Climbing mountains is a pretty special thing to do. Those of us who do it are fortunate enough to be able-bodied, have access to or own expensive equipment, have the time to learn the skills required, the money to travel, etc. Lately, I have been reflecting on this privilege and what it means. I cam to the conclusion that I’ve been squandering said privilege. I have the gear, the ability, the knowledge, and the time, but I don’t get around to putting it all together. And somehow that feels inexcusable. Mountains are one of my passions. There really isn’t anywhere better, to me, than to be above the bushline, climbing a big hill. I don’t care a great deal for summits, or even technical difficulty. I mean, the best view is generally form the top, and the climbing is more engaging if it is varied and challenging, but I don’t have a great desire to bag particular peaks based on their height or their grade. Mostly I love to be up there, both in good company and in solitude. I love to feel totally exhausted at the end of a great trip. I love to make critical decisions, work in teams, rely on myself, push through sapping energy, overcome fear, and just absorb the wonder of high places.
For a long time I’ve struggled to combine this passion for mountains with my passion for image-making. I often find them nearly mutually exclusive – when I am engaged in one, I can’t focus on the other. Consequently I have very few images from my climbing. This is something else I have reflected on and determined to change. In fact, it’s a similar privilege to be a photographer. What a luxurious way to make a living – taking photographs. What fortune to have the equipment and to be able to hone one’s craft to the point of mastery. To neglect the responsibility that comes with this fortune is a waste. I am determined to climb more, and to photograph it. That way, those who do not share my fortune may share a little of the experience in seeing my images. And perhaps seeing them will inspire someone who hasn’t ever experienced climbing a mountain, but could, to try.
So on Tuesday I went out with my friend Chris to climb Mt Rolleston, in Arthu’s Pass National Park, only an hour’s drive from my home on the West Coast. We set out at 4:30am, and stared walking about 6am, in the foggy valley of the pass. As we got above the Beech forest, we looked back south on a stunning view of mountains growing out of cotton wool mist, with the sun just cresting the peaks across the valley. Straight away I knew that this was the right thing to be doing. That I need to make more time for mountains. That I need to make more effort to carry my camera in these special places.
Thanks Chris, for coming out for a day in the hills, and helping me see what is important to me. Look for more mountain images on this blog in the near future!