I’m sure everyone who has ever been out in the mountains, be it for a school trip, something personal or as a hobby/work has asked themselves this at some point. Why am I here, why am I doing this (and for those wife’s & girlfriends out there) why did I agree to this.
This question comes for any number of reasons, fear, exhaustion, lack of interest and anything else at that particular moment makes you question your sanity.
George Mallory famously said we climb a mountain “because it’s there”. I agree with this in essence but maybe its also “to see if we can”. I sometimes feel that we have lost that sense of exploration we once had. This is not to say individuals ( I know many people who travel, explore and actively seek out new experiences) but more generally within society as a whole. One of the reasons great names from our past undertook theses journeys, was not just to fulfil a personal need but also to further their understanding of our planet, our home. Today everything you ever want to know is at the touch of a button, ask Google any question and you will have the answer even if you don’t understand it.
Ours is a selfish past time, probably one of the most selfish out there. We leave loved ones at home, put ourself knowingly in situations of risk and don’t always ask why. We just know that we have a need. We don’t have to find those answers the the explorers of the past once looked for but maybe now to find out about ourselves.
I asked myself the same question recently while slogging up the Monte Rosa in the Swiss Alps. At 4634m its only stands second in the range to Mont Blanc itself. Breathless, tied, dealing with altitude I seriously wondered why I was there. All the preparation and excitement, the training and discussions in advance just became pointless memories. I berated myself for not being fit enough for being weak……for wasting my time. However like so many cliché quotes I pushed on really for no other reason than I had to. Minutes dragged into hours and the summit seemed to forever be out of reach. (It never cease’s to amaze me how much mountaineering is a head game, don’t get me wrong fitness comes into play but you have to fight yourself, remind yourself what the goal is).
Upon reaching the summit, the world laid out before you, gradually regaining your composure and at that point you get a sense of the wonder of the place. There is a magic in the hills. Something I can not find anywhere else in life……..Everyone has there personal feelings, each experience different. 30 minuets sitting in peace on top of the world…….and maybe its that peace that we fight for, 13hr’s of battle, exhaustion & mental trial for a moment of truth.
Would I do it again………………always & in a heart beat. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.