What Makes a Mountain Beautiful?

Books are essential items for expeditions. I would like to say I remember all the books I read on the expedition but I don’t. Six books are mentioned in my diary. One, “The Poetry and Prose of Gerard Manley Hopkins” was lent to me by John (I think). Gerard Manley Hopkins was a nineteenth century Jesuit poet and the few verses of his that I have read are very seriously religious and uninspiring. However some of his prose interested me. “On The Origin of Beauty: a Platonic Dialogue” being one. I do not recall all the dialogue but I do remember that it began by examining whether a six-leafed chestnut tree fan was more beautiful than a seven-leafed fan. The seven-leafed fan was seen to be more handsome even though it was less symmetrical than the six-leafed. So was beauty some complex mix of symmetry and asymmetry or in more general terms regularity and irregularity? Perhaps. The subsequent long dialogue emphasized how important the composition of the object under consideration was and also stressed that the beauty of an object is related to the balancing of ‘masses’ within the object. The sense of beauty it seems involves a comparison.

We young male expedition members had oft discussed beauty but not in a Platonic dialogue! Nevertheless we were in the wilderness with little entertainment, so it is not surprising that armed with ideas gleaned from this essay, some of us entered into a dialogue on what makes a mountain beautiful. Unfortunately (some might say fortunately) my diary offers little detail on what was said. We agreed that a mountain’s beauty was not simply in the “eye of the beholder”, but what else was uttered is lost in the mist of time. This was the only time such a discussion occurred. We were more intent on challenging ourselves on the mountains than analysing why they were beautiful.

Now that we are old and retired we do have time for a long Platonic dialogue. Anyone interested?

Just kidding!

RAM

Climbing in his sleep….

…or the summit of sartorial statements?

It’s strange what you remember after all these years, especially when it comes to matters of detail. This photo was taken from the summit of Croomble, a peak to the north of the col between Taserssuaq and Kangerdluk inlet.  The view is south-east, towards the Ilua fjord region. Continue reading “Climbing in his sleep….”

Even earlier tales from Tasermiut!

An account from the 1960 expedition

We are delighted to include this guest contribution from Ian Wasson and Colin Martin of the 1960 expedition, which starts with their image of Nalumasortoq.

nalumasortoq-r

The pack-ice was unusually bad around South Greenland that year and had caused us long delays in reaching it. Travelling by sea from Copenhagen our ship, the Disko, had been holed below the water-line, Titanic-like, off Cape Farewell. The crew managed to apply a canvas patch and we made our slow way to Narsaq with a severe list. Continue reading “Even earlier tales from Tasermiut!”

Down with Phriss

– on the middle of the three peaks south of Kangerdluk inlet

We were on top of our mountain. It was nameless and unsung. When we got back down at camp we could play around with ludicrous names, and rack our idle minds with playful possibilities. If for a brief imaginary moment it was our mountain then we could merge our names to call it Phriss. Continue reading “Down with Phriss”

Rubicon

The view was worth the effort…

We awoke late.  Nevertheless we went ahead with our attempt to climb Rubicon (1,700m) – a mountain forming part of the east flank of the Qinguadalen valley.  It was a beautiful day; a cloudless azure sky, a bright sun and no wind.  However such a day is not altogether perfect.  In the valley a myriad of mosquitoes and black flies took advantage of the fine weather and attacked us relentlessly.  Once above biting insect level at around 500m, we breathed a sigh of relief. Continue reading “Rubicon”

Here comes the sun

Musical memories evoked

tent1

I don’t care for clutter and am not the sort of person who keeps old letters and the like for very long. So I could rarely be bothered keeping a diary or log of my activities; memory would suffice, I naively thought, as I now discover that my recall of events isn’t as clear as I would have hoped. It is with some envy, therefore, that I regard those of us who did take the trouble to put their thoughts/drawings on paper and I am curious to know how I would now react to reading the words of my younger persona. I’ll never know. However, occasionally, a simple sensory stimulus brings memories flooding back. The other day I discovered a tube of Snik sun-block glacier cream and its distinctive odour transported me to a rocky Greenland ridge. It’s the same with music. Continue reading “Here comes the sun”

Tobacco Pipe

An Essential Expedition Accessory?

smokers

If I were to list personal items that contributed to making the 1971 University of St. Andrews Greenland Expedition an enjoyable experience I would have to include my tobacco pipe. It had a number of functions. Continue reading “Tobacco Pipe”