Uisdean Hawthorn

The Needle

I sat down to write about my summer a few weeks ago and for some reason I randomly ended up writing this piece below, not sure why it just came out. Despite having a really good summer it wasn’t very interesting to read about. Scotland was quite wet for most of the summer (unsurprisingly) so I went running lots, did a little bit of climbing, caught up with lots of old friends and just enjoyed being at home. It’s been good to be out of the big mountains for a few months after a fairly intense 7 months on trips to Patagonia, The Alps and Alaska. This is a bit of a reflection on thoes emotions that fly through your brain when on a big route. Im of to India tomorrow and if all goes well at some point the needle will definitely be in and fully pressed.

The needle shakes in the hand if the addict the point jittering through air; the teeth of the climber chatter, the legs of the runner shake. Yet fear of the unknown is common in all.  It’s the familiar hit being chased. The thrill of the hit, the wind howling as the summit is reached, the end of the runout, the last moonlit miles at the end of a long night, the dulling of some senses, the enhancement of others.

The needle scuffs the skin, the north face finally touched, a bounce in the five first steps. Everything slows, a part of the mind eagerly waiting, the other in overdrive screaming as the needle scuffs the skin. This is not safe, this is not normal, this is not what mum wants you to do. This is adventure, this is going to be wild, this is abnormal and it’s going to be great. But what if it’s too much, what if I fuck it up, what if this is the overdose? Is this beginning of the end?

The needle is in, the climber is half way up, the runner is a long way out. Commitment has begun.  It could still be pulled out, it could still be abseiled, it could still be crawled back. But that shows weakness or strength or failure or living for future success and more attempts. The commitment to press, press with the thumb, press on into the realm of not being able to turn back. If pressed there is no turning back, no safety to run to. Safety has ended. The push has begun. Addiction has blinded the brain.

But this is familiar, this is the best. Nothing else matters, nothing else counts, deal with what’s in front, do not look back. The buzz is bouncing, the real climbing has started, enjoy working hard for each individual breath, the bliss before it hits the fan. Before the realisation that this is serious. To continue is life, to go the wrong way could spell death, to be too slow could be the end… albeit a slow one. Speed! Speed is life, do it quickly but not carelessly.

Soon the eyelids flutter, the sun sets behind the mountains. The pace reduces to a crawl, a desperate grapple to return to normal life, a grapple just to hold onto the rock. The buzz being replaced by pain. Normality now seems bliss, return to society a far away dream. Yearning to return and live a boring life, the pain boring deep into cramping muscles. This is power, a power struggle, if won it will be remembered but it must be won to be remembered. If lost all that’s remembered will be a guess. Fighting the darkness has become a personal tornado, the weather blows the body towards failure.

The struggle continues, crawling upwards. Time crawls just as slow. A break in the darkness appears, the doom has not won, nor has it lost.  Only a hope, the hope of light, hope of the summit, hope of safety, hope of the end… but how will it end?