hasn’t gone exactly to plan. Push on, enjoy the inevitable suffering and think how lucky you are to pack some extra adventure into a day when you least expected it. After all as my friend Pete says when the going gets tough;
“Its only discomfort.”
Inspired by Uisdean Hawthorn’s story? It’s time to share your own. Throughout Summer 2017, we are asking you to share your #MEclimbing stories on Instagram as part of our #MEclimbing competition for a chance to win some great Mountain Equipment gear, as well as a custom one-to-one rock tuition session at Plas y Brenin.
To enter, simply tag #MEclimbing in your Instagram photo.