Scottish Swimmer

A Big Day Out in Glencoe and Some Similarities Between Climbing and Swimming

So my old climbing pal Matt and I went stomping up the Buachaille last weekend, climbing a route I’ve long had on my tick-list, Agag’s Groove.

This is one of Scotland’s classic mountain routes, a V Diff that is staggeringly exposed for the grade. There are times when there’s nowt but air below you … until the ground far, far, far below. The glorious Rannoch Moor stretches out for miles beyond.

Matt and I took a few photos and shot a few clips, which I then edited into the masterpiece below.
But why put a climbing post on a blog about swimming?

View across Rannoch Moor from Agag’s Groove (top of Pitch 3 I think)

Well, I find a lot of similarities between the two, and I don’t think it’s a surprise I’m drawn to both, rather than, say, football, squash or darts.

There’s the calculated risk of simply being in a hostile environment, despite the buzz, beauty or sheer brilliance of your surroundings. Whether it’s a rockface or the sea I find something utterly compelling and rewarding about pushing myself in such a situation. I’m drawn deeply to it, despite the fear factor. I don’t see how hitting a ball or pounding the pavements could ever hold that appeal.

Then there’s the social yet antisocial part of it. You’re sharing with others, usually, yet in the undertaking it’s largely just you, your body and, crucially, your mind. These are physical activities but they’re mental games. And while much of it is solitary, during this experience you’re watching out for each other, building a trust and friendship that comes from sharing an extreme experience and a reliance on one another. 

Another great thing, and all hobbies/activities do this to some extent I’m sure, is how you’re forced to switch off from the day to day. Distractions are just that, and they fall away from you, leaving you lighter, more buoyant. Who cares about that angry email when you can’t feel your feet/fingers?

And lastly, the Game; it’s a more visceral contest that two team facing off over a ball. You’re competing against yourself, kind of, though in reality you’re up against the world immediately around you. You can’t win but it feels brilliant just to be playing through this particular pitch, pool or god’s playground. It’s just tiny you versus the big, bold elements. Life in HD. And somehow, being reminded of how small I am helps me return to the real world feeling that little bit bigger.

Back to the Big Day Out, though. We passed Loch Lubnaig on the way up and down, rushing in both instances. I dabbled there as a kid, but now it’s on my swimming tick-list. I only hope that it doesn’t take me 20 years to cross it off like I did with Agag’s.

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