Nan shepherd

Scaling the heights: a woman’s experience of mountain climbing

In her memoir Time on Rock, Anna Fleming charts her progress from ‘terrified novice’ to ‘competent leader’ as she scales rocky vertical routes with names such as the ‘Inaccessible Pinnacle’ and the ‘Savage Slit’. There is poetry in the vocabulary of climbing, with its gritstone, gabbro and basalt and its slopers, arêtes, underclings, heel hooks and, my personal favourite, the thrutch — a kind of hip wiggle that can get a climber out of a tight squeeze. ‘There is nothing elegant in a thrutch,’ we are told. One element of the book that distinguishes it from most climbing literature is its female perspective. Fleming initially compares herself unfavourably with her