Defying gravity: Escaping work

Sherilyn Chew 6 June 2016

I climb mountains during term for many reasons. There’s the symbolic achievement, the sense of pride when you finally struggle your way to the peak, a sensation that even the sky is within reach. Every climb is a new challenge — man against mountain, confidence growing at every conquest. As I tear my way through the shadows during the descent, bathed in the spill of the sun spitting out its last ray, I feel utterly fearless.

The Snowdonia mountain ridges tear at the foggy sky, the deep valley digging down into its own wounds, stones that stand like scabs scattered across the skin of this land: there’s danger and an adrenaline rush at every turn. All those worries over a late supervision essay or sketchy dissertation are firmly put into perspective, and seem a world away. As an ice axe slots against my shoulder blade like a second spine, the only bone of my body that will not break, I realise how fragile we can feel in Cambridge’s clutches: the work emotionally grinds us down and chisells us to our bare bones, but the physical experience is empowering here.

Then of course there’s the beauty, the tumble of nature’s scent in blossom and bloom. The heart bursts its banks, flooding through the flesh; my soul opens as wide as the sky, which nearly swallows me whole, soaring like the raven above that seeks the wind’s caress. I have become so acquainted with the stale dusty smell of old books in the library that the slightest sniff of summer sends my senses into overload. When I climb, I let the wilderness into my heart. I breathe freely, finally, I am alive.

Admittedly, there is no time for work at the weekends: when scaling the side of a mountain, a sneak peek at revision materials is a pleasant if not the most productive method, and also constitutes quite a health hazard. This means that us members of the Hill Walking Club must work extra hard during the weekdays to earn our time-off, but the experience is definitely worth it.