30th of January 2021
By Harry Renton
As a kid I dreamed of mountains. I’d sit in the classroom at school staring out of the window wondering whether one day I’ll see them. I’d read about them in books or see them in films, always wishing that I could take the characters place in the story. I lived my adventure through those stories and played them out at my home, exploring the woodlands and rivers. I grew up in the Peak District surrounded by countryside, rolling hills and green fields disappearing off into the distance. It’s a place that I hold very close to my heart, but I had never experienced what it felt like to really be in the mountains.
It wasn’t until I was 20 years old that I finally saw those stone giants rise up in front of me. Me and my girlfriend took a family trip to Chamonix and we stayed in the town just at foot of the French Alps. The drive from the airport to the town was something unlike I’d ever seen before. Alpine forests and rock faces towering over the sides of winding roads for miles and miles. The Mont Blanc Massif dominated the skyline as we drew closer to Chamonix and it wasn’t long until we could see the famous summit of Mont Blanc itself. The town was busy yet quaint with shuttered windows on pastel coloured buildings and cobbled streets. The peaks popped in and out of view from between the buildings and the crowds of hikers, runners, climbers, photographers – people from all walks of life visiting the mountains.
Our days were filled with walking, food and playing cards at the end of the day. What more could we ask for? Even on the days that weather started to close in we set off with raincoats at the ready and how we were soaked to the bone, still with smiles on our faces. There was something so intimidating about being at the mercy of the mountains, though I was by no means out in the wild, there was an air of trepidation as I set off into the unknown. One day I watched as the clouds built above and below. When they met the broke with thunder, lighting and rain. Being up amongst the storm was a very freeing though ever so slight unnerving feeling.
It’s been two years since that trip and there’s not a day that I don’t think back on my time there. It’s left me inspired not only to return and hike more of the trails but also to push myself to do more at home. There’s a point on a hike where the weariness, sore feet and aching back suddenly becomes a feeling of satisfaction. Whether it’s looking at the world from above or putting your feet up at home. After 2000 meters of elevation you’re sure to be tired but something ignites inside of you and tells you to keep going. It’s a metaphor and message from the mountains to not give up and believe that you can do more. I learnt a lot about myself there in the trees and a top the peaks.
I look forward to returning to listen to the mountains again.
Images shot on Bronica ETRSI with Portra 400. Yashica FXD Quartz with Ilford HP5 pushed to 1600.