Numerous friends, acquaintances and sponsors have asked me why I am so stubborn in climbing these mountains, and why I set myself with ambitious projects, such as crossing the desert, and climbing Everest along with the Seven Summits. I was not able to provide answers to these questions instantly as I looked for a simple way to express this deep passion inside me. Below I have composed a précis that defines my reasons.
What is high altitude climbing about?
Alpine climbing is a very obscure sport that attracts only an exclusive crowd. I believe that mountaineering in high altitude is a stoic sport. The pain, the uncomfortable feelings, the discomfort of high altitude, the deprivation of sleep, and the cold that one is forced to digest is compensated by the goal. In other words, while climbing, all these negative factors are absorbed by the climber’s determination to make it to the summit. And this is precisely how high altitude mountaineering differs from other extreme sports. It is a sport of enduring great pain with severe consequences, where the balance between pleasure and misery depends upon the relative perception of the climber. Surges of discomfort and negativity must be thrust aside so as to keep focus. Focus is a result of skills and experience. Essentially, setting foot on a mountain in order to reach a peak is a matter of survival and overcoming one’s self. As Scottish mountaineer Dougal Haston wrote “If anything goes wrong [during climbing] it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its forfeit.”
As I climbed more mountains, I realized that mountaineering was also about being both stubborn and dedicated. The summit should not be the only purpose in mountaineering. Every climber accepts the danger that they could face on the mountain, yet something stronger, almost an urge, compels them to overcome this fear and achieve their set goal. For most men with drive, this is a natural urge, for as human beings we tend to be drawn towards challenges as we understand that they make us grow. They are part of life itself and the struggle that life itself represent. Stubbornness is the set of mind following that urge to challenge one’s own fears. But beyond achieving a summit (or your goal) and following your urge exists an equally important factor; being honest with one’s self, which means being true to your undertaking. It represents a self-dedication beyond the limits of what the majority of us are comfortable to explore. Simply told, it is sticking to what your mind had become inspired by, such as a summit, and reaching the summit simply because you set it as a goal. That is, to complete what you dream of, and that takes a dedicated stubbornness. “Mountaineering tends to draw men and women not easily deflected from their goals,” wrote Jon Krakauer in his book Into Thin Air. As he argues, climbing necessitates an obdurate personality. It is through climbing that I realised that stubbornness was far from being a negative trait of personality.
Why do people risk their lives to reach a summit, essentially climbing a geographic peak?
To answer this question, I like to refer to the quote below.
“What’s there is this: the chance to be worthy of your own dreams” declared Neil Heil. Though this quote might seem vague to many, it actually is quite to the point. If you wish to accomplish something in life, you must accept that there are risks and consequences to undertaking your goals. By simply taking a step forward, you are already becoming a better human being, different from the great majority of men and women, for far too many around the world enjoy having dreams but are not ready to do what is necessary to accomplish their goals. In many instances, the great majority of individuals let others dictate what their dreams should be.
To express this in a different way, I like to refer to Napoleon Hill’s words:
“You will succeed because you have a goal, not a hope, a wish or a dream, but a definite desire which allow your mind to fixate on a goal. When you do set yourself for a goal, don’t let anything persuade you otherwise or deviate you from attaining it.”
This emphasize the importance to follow your goals in mountaineering, and also in life, despite what the challenges, risks, fears and lack of support that you may be faced with during your endeavour.
We often hear of individuals talking of setting on this quest as an easy endeavour, but it is not easily accessible because it takes the pride, the dedication, the stubbornness and the will to achieve something unique in order to succeed on such a quest. This is why I love climbing and I feel that it fits me.
Why mountaineering is so important to me?
Spending days and nights in -50 degree Celsius temperature with winds blasting up to 130 km/hr, in an environment of avalanches and crevasses, at extreme altitude so high that each of your step requires you to take ten breaths. Why choose to do this when one could enjoy golf or surfing in the tropics? My answer is, because these adventures are rewarding, they are worth living for, every moments spent in high altitude grows on you so that you are forced to continuously adapt and press forward, never giving up, faced with the world’s greatest natural challenges. Mountaineering is inspiring, because it is the sport where you are challenged to risk everything, in essence your life, to endure pain for a goal, a dream which only exist in your mind and his of significance to you only, and your pride. There is beauty in this…and I have shown it to many who now climb with me.
For further reading on the philosophy of other adventurers, I recommend reading Thomas Laussermair’s perspective on climbing and cycling long distances. His philosophy has appealed to me and has had an impact on my vision of adventures and life. You can find his article here, http://tlausser.com/blog/2009/10/enjoyment-and-happiness/