Of Summer, Solitude and Structure

Notebook entries:

Monday 11 July 2005 10.30am. High on top of Petit Vignmale in French Pyrenees. Exposed drops to right and high on left above glacier. Clear sun, cool breeze. Rock, hard and folded – thrust upwards. Startling red layers abutting grey. Earth’s massive movement evident. Vanita, who knows about rocks – properly – scientifically, talks of huge mushroom magma chambers, of intrusions and incredible temperatures, of times past, pressures and forces. Stunning 360 views – Pic du Midi and south into Spain. Confusing array of summits and peaks stacked one behind another. Small body, big landscape. Euphoria. Tuesday 12 July 2005 J, V, M, S bivi under cold star night by river. New moon. One shooting star. Surprisingly good sleep.

Each year – for nine years now – seven very good friends (made in the heady, no money/ no sleep seventies – student days) leave our careers, partners, children, lives for an outdoor destination. The Girls Trip. This year – an eight day – big sac on back – circuit through French and Spanish Pyrenees. In the Valle de Ordesa I split for a day up the Circo de Cotatuero to take a solitary high level route around the rim of the canyon. Apart from a brief encounter (thankfully at the vertical ‘via ferrata’ section above a 600′ drop – had I slipped, I still would have been dead but the close proximity of others gave welcome confidence) I saw not a single soul all day. The sun radiated from the rock. I relished the solitude.

Friday 15 July 2005 Magnificent, high and vast. Rock everywhere. Thousand foot cliffs – whalebacks of rock – terraces – screes – boulders – ridges – mountains – plateaux – canyon. Following small, stony trod close to rim. Now totally alone. Very exposed. Acutely aware of sounds. Gentle insect hum and afternoon heat on deep layer of silence. I lean over edge – distant river roar surges up rock face. I pull back – back to humming insects and the plateau’s earthy perfume.

I like land with ‘edge’ – wild, raw, primal land. A place to reaffirm, to make contact, to touch base. A place to feel the frisson of fear. A place to enter the spirit – the inner core. A time to replenish. Rock structure, Pic des Sarradets, Pyrenees - Click to enlarge. Cirque de Cotatuero - Click to enlarge. Clavijas de Cotatuero, Valle de Ordessa, Spanish Pyrenees - Click to enlarge. Screes towards Col d'Arratille, Pyrenees - Click to enlarge. Rock path, Pyrenees - Click to enlarge. Cirque de Gavarnie. sketch. Pen on paper. Sue Lawty - Click to enlarge.

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