Mountains. For most people, they're just an elevated mass of land on the earth's surface; but for some, their value transcends from being a product of geological activity to an incredible work of nature. It doesn't take an extensive psychological study to understand why some adventurous souls are drawn to them. Although a few people might be wondering what makes climbing fun or addicting. Clearly, there's some satisfaction to be had from reaching the peak. Apart from satisfaction, there's a definitive sense of purpose, a personal quest perhaps, which drives mountaineers to scale ridges and pursue summits despite the physical demands and perils this highly engaging activity entails.
I've asked a few mountaineers, both seasoned and budding, why they climb/trek/hike. Their motivations and reasons are an affirmation that climbing mountains is a serious pursuit towards self-discovery and fulfillment. For some, the meaning and reason is as plain as day but in hindsight, it's just as profound as it gets. Consider George Mallory's answer when asked why he climbs during his attempts on Mt. Everest: Because it is there. Depending on how you look at it, it can be a seemingly dismissive statement, a complex truth or an obvious declaration.
TinTin of Nagbabasangpinay climbs mountains because she simply can. (She has, by the way, scaled the very challenging Mt.Guiting-Guiting in Sibuyan, Romblon earlier this year.) She was sickly and wimpy growing up. "So it means a lot to me that I’m now able to do such a physically demanding activity. Because it makes me happy. I love the amazing views on the summit, the sunrise and sunset and the night sky, the stunning display of biodiversity, the cacophony of noises that nature makes, and the quietness of being away from civilization. Just because." Doing something she loves is enough of a reason for her.
For Dong Ho of EscapeIslands, the view from the top just becomes a bonus. For him, "Like life, the experience of trekking is not defined by the altitude but through the people you meet along and go along." It is this very reason he enjoys trekking.
Chris Johns, on the other hand, climbs Philippine mountains to get to the good forest that the country used to be covered in. The truth about the current state of our forests alarms him. Greater than 70% of the original Philippine forest and much of its wildlife is gone from low elevations. Chris offers a suggestion on how to find what is truly 'natural Philippines' and that is to head uphill!
Being a responsible trekker that he is, Chris has one important request and that is the international trekker's code: "Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures."
Gracie, a budding mountaineer who has joined her company's mountaineering club just recently, ponders the question as a funny one. She says it's actually one of the questions that they would ask during socials and nobody seems to answer seriously and that they just make fun about it...and leave it at that. So why does Gracie climb?
"I asked myself that when I'm out of breath, exhausted and my body aches all over. Still, I kept on going and the reward when I get to the top is something that money cannot buy. Climbing mountains is very personal for me. I have always been in love with the mountains and seas ever since I can remember...It also helps me build my character that when the going gets though, the though gets going! And, I'd like to think that I am..."
Drew used to climb mountains only because he has friends who do and joining them in their climbs seemed like a fun activity to be part of. But after having been able to climbed a few mountains, he realizes that he likes the feeling of fulfillment that he achieves after accomplishing such an arduous task. "So cliche sounding but that's really it and nothing else. Sight seeing, taking photographs and bonding with friends all come as a bonus. I am yet to be classified as a badass mountain climber but soon enough, I hope to be able to do a solo climb."
Speaking of solo climb, Ivan of IvanLakwatsero has done just that - climbed solo. As he always says to his blog readers whenever they ask him why he does this tiring activity so often, he has one simple response to them: "I feel so incomplete if I don't do it. Climbing is the only solution for my adventure urges."
Ivan Laurence of TheBackPackersAdventures quips with resounding truth that only those who have climbed can truly understand, "In standing on top of a mountain, you would realize how big the world is and just how small we are. Bury all that feeling of insignificance, burden, problems, pain while you are standing on top of a mountain so beautiful. You realize that there's more to life than doing and thinking about ordinary things. You appreciate yourself and the gift of life. You appreciate God for creating an accessible heaven like this that only those who are brave enough have witnessed."
Grazel, who apart from being an incorrigible wanderlust is also fond of climbing mountains, romanticizes her experience in trekking. "I like to feel the wind when I'm out of breath hiking. And hiking or climbing mountain is like being with nature, I appreciate life more when I am on top of the mountain. And it's like I can reach and touch the sky."
For Gino of MyNomadicHabits, it's love at first sight. His addiction to mountain climbing started after an unplanned solo climb on Mt. Pundaquit en route to Anawangin Cove which was non-navigable by water at that time due to Typhoon “Pedring.” He instantly fell in love with it because it made him experience how it feels like being on the top of the world. "Climbing mountains also allow me for a short while escape from the digital trappings of the modern era (going back to basics) and experience solitude at the very heart of nature. I also love challenging and pushing myself beyond my limits. Another reason why I climb mountains is the unmatched camaraderie with other members of my team and other trekkers/climber."
JP, who has climbed 14 mountains to date, has three reasons to share why he climbs. "First Reason: I climb mountains not to attain enlightenment but because I am enlightened. Second: I climb mountains because there is the peacefulness of being high on a mountain and to be closer to God and nature. Also, to understand fellow climbers and the camaraderie in an accelerated environment. Lastly, too spend time with my inner self and discover my limits."
Erpe, a good friend of mine and a travel buddy, asserts it in a sexual way. "Well, Climbing ASCENDS lovemaking with nature on another level. It caresses your whole body with pain and bruises. And when you reach orgasm, you’ll know they aren’t exactly how you always imagined. They’re even better."
Ian, president of the mountaineering group Ascend, started his so called 'hobby' way back in college. " [It's] is a way for me to thank God for giving me such awesome freebies (mountains, rivers, caves, etc), in which I can appreciate its beauty. I love the smell of the grass, mud, rains.. weird no? But mountaineering is really an art of sacrifice... makukuha mo sakit ng katawan, sugat, pasa, dumi but once you reach the peak.. makita mo yung ganda ng nature bigla na lang mawawala.. I can't describe that feeling in words kaya gusto ko rin ma-experience sa iba 'yung feeling na yun."
How about you? Why do you climb? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please drop by your comments below.