Poems of Mountains: “Fionn Freedom”

In the realm of mountaineering, there exists a profound connection between climbers and the landscapes they traverse. This bond, marked by perseverance, acceptance, and a deep appreciation for the natural world, is beautifully encapsulated in Terry Gifford's poignant poem dedicated to his climbing partner, Jim Curran. Through vivid imagery and heartfelt verses, the poem takes us on a journey through the rugged terrain of Wester Ross, inviting us to savour the challenges and rewards of the mountain experience.

comes from a journey not a fight,

steady patience,

savouring acceptance

of the ever-wet, the elusive distance,

the commitments of flesh to place:

Wester Ross


Carnmore Crag

Fionn Buttress,

bikes, boots

big sacks


bothy, tent.

Limestone letterboxes

reward a blind reach,

Etive edges

enlighten a long stare,

wet pocket

dry pocket

wet pocket

slap and step

The Overhang.

"You have to want it'

this move

this route

this place.

Traverse the wilderness

step across wild space

on gneiss holds

to the soaring alternatives:

slab, wall, arete

and somewhere a 'step left'

rising wind

dipping sun,

white slab

rising wall

flat grass suddenly

and the best walk-off in the world.

The best dram in the world

is backs to the bothy wall now

feet in mud, bums on sacks

sun setting sideways

and Fionn Loch winking back.

First light through tent skin

snipe drumming and drumming

greenshank shrilling up from the bog

and the walk out

past sparkling wind-scoured water

over the narrow causeway

cairned at each end by cement

and a metal sign declaring:

No camping

No litter

No fires anywhere

Walkers keep to footpaths

No mountain bikes

No fishing

No vehicles except on estate business

Please help us preserve

this precious wilderness

A Journey of Patience and Acceptance

Gifford's poem reminds us that the essence of mountaineering lies not in conquering the peaks, but in embracing the journey itself. With steady patience and a willingness to accept the unpredictable nature of the mountains, climbers like Terry and Jim Curran find solace in the ever-wet, elusive distance of the terrain. From the tranquil shores of Poolewe to the majestic Carnmore Crag and Fionn Buttress, every step is a testament to the commitment of flesh to place.

Navigating the Landscape

As the poem unfolds, we are transported to the rugged beauty of Wester Ross, where bikes, boots, and big sacks are the tools of the trade. The climb becomes a dance, a delicate balance of wet pockets and dry, culminating in the challenge of The Overhang—a test of skill and determination where every move, every route, every place must be truly wanted.

Traversing the Wilderness

In the heart of the wilderness, climbers traverse wild spaces on gneiss holds, exploring soaring alternatives of slab, wall, and arete. Amidst the rising wind and dipping sun, the landscape unfolds like a canvas, revealing hidden treasures and unexpected vistas. And yet, amidst the awe-inspiring beauty, there is a reminder to tread lightly, to preserve the precious wilderness for generations to come.

A Call to Conservation

As the poem draws to a close, we are reminded of the importance of conservation and stewardship in the mountains. The image of Fionn Loch winking in the setting sun serves as a poignant reminder of the fragile balance between human activity and the natural world. With each step, each footfall on the wind-scoured paths, climbers are urged to heed the call of preservation, ensuring that the wilderness remains unspoiled for future generations.

In Terry Gifford's poetic tribute to mountain journeys, we find a profound appreciation for the beauty, challenges, and inherent value of the wilderness. Through his evocative verses, we are transported to the rugged landscapes of Wester Ross, where every climb is a testament to the human spirit's capacity for adventure and exploration. As climbers like Terry and Jim traverse the wild spaces of the mountains, they embody a deep reverence for the natural world—a reminder that in the embrace of the wilderness, we find not only adventure but also a profound sense of connection to the land and to each other.

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