When I mention to someone that I am getting the itch to climb a mountain once again, the most frequent response is a vacant stare followed by a series of queries as to why in the world would anyone want to do that? At that point it would be easy to allow the conversation to come to a polite conclusion or to flippantly respond, “because it’s there.” But there really are numerous reasons, motivations and singular pleasures that compel me to climb. And so here is my answer, my list, my real response to those who may wonder . . .
*Some look at pictures, I prefer to live them. The Northern Lights from above the clouds. The sunrise from the rooftop of the world. Glaciers, frozen falls, icicles the size of trees.
*Climbing motivates me to stay in good physical shape. As a general rule, I struggle with working out and eating healthily simply for the sake of it being the right thing to do. But when a climb is on the horizon . . . I am highly motivated to exercise six days a week, cut out the chips and ice cream, even curtail the occasional cigar. Each mountain requires about a year of intentional physical preparation.
*For the camaraderie. When you’ve crossed an ice bridge roped to a friend there’s a trust level that develops very quickly. When a fellow climber shoulders your pack because you are puking from altitude sickness, there is little you wouldn’t do for him in the future. When you gather with the last of your team members at the summit, you are no longer individuals–you are now climbing companions.
*For a cause. Climbing4Kids, the organization that my buddies began to raise money for children at risk through our climbs, has already raised nearly $200,000 to alleviate poverty, provide education and hope in Jesus’ name. In addition to the money raised, climbing for a cause also raises awareness to the challenges facing children in need around the world.
*The “A”s. “A”drenaline. “A”dventure. “A”ccomplishment.
*To learn. I’ve learned an immense amount about leadership, myself personally and others while preparing for a climb, climbing, and in the aftermath. When pushed to the edge and leading others to the summit one becomes painfully and wondrously aware of areas where growth is needed.
*To meet God. In the Bible, meeting God “on a mountain” is a common occurrence. I love listening to my worship track as I ascend through the night. I love praying for my family, friends, church, etc., while I struggle to place one foot in front of the other. I love lifting my arms with my face upturned and weeping at the sheer joy of life on the summit.
I’m in complete agreement with all your reasons, especially “some look at pictures, I prefer to live them.” There is a special, intense friendship that comes from attempting a huge physical challenge with others. From that point on, for the rest of your lives, when you see them anywhere you are instantly transported back to the joy of the victory, and the price the two of you paid to get there.