WHEN I was a teenager I made a pledge to climb Coniston Old Man at least once every year because it was the first mountain I climbed and it was special. I also grew up within sight of its familiar slopes, so that made it a bit more special. But that was in the days when teenagers smoked Consulate cigarettes, drank lager and lime at 18p a pint, and wore Budgie jackets and Sea Dog jeans. Things change . . .
What do you mean, you’ve never heard of Budgie jackets and Sea Dog jeans? Gerra life.
My pledge to climb the Old Man every year was shuffled to the back-burner in 1980 when I made the ascent with my future wife, who complained about her make-up running when we were on the final slog up from Low Water, and she spent the rest of the day muttering just out of earshot. That took the mystique and adventure out of it. Things were never the same again, and I didn’t return to the Old Man until earlier this year.
These pictures assembled here, crudely converted from Kodachrome and Ektachrome slides taken on my old faithful Zenit E, date from Christmas Eve 1978 and New Year’s Eve 1979. To revisit them today – on New Year’s Eve 2013 – seems quite appropriate.
Some were taken on an ascent via Coppermines Valley and Levers Water to the top of Swirl How and along the ridge to the Old Man. The remainder were taken on a route that circles around the back of the Old Man to Goats Water then onto the summit, in intermittent cloud and occasional blizzards.
I don’t remember much about either expedition, except on the New Year’s Eve outing I was in a hurry because there was a boozy fancy-dress party that night in the Brown Cow, in Dalton-in-Furness, and I intended to be there. Priorities and all that.
So it’s New Year’s Eve 2013 and the world is changing rapidly – at least the bit I’m standing on certainly is. Redundancy is looming and I’m about to be knocked like a snooker ball in a new direction and probably bounced off several obstacles.
Thank you all for your advice and comments about being rendered jobless. It is very reassuring and has put me in a more positive frame of mind. There’s a big wide world of opportunity out there, and the last thing I’m going to do is sit at home and stew.
Spain looks very attractive to a bloke who’s had a gutful of playing by the rules in a capitalist system that treats you as a resource to be exploited and spits you out when the numbers change, without so much as a thank-you. Sitting in the sun growing cabbages and trekking across the Sierra Nevada would suit me fine. Anne’s keener than I am, by the way – just in case you wondered (keener about sitting in the sun, that is, rather than trekking).
I might resurrect my annual Coniston Old Man climb in 2014 – unless I get bounced across to Spain first. But then I might have to climb Sierra de Lujar once a year – and that’s a bloody sight harder than the Old Man. Believe me. It would even make my make-up run.
All the best for the New Year, amigos.