Monday, January 24

Anna Fleming’s Time on Rock Review – Dizzying Adventures | Autobiography and memoirs

CLimbing, says Anna Fleming, is “a form of dance,” an intensely physical ballet between self and rock. This book traces her rocky path to mastering the art of traditional climbing, from being a “terrified novice” to a “competent leader.” Unlike sport climbing, where the bolts are left in the rock for others to use, traditional climbing involves a lead climber inserting pieces of metal into crevices in the rock, to which lanyards are attached. . These are then collected by the climber’s partner.

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Leading, Fleming admits, used to terrify her. But what she describes as the “electrifying charge” of risk is an essential part of learning to climb. Falling and being caught by the rope is a necessary experience. Climbing the Cuillin on Skye in her early 20s, her rope saved her from the “edge of a deadly abyss” when a large block she grasped came loose. “I left feeling deeply humbled, with a greater respect for the gravity of these high places,” he writes. Only when he returned four years later to complete the route did he feel that his “mountain learning” had really been useful.

When he was a student, he started climbing indoors: “On the wall I became a network of muscles, limbs, senses, nerves, cells and neurons; an active, thinking and sensitive being. ”Climbing gave her“ a new map of my body. ”In the early 2000s, a woman could find herself alone among men on an indoor climbing wall. Now they are full of women and girls , and the climbing community feels different: “It seems like a quiet revolution has happened in the last 10 years.”

Rock climbing was a different challenge, with its changing conditions and the need for absolute attention. It required an intense focus on the world at hand – cracks, surface texture, rock flakes – to find a route to the top. In this heightened state of consciousness, “thousands of years fade away and I listen to the acute sensitivity of my ancestors.”

But at the summit a new perspective opens, revealing distant landscapes and wildlife. These two points of view, the micro and the macro, offer a transformative sense of one’s place in the scheme of things.

For Fleming, climbing is not about “reducing huge landscapes and environments to peaks to be conquered.” It is a more personal and profound experience, offering “a direct route to the fascinating power of the place.” Nan Shepherd described “leaving my body and entering the mountain.” Fleming also discovers that while climbing, the self disappears, “lost to movement and surroundings.”

She describes how the “physical contact and body perception” of climbing offers her both a “trip to the rock” and a deep connection to the landscape, an existential rootedness in nature that echoes Elizabeth’s current writing. Jane Burnett and Robin Wall Kimmerer. .

Fleming has written a wonderfully intimate account of climbing, filled with the rough texture of rocks and the hard-earned exhilaration of reaching for the skies. This is a book on geology and place, personality and nature, a rich celebration of “stony matter” and our relationship with it throughout the centuries.

Time on Rock: A Climber’s Route into the Mountains is a Canongate post (£ 16.99). To support the Guardian and Observer, request your copy at Shipping charges may apply.

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