I came across this quote today: “A dismal world of snow and vanishing hopes”. Not, as you may be forgiven for thinking, a comment on the state of Britain at the fag end of 2011, but a line from George Mallory’s last letter to his wife before he and Sandy Irvine set off on their fateful 1924 Everest summit bid and became climbing’s greatest and most enduring mystery.
Conditions facing the pair we difficult: the weather was bad, morale was low and their bodies had taken a beating. Mallory even likened their plight to his war experiences. Even so, they were prepared to give it one last go, in the face of adversity, to claim the “third pole” for Britain. Sadly it was not to be, or so it seems.
Of course challenges come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and not all are of the magnitude of an Everest attempt. Whilst there will always be a stream of people wishing to pit themselves against such extreme objectives, one of the beauties of walking is that it allows each and every one of us to set and achieve our own goals, whatever they are and however mundane they may be.
Don’t get me wrong – there are still plenty of worthy targets in the walker’s panoply, even in Britain. An end-to-end, for example, requires fortitude both in the planning and the execution, and bagging a full set of Munros is no easy feat, either. But there are also far simpler challenges to be had, each of which can be tailored to suit a particular interest – your first LDP; a favourite peak; the local park in winter.
Our modest goal has been to set and achieve an annual mileage target. A couple of weeks ago, we passed our previous best, and now we have topped 700 miles for this year – that is 700 miles of boots-on, purely recreational walking. As I say, a modest target by most measures, but we were quite pleased to reach it nonetheless.
Passing this mark was in many ways an unremarkable event – a gloomy lunchtime on an unprepossessing local road, with the drizzle only just keeping off – but we will be able to remember it each time we pass that way, as we do with some frequency.
Just as the approach of Christmas is an opportunity to reflect back on the year, so the New Year provides the inspiration to look ahead, plan new adventures and set new goals. It already looks as though we might struggle to achieve the 700 again, but whatever happens we will do our best. If we get there great; if not, great as well. After all, it’s the quality, not the quantity that counts in the end, so if we have a bit less time to go out, we will have to make the best use of it we can and plan a few more exciting trips to compensate. I’m sure, come this time next year, we will be looking back with just as much affection as now.
Anyway, after today there will be a short intermission while Christmas and New Year happens. We will be walking when we can, and have already made plans in mitigation against the forthcoming overindulgences, but this is likely to be my last post of 2011.
So, to round off this year, thanks to every one who popped by and read the blog, and an even bigger thank you to those who found the time to leave a comment – I do read them all, and your participation is much valued. I’ve enjoyed the experience immensely, and hope you have got a little pleasure from it too.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and see you again in 2012.