Monday, March 27, 2023

The threads we weave

Cap de Formentor, Mallorca

Every month I write the editorial for an alpine e-journal. It's a task I enjoy, but this weekend, as I drafted my column, I had the niggling worry my words weren't concerned with mountaineering at all. I’d just returned from a cycle camp in Mallorca, which although an active break, isn't really of interest to climbers. And yet, by the time I’d finished writing, I realised my time there was just as relevant as any report of snow conditions in the Alps.

For no sooner had I signed into our hotel in Alcudia than one of the organisers greeted me with a hug and the news that her daughter was having a baby. I was delighted too, because I’ve known Jacquie and her husband Andy for over thirty years, going back to days when we rode tandems and would meet at time trials around the country. As fate would have it, we’d end up living in the same town, our children racing and riding together, just as we had.

And then there was Kate, who I’ve known almost as long – and Kirsty and Mark who once holidayed at our house, and Cathy and Clive, relative newcomers at a decade’s friendship… I could go on, but you get the picture. 

My eight days in Mallorca saw me lose half a stone, ride 400 miles, and rejoice in a landscape where lemon trees are as common as laurels here in Wales. But, what most gladdened my heart wasn't so much the sunshine or even the miles we covered, as the sense of a weaving of threads – the warp and weft of the friendships that run through our lives — in this case, patterned by a passion for bikes, but it could just as easily have been bezique.

Which is where the relevance to climbing lies. 

Reflecting on the activities I have loved all my life, I was struck by how bound they are to the friendships they've fostered. The same pattern occurs time and again, whether it be walking or kayaking or skiing or more recently, motorcycling. Even my writing, a solitary pursuit if there was one, is intimately connected to those who read and comment and trust... 

...and tell me to stop when I'm going on too long!  

But before I do, I suppose what I realised in drafting my notes this weekend, is actually pretty obvious. That whether I'm cycling in Mallorca, climbing in the Alps, or writing in West Wales, it's the people that matter as much as the practice. For our true passions, whatever they may be, are inevitably bonded to those we share our experiences with —and to separate the two would be to diminish both sides of the equation. 


  1. Hari Om
    Quite so! (I could add more - but why spoil it?) 😄 YAM xx

  2. I couldn't agree more with this post. Of all the good things about my cycling trip to Cuba in January, by far the best was meeting up with old friends I hadn't seen for ages, one of whom I've been doing hiking and biking trips since 1988.
    Cheers, Gail.
    PS And averaging 50 miles a day for 8 days in Mallorca isn't too bad!

  3. Agree totally - my first husband and I were musicians and played with various groups - people we barely knew what we first met but who all became firm friends as time passed.

  4. It is always the people. And it sounds as if you have managed to weave a beautiful quilt of love and warmth with these people.

  5. It's the people, always. We are now thousands of physical miles away from friends, but thanks to the internet we are still close, still interested in each other's doings - and given the state of the international post these days it's just as well that the internet exists.

  6. Yes so true. The people I have met on courses over the past six years have become friends and kept me going and made life worth living again.

  7. From the feelings I've gathered from your great blog posts and your books over the years, I just know anyone befriended by you - and your family - must be very fortunate as you all sound delightful Mark.
    This week I met up for a cuppa with a former next door neighbor whom I hadn't seen in many years. It was like we'd never parted - and to top it off, both of us have traveled the world in the past 12 years and had wonderful stories to share. . . . . . .such as African safaris and how embarrassed we each were the first time we had to hide behind a bush as there are no loos when out on exciting game drives!!!!!

    Started your new book - awesome already!
    Mary -

  8. How I wish I could understand and share your knowledge of and feeling for friendship. All my life I have been an outsider, rarely, if ever, close to anyone. I know why this is so, but I cannot shake off my need to go my own way without "encumbrance". Yes, it's dreadful and I am often lonely. Only here, in the Shropshire Hills, have I finally made friends; sadly, covid has seen to it that I have once again withdrawn.
    How lucky you are.