Last updated on 25th April 2010
I woke a bit earlier than usual this morning. Anxiety. Some "foreboding" in my gut. Later today I plan to drive the three hours or so up to Fort William, then down Glen Nevis to a campsite. Tomorrow I aim to go walking in the Mamores. Anxiety can be a friend. Emotion highlights what's important for us - like staying alive and not getting injured! On the "Emotions, feelings & personality" page of this website there's a couple of handouts that help me navigate in this area. "Emotions, 'arriving' & 'leaving'" is a nice model that asks me to "arrive" at what I'm feeling, identify the emotion or mix of emotions that are going on. Then to notice which of the emotions seem to be "adaptive", helpful, appropriate and which seem "maladaptive", or out of tune, or inappropriate/unhelpful. Using the adaptive/appropriate emotions to fuel constructive action then makes good sense (while working to be mindful, reappraising, transforming of the maladaptive/unhelpful emotions or intensities of emotions).
So it's appropriate for me to be anxious about going mountain walking in the next few days. I've been working hard at other things, not planning the trip carefully. I'm only moderately experienced in the mountains - especially when there's likely to be a good deal of snow around. The anxiety gives me a gentle kick up the backside. People die in the Scottish hills fairly regularly. Dying of stupidity is unnecessary. There are enough things that can go wrong out there which one can't really plan for. Minimising the things that might go wrong that I can plan for is intelligent! The second slide - "Not too little, not too much" - on the handout "Emotions, awareness & regulation" makes the companion point that if I lose my footing and let myself get "washed away" by the river of my feelings, the anxiety is likely to be unproductive. Not "wading in" deeply enough however means I don't really notice my underlying feelings. My appropriate anxiety doesn't get to "tap me on the shoulder" and I don't get the sensible message to pull my finger out and put more energy into planning this trip.
I start to do my homework. How's the weather likely to be over the next few days? Not too surprisingly different weather websites produce somewhat different predictions. I particularly trust the forecasts put out by the "Mountain weather information service (MWIS)". It's not great. Saturday particularly looks likely to be cloudy in the West, and wind, snow & rain all seem to be pretty common. The MWIS even gives access to some mountain webcams. A fair amount of snow around. Another site I like is "Walk Highlands". Lochaber and Fort William they describe as "the Outdoor Capital of the UK". Um. Guess it isn't going to be too crazily busy on a weekday - especially not a few hours up into the hills. Their walk descriptions help me to get real. The "Ring of Steall" looks a bit too daunting for a solo, only somewhat hill-wise, sixty year old in poor weather & snow. I'm settling into this. Maybe Stob Ban and Mullach nan Coirean - the most Western hills of this range - are more my size this month. Possibly come in to the Mamores from the South the next day. Sgurr Eilde Mor and Binnean Beag would take in the most Easterly of this marvellous sequence of ten hills. OK. Now a whole load of packing and ... tomorrow the walking.