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A Walk in the Clouds: 50 Years Among the Mountains
A Walk in the Clouds: 50 Years Among the Mountains
A Walk in the Clouds: 50 Years Among the Mountains
Электронная книга314 страниц3 часа

A Walk in the Clouds: 50 Years Among the Mountains

Автор Kev Reynolds

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A Walk in the Clouds: 50 Years Among the Mountains is a heartwarming, inspirational, and evocative collection of memories and short stories from Kev Reynolds, a prolific and celebrated guidebook author who has been roaming the mountains for a half-century. These recollections trail Reyonlds' journeys through some of his favorite and most memorable lessons learned on the mountains. The people met, experiences shared, and cultures bridged throughout Reynolds' travels make for an engaging read for hikers and non-hikers alike.  Shadowing Reynolds across the Moroccan Atlas, the Pyrenees trails, the European Alps, and even the Himalayas gives the reader the feeling not only of hiking the trails, but also of forming the relationships and connections throughout the world that Reynolds was able to create. This book motivates the common reader to undertake something they have never done before because, as the reader learns from Reynolds, that is where some of the best experiences come from.
ЯзыкEnglish
ИздательBeaufort Books
Дата выпуска22 июн. 2014 г.
ISBN9780825306655
A Walk in the Clouds: 50 Years Among the Mountains
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Автор

Kev Reynolds

A lifelong passion for the countryside in general, and mountains in particular, drove Kev's desire to share his sense of wonder and delight in the natural world through his writing, guiding, photography and lecturing. Spending several months every year in various high-mountain regions researching guidebooks made him The Man with the World's Best Job. Kev enjoyed a fruitful partnership with Cicerone from the 1970s, producing 50 books, including guides to five major trekking regions of Nepal and to numerous routes in the European Alps and Pyrenees, as well as walking guides for Kent, Sussex and the Cotswolds. 'A Walk in the Clouds' is a collection of autobiographical short stories recording 50 years of mountain travel and adventures. He was also the contributing editor of the collaborative guide 'Trekking in the Himalaya' and Cicerone's celebratory anniversary compilation 'Fifty Years of Adventure'. A frequent contributor to outdoor magazines, Kev also wrote and illustrated brochures for national tourist authorities and travel companies. When not away in the mountains, Kev lived with his wife in a small cottage among what he called 'the Kentish Alps', with unrestricted walking country on the doorstep. But he also travelled throughout Britain during the winter months to share his love of the places he wrote about through a series of lectures. Sadly, Kev passed away in 2021. He will be remembered fondly by all who knew him and by many more he inspired through his writing and talks.

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    A Walk in the Clouds - Kev Reynolds

    2013

    ATLAS MOUNTAINS

    Exotic Mountain Playground

    Reaching altitudes of over 13,000 feet, the Atlas Mountains stretch across the shoulder of northwest Africa from western Morocco to Tunisia. Wild, rugged, and easily accessible from Marrakech, today the highest summits and the valleys that radiate from them have become a popular destination for European climbers and trekkers, for whom they represent the nearest exotic mountain playground.

    Having served an apprenticeship climbing mostly in north Wales, the Lake District, and Scotland, the Atlas were my first big mountains when I went there with an expedition in 1965. Apart from the Berber inhabitants we met in the valleys, and the odd goatherd in surprisingly remote places, we had them to ourselves. There were no commercial trekking companies in those days, and it would be another 15 years before the first English-language guidebook appeared. Cheap flights were unknown, and we made our journey to and from Morocco through France and Spain on the back of a three-ton ex-army truck.

    That journey was an adventure in itself. But it was the mountains, and experiences won there, that had the greatest impact on me. They changed my life. We climbed all and everything that appealed, crossed cols and visited remote valleys and villages, and on one of the 13,000 foot summits I made two decisions which, on reflection, seemed incompatible. The first was to marry my girlfriend, and the second was to abandon the job in which I was working Monday to Friday, looking forward to Saturday, and try to find work among mountains. Nearly fifty years on, I have no reason to regret either decision.

    Exactly twenty-one years after that first visit, I returned as a journalist to accompany a trekking party making a tour of the central block of the High Atlas. In the decades between those two visits the mountains appeared to have changed very little. But my life had been transformed.

    TRAVELS IN AN ANCIENT LAND

    1965: At 21 I was wide-eyed and eager for adventure, and the Atlas Mountains were seductive in their wild mystery—so different from anything I’d known before. With fitness and misplaced confidence rather than any natural ability, we climbed with naïve ambition—yet we survived. But perhaps more than any vertical activity, it was the journeys made to distant valleys that held the greatest appeal and which now come alive more vividly in the memory.

    This land seemed to belong to the Old Testament. It felt culturally ancient, part of another world. Sun-baked and barren in summer, it had rock-strewn canyons where goats searched for something on which to graze. From the summits of snow-free mountains that filled every horizon, a golden haze told of the Sahara. There were no reminders of the twentieth century, and the dreamy-eyed goatherd who stood at the edge of our camp each morning could have been descended from Abraham.

    Under his gaze three of us left our tents behind, and with rucksacks packed for a few days of exploration climbed towards the head of the valley, bore left to cross a 11,000 foot pass, then fought a way down the other side among a turmoil of rocks and boulders through which a mule-trail unraveled into an arid gorge. In its bed waist-high thistles were the only signs of vegetation, and apart from mule dung and the black pebbles of goat droppings nothing broke the monotony of rust-colored stone. As cliffs hemmed us in, our voices spoke back at us in echoes that hung for long moments in the air before being vanquished by the clatter of rock upon rock.

    Late in the day we turned a spur to discover, clinging to the hillside like a series of swallows’ nests, a village of flat-roofed houses commanding a wonderland of terraced fields and groups of trees. The silver of overflowing irrigation ditches flashed in the sunlight; on a level with the village, and all below it, the mountain slope was vibrantly green and fertile; above the houses, bare crags offered a stark contrast.

    At the foot of the terraces a small rectangular meadow was overhung by a walnut tree and outlined by drystone walls. The grass had been cropped short and a waterless ditch ran through the middle. Nearby, two barefooted girls stood and stared; one had an open sore on her cheek troubled by flies. She turned to her friend; they both giggled, then scampered up the path to the village.

    We sat beneath the tree as the sun slid behind the mountains, chasing shadows through the valley and up the hillside to smother the houses one by one. The girls returned, bringing with them older siblings and three or four adults, with whom we exchanged greetings and shook hands. With no common words between us, pantomime was used to request permission to sleep in the meadow. The Berbers, we had found on our first day in the mountains, were hospitable, if openly inquisitive, and the villagers here confirmed those early impressions. We were welcome to spend the night in their meadow, but we couldn’t expect privacy.

    Darkness fell, and as we prepared a simple meal more villagers came down to join us. Someone hung a lantern in the tree while several children crouched in the branches, the better to see what we were up to. Adults either leant or sat upon the wall; Berber voices discussed our basic culinary skills; a jug of milk was placed beside us—a simple gift for strangers.

    As the valley was chorused by cicadas, cigarettes were handed round. Some fingers greedily took more than one, the spares being secreted inside the folds of a djellaba, and for the next few minutes faces momentarily glowed as lips drew in the nicotine and inhaled.

    Eventually the villagers either grew bored with us or decided it was time to eat, for they deserted us in small groups and went back up the stony path to their houses. The lantern was left in the tree for our use, and up in the village candlelight flickered behind glass-free windows.

    It was too warm to use a sleeping bag, so I lay on mine gazing at the stars, playing and replaying moments of the day, urging myself to forget nothing, to soak it all up and store it away. Here in an Old Testament land I was aware of creating memories for unknown tomorrows.

    Sleep was blissfully elusive, and long after the village had fallen silent and the cicadas were hushed, a faint sound of music came drifting on the balmy night air. The music, the beating of flat drums and voices singing, grew louder, drifting along an unseen pathway high above the valley bed. It reached the houses, where lanterns showed revellers home from a wedding. Shadows revealed figures dancing on rooftops; the drumbeat, the singing voices, the odd explosion of laughter, all these sounds built to a pitch . . . then silence broke like a wave over the valley. Lights went out. It was midnight.

    In the morning, shortly after dawn, we were rudely woken by water seeping across our sleeping bags. A stone had been removed from an irrigation ditch upstream of our bivvy site, and now we found ourselves lying in a water meadow.

    Finding himself taking an involuntary cold bath, Mike swore, then broke into laughter. Wet sleeping bags hardly mattered. It was time to get up, dry off, and move on.

    MULES, FROGS, AND BIVVY BAGS

    Twenty-one years after that first visit I found myself drawn again to the Atlas Mountains, this time with a trekking party; my commission was to write a piece about the experience for a magazine. Exactly twice as old as I’d been on that first visit, I was well aware that my enthusiasm for mountain travel had not dimmed in the slightest, and Morocco’s high places were every bit as rewarding as they had been in 1965.

    It was a good hour or so before the mules caught up. We were making the most of the shade cast by a solitary juniper tree not 6 feet high when we saw them. Mules first, and behind came the muleteers striding in cream-colored djellabas and home-made sandals with Michelin-tread soles; around them hung the Atlas smell of warm leather and fresh dung mingled with dust that rose in low clouds disturbed by 16 shod hooves. The lead mule halted. The others stopped too, snorting and shaking their manes that set bells tinkling until a well-aimed stone and a whistle through closed teeth from Ibrahim got them moving again. I stood up and followed at a discreet distance, hoping to avoid a lungful of that dust.

    It was better on the pass—the air a little cooler, with a vague breeze flowing across scrub-pocked slopes—but a summer haze restricted views beyond the second of what I imagined would be countless ridges before the mountains fell on the edge of the desert. I thought I could smell rain. Ten minutes later the first drops fell, so large and well spaced that you could actually count them as they made damp craters in the trail, the edges of which collapsed inwards the instant they dried. A few rumbles of thunder could be heard behind us, muffled by summits nearly 13,000 feet high. Not wanting to be caught here by the storm, we headed down into the misting valley, the mules forging ahead, muleteers holding onto tails, talking all the while.

    There was no more thunder, but it rained all the way down. Not the heavy rain predicted by those initial forerunner drops on the pass, but a steady, persistent drizzle that soaked shirts and steamed glasses. Too warm to bother with rain gear, wet clothing was acceptable, but towards evening, once we’d chosen a site for our bivouac on a meadow where two streams met at a confluence of valleys, dry shirts and anoraks were put on and we began to prepare a meal.

    Rain continued to fall while the meal was cooked. Clouds lowered over the mountains and brought an early nightfall. It rained while we ate, and it was still raining when we slid into bivvy bags beneath a star-free sky. Frogs slipped into the water and eyed their new neighbors from a low vantage point.

    The mules were hobbled for the night, but you could hear their teeth tearing at the short grass, followed by the unmistakable sound of digestive tracts gurgling and the odd fart too close for comfort. I made a mental note not to sleep near a mule again.

    Our bivvy site was a rarity in this corner of the Atlas Mountains—it consisted of soft, fairly level turf and a pair of meandering streams. Wild mint grew along the margins of one; tall thistles with bulbous heads stood in clumps alongside the other. There was no village, so no terracing or ditches for irrigation on the hillsides; no trees nor shrubs, but a half-circular wall of rocks about kneehigh suggested there had once been a shelter here—perhaps for a shepherd.

    Headtorches went out one by one, and at last even the voices of the muleteers fell silent. Yet sleep was elusive. Lying there with just my head projecting from the bivvy bag, I was content with the warm rain on my