There’s a subtext to mountain walking which concerns our place in nature. We visit precarious places with calculated but never absolute safety. Equipment might fail, we get lost, we slip at the wrong moment and potentially die. I don’t undertake the dangerous stuff and even Wainwright pointed out the hills are friends not enemies. However the principle of leaving the city with only contingent rucksack safety applies. Writer Ian McEwan refers to this in one of his books. He describes it as counter intuitive.

We never escape Darwinian facts of life. If we encounter an assailant who might kill us we defend ourselves and possibly kill them or die. Capitalism and politics are predicated on such fighting matters. As such, it refreshes you taking to the hills where you see your precarious and contingent place in nature behind any pretence.

In Charles Frazier’s wonderful novel Cold Mountain, the hero called Inman tries to escape Darwinian facts. He’s an instinctive and matchless fighter serving in the American Civil War. Tired of death and killing he gives a man barely more than a boy the chance to live. Walk away in peace, he says, and I won’t kill you. He takes advantage of the moment of weakness and shoots and kills Inman, with luck more than skill. Either way, it’s a sad Darwinian moment.


Lake District Hiking: Kentmere Winter

Saturday December 22, 2012