On the summit of Mt. Apo, the Philippines’ highest peak
“Why do you climb mountains?”
I guess it is an age-old question and one that I am often asked as well. People (non-hikers, mostly) almost always seem fascinated by the fact that there are those like me who go to great lengths just to reach a mountaintop. And although I do not need to justify to anyone the choices that I make, the number of times I have been asked this question convinces me that I should at least try to answer it. I could think of a number of reasons why I climb. Let me tell you about some.
I climb because it is fun. Let me set it straight. One might think that long arduous climbs up steep trails can be anything but fun. BUT. THEY. ARE. If climbing a mountain weren’t that much fun, not so many people would be doing it. There is this sense of adventure (and that is another reason) that makes even the toughest of climbs so enjoyable and worth all the effort. That amazing feeling when you are on the summit, the moment when the sun rises or sets and it brings a tear to your eye, when you are eating with your fellow hikers while telling jokes and wonderful stories, the time you realize that you made it and that you’ve always had it in you – these are only some of the things that make mountain climbing so much fun.
And who does not like a good adventure? On a hike, you may find yourself faced with a lot of difficult situations that will (if you do not let them break you) force out all the greatness in you. Scrambling over boulders, crossing rivers and streams, rappelling down tricky paths and waterfalls, hiking along ridges, trekking through forests… there is never a dull moment; there is an abundance of adventure out in the mountains.
I also get to meet other hikers who are – more often than not – really cool people. I always say this: some of the best people I have met are ones that I have met on the trails. They are ones who are always ready to help you especially when they see you struggling. They offer you their food and water even when you both know that these can be scarce and are therefore very important when on a hike. They push you when you think you are only minutes away from giving up. They tell the most amazing stories of adventures that will make you eager to start more of your own. Most importantly, they become your friends – some of the best friends you will ever have.
Mountain climbing also offers me a break from day-to-day living. It is an escape from my plain old daily routine. It is a time when I get to think more about myself AND for myself. It is the perfect opportunity for me to commune with nature and to get to know so much more about myself. I get to see and do things that I do not see and do in the city. I get to see animals like snakes, leeches, and beautiful birds. I get to drink from streams and bathe in rivers and waterfalls. I get to experience nature in all its unadulterated glory. It is about as real as reality gets. Simply put, climbing a mountain is “#nofilter” at its best.
Most people see mountaineering as a physical activity, but the real challenge is as much mental as it is physical. This is another reason why I love being on the trails. I am able to challenge and better myself. One thing I have realized about mountain climbing is most people tend to focus on the external challenges. However, as important as these physical challenges are the ones that are inside us. Reaching a summit takes as much mental effort as it does physical strength. And perseverance is heavily tested most of the time. This gives me the opportunity to know and set boundaries and then strive to push them. A mountain trail is not only a path to the summit; it is also a path to self-improvement.
Ultimately, I can say that I climb mountains because I love myself. I love life and I love all that it has to offer. I love nature and all its wonders and perils. I love feeling the heat of the sun, the cold of the night, the strength in my body, and the joy in my heart. I love feeling alive and the moments spent on the mountains are among those that make me feel most alive.
Finally, I leave you with a quote from Greg Child, an Australian author, rock-climber, and mountaineer:
“Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb.”
Pretty deep, eh? It doesn’t really answer the question, though. So here’s another one from George Mallory, an English mountaineer. When asked why he wanted to climb Mt. Everest, he had this to say: