Rime Ice (A Mountain Poem)

Heading home I saw the hills
From the North the Cairngorms display their true size.
From other angles pretending at being small.
Vast, precipitous, and they beckon. Lairigs draw breath
The great spaces of The Interior,
my heart with it.
Golden birch trees flashed by.
A streak of white across the high places.
Shining silver layered on slopes of blue.
Rest day for me. Restless compulsion returned.
not old, but young neither
Physically not there. Desire to go
At least feel it. Quenched.
relieved to find myself
alone.

So what was I doing? Where was I going?
Gulf of the Lairig
Gigantic mass of Brae
beyond. Feith Buidhe. There perhaps to sit.
To sit, to look. simply to be there.
feet crunched grit track. long step up
doubts began to grow firm. today the day, despite.
Wonderful things, if I’d ever do again
Loch Avon from Stag Rocks on the solstice;
sea of mist from the summit of Braeriach;
mouth of snow tunnels; clouds on the coire rim;
in mountains I’d swum deep among sun beams

I wanted another
Every inch of progress. the rest I needed I had accepted
Today not the day.
On a rock to rest, I stay upon the mountain
a while. At least I came this far.
Eyes wandered across familiar view
Loch Morlich, Meall a Buachaille,
turning inward to the mountain.
The spreading mouth boulder flecked
brown the colours of autumn.
Brindled and grizzled golds
the furry coat of a deer.
Beyond, coire headwall rampant, bones of the mountain exposed.
The highest reaches
burn buckled boulders, sang surged stones.
elemental transparency singing
over and through the red dark cold
To see this again, to hear it and taste
Simply to sit reminds me of what matters and what matters most.

Beneath me caught my eye, walkers drawing near
Didn’t want conversation. Not even friendly greetings
Solitude to be, nothing between the mountain and I
transference between person and place.
a private affair.
without need for explanation
Followed the burn up. Into the mountain.
Walk slowly, drift free of burden of purpose.
Waterfall dawdles, plunged my hands into them,
cold pressure of water pummel my palms and then release
drips from my fingers. flash and gleam silver veins,
translucent airs and soft foam.

Gone on some way. Looking ahead, deep hollow of Coire
Alright then, that far before I turn around.
Then at least I’ll really
really
have been somewhere today.
primordial pull of the mountain.
the urge to walk further in
compulsion to seize
shape and colour of things; the feeling of place;
Encounter. walk where only spirits roam
Hedgehog-spined sedges. Granite baubles
Jackson-Pollocked lichen. always there tantalising
streak of white across the top
Maybe I could get close to it.

Entering into stillness. lochans deep,
clear and still to a vast boulder in wet and weedy sleep
I went to the edge
feet hanging just above the water.
relaxed grateful
utter peace of a quiet mountain.
the coire, acreage of cliffs and Great Slab
jutted tongue. Ten years since rock shoes on

I wanted. Did I want to? decision made.
slope abruptly began. better with every metre gained.
sudden view across distance
summits are places I have been to.
I had every intention
the snowline. should say ‘iceline’
feather pointed crystals that clung
rock and boulder Rime ice
encased blades in champagne flutes
Rime ice
that glinted white and brilliant
So I didn’t turn, continued upward.
Every step forward a dream.
I still had every intention.

Ice has wrapped itself around every blade of grass.
Delicate white fingers extended to catch the sun.
In the scrapes and slants of the hill lay a thin dust of snow
the granite of the mountain peeked
a lustrous gold on the snowless hill beneath,
shadows thrown, as deep as ocean trenches.
Rime Ice prism, imprisoned blazing whiteness
beauty is impossible, so too is sound. Despite my efforts
every step broke ice. Tinkling glass bells.
Crunching crystal carpet of chandeliers.

I ventured close, I dared,
Twinge of stomach, weakness of the knees
I never used to know such places. At the edge
Standing on air, adrift among the highest
the plateau lain out, running darkly
peaks that glared like white lightning.
no longer any question
A way that promised many sights.
Such wonderful things. A triangular stone,
crystals all pointed toward the centre.
dark triangle of Carn Etchachan,
opened book, turned upside down.
heading back in, heading out. I walked, listening
My pace was slow, feeling tiredness now,

Felt thrilled, made it up after all.
I may have gone home to rest, satisfied enough
would not have seen this.
would not have felt this.
would not have known
no longer as weak as I think I am.

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