A Chef's Day Off: Playing with Mountains

 All Photos courtesy of  Duncan Kendall Photography

All Photos courtesy of Duncan Kendall Photography

Living in the Sóller Valley, surrounded by the breathtaking Sierra de Tramuntana, I take any opportunity I can to look up and stare at the enormity of the mountains bearing over me.

I have thought many times how much I would love to climb those rugged peaks and be up there looking down, just to see things from a different perspective. 

After a few drink with the boys one night, Mike McDowall, the man behind Boat Radio, confessed that he was also in awe of the mountains. And as the night went on, we developed a motley crew with no climbing experience, ready to tackle trail-less paths along the ridges of the Tramuntana, towards the highest peak in the Balearics. 

Somewhat expectedly, as the post drinks haze cleared a few days later, our 10-man expedition was down to a core team of three, comprising of photographer Duncan Kendall, Mike, and myself.

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On the morning in question we packed our bags with what we believed we would need for survival, and set off.  Armed with a map with a few sketchy markings, a few words of encouragement, and no compass, we were as ready as we would ever be. We were going to be climbing higher than any mountain in England or Wales, starting at sea level and ascending straight up - not that this was acknowledged until it was too late to turn back.

Following the initial realisation that we would also be without any marked paths for the duration, and that the strategy was going to be to simply 'head ín the right direction',  we then started to take in the enormity of what we were actually doing.  Accompanying us for most of the way were goats and sheep, but the one thing we didn’t see was another human being. Not one, until the last 45 minutes of our seven-and-a-half-hour hike.

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It goes without saying that the vistas from 1,067 meters above sea level are mind-blowing. The distances we were trying to comprehend between mountain, land and sea were startling. But in addition to this, much closer to my feet, I was delighted to discover endless morels and a huge variety of setas (wild mushrooms), edible flowers and herbs all along our route.  

At the end of the day I returned to the valley of Soller a little tired, a little broken, but 100 pounds lighter. It's incredible the pressure that builds up on a Chef's shoulders on a daily basis, but it's equally incredible how quickly this can be shed with a large dose of fresh air, a steep climb, and a view of the world that brings everything that we do sharply back into perspective.

This in itself is a huge achievement -  not just for a chef, but for anyone with a day off.

And boy did I pay for it over the next few days!

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