Spirit of the Hills
by Robert Thorpe, with Larisa Chinces
by Robert Thorpe, with Larisa Chinces
It’s cold outside, damp and cloudy and yes, at times quite miserable weather. And yet, even in such conditions the mountains draw us forward. More so, for the draw seems to be stronger during these winter months; either for the snow and anticipation of skiing, or for the wild solitude and spiritual beauty of such high places, where the absence of others is a gift to us – time to ride, hike, climb and yes ski, whilst lost in our thoughts.
It’s an addiction that I hope never to be cured from, recalling the many trips as a child where I’d glue my face to the car window as we drove our family through the valleys and I’d seek out the climbers on the crags and cliff faces as we sped past, hoping one day to join in their gymnastic adventures. Recalling those times as a teenager when my brother and I would pack a tent, limited equipment and tins of sausages and beans and head off for a wild camping adventure, who knows where. As the damp air of morning would waken us far too early, I’d dive into the nearest river and wash, whilst my far too sensible older brother would look on and laugh and remind me that we’d find an open washroom soon enough.
This childlike innocence of thought and consequence has remained with me in the hills, as I still attempt the spur of the moment ideas, often leading to me being thrown at great speed from my mountain bike into the thankfully soft heather and peat. On one occasion I lay there thinking I’d broken a few ribs, not wanting to have to call for rescue, for fear of embarrassment. Instead, I simply lay there until the pain subsided and whilst still nursing a bruised ego, I hiked bike to the car, laughing to myself about how much fun it had been. Days of solitude on a mountain bike are gifted to us rarely these days, but are still to be treasured.
I treated myself earlier this year, following the tragedy of my brothers loss at far too young an age to be taken. A healthy bank account seemed a frankly worthless thing in comparison to events around me, and so I thought “fuck it” – and no I won’t apologised for swearing. After all, I’d lost my childhood adventures partner, and I’d been reminded all too brutally that life isn’t eternal.
Unpacking the new Yeti SB115, it was clearly too good a bike for a man of such limited ability and quite possibly, all too soon I’d end of lying in the heather again, wondering if I could get a signal to call mountain rescue, and being grateful that I hadn’t joined my brother quite yet. However, I’ve ridden it all through the summer and autumn, getting used to the new height and feel – it’s like moving from a quad bike to a Range Rover. It’s forgiving on the technical trails and climbs with ease, allowing me that strange adventurers glee of pain when going uphill, knowing that the descent with fill my heart with awesomeness.
The isolation of a winter Nidderdale is now my common trail hub home. Near enough for spontaneity and filled with sublime tracks that rise and fall and twist and turn, with endless views and limited people. Winter is cold and damp and I’m still unfortunately an addict; but I’m in no rush to go into therapy, for the hills are calling me and it’s time to escape the hum drum reality of a modern life again and go riding into the hills and maybe share some time with my brothers spirit. I’m no longer the passenger in the backseat, but as I head towards the Yorkshire Dales, I’m still pinned to the windscreen and dreaming of the adventure that lies ahead. Yes, the hills and mountains are my drug of choice and one that I’m happy to deal out and to inject myself with at every opportunity; because our time is limited and I want to spend every one of the 86400 seconds that each day gives me.