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Unto The Hills
On Climbing in the Rain

ONLY the hill-walker understands the enchantment of climbing a mountain in the rain. To the average city-dweller, the very idea is repellent -- and, indeed, when analysed in the cold light of wisdom or common sense, it is hard to tell wherein lies the attraction.

The mountaineer himself (if he be honest), will never go quite so far as to say that he "enjoys" it. In fact, at the time of asking, so to speak, he will express his disapproval of the weather in terms so striking and forcible as to leave the listener in no doubt whatever concerning the sincerity of his feelings.

It is only afterwards, when he has "dried out" by the inn fire, that his lamentable inconsistency will assert itself. And then, like the incomprehensible creature that he is, he will gloss over his recent discomforts with a sort of rough affection, and find all sorts of compensations to explain his change of mood. Oh, certainly, it was heavy going for a while, he will admit modestly, especially up on the peat-bogs where there wasn't so much as a whin-bush for shelter and you could scarcely breathe for the force of the wind. . . . But there was a fine view down the glen, for the sun was out there, flashing and winking on the burn, and he wouldn't have missed it for the world! Oh, yes-he got wet enough during the actual climb -- soaked to the skin, in fact, and the water was running down his body in icy streams before he was half-way up. . . . But there was a rainbow so near that he could have touched it -- the whole thing, perfect and intact, painted across a nearby mountain face on a level with his eyes. Made him feel like a god. And the cloud-formations were really extraordinary when one could take time off to look… And so on, and so forth. Pity he didn't get to the top, though. Still, there was always tomorrow...

So he will go on talking of the mountain as a lover talks of a beloved but fickle mistress, admitting her faults, deprecating her faithlessness-but, with every word, challenging the world to show him her peer.

And the more he talks, the more surely will he confound the charabanc-tourist and the dweller in cities, and confirm in them the suspicion that these mountaineers are eccentric fools who ought to know better.

But the man with understanding in his heart -- he upon whom, at some time, the spell of another mountain has fallen-will only smile to himself . . . and remember … and go quietly away.

Skye peaks and mists, amid the high tops of the Cuillins.
View from Sgurr na Banachdich.

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