Climbing ascent in Mont Blanc Massif

News What mountain climbing can teach you about yourself

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Waaaay back in 1982, Californian singer (and one-hit-wonder) Charlene, warbled out the chart-topping ballad ‘I’ve never been to me’. In it, she recounts all of the good, bad and downright crazy experiences she’s had in life, but ultimately regrets that she’s never made that all-important voyage of self-discovery. There. I’ve saved you having to listen to it. You’re welcome. Anyway, my advice to young Charlene would be that, if she really wanted to go to ‘me’, she should have taken up mountain climbing or high altitude trekking. 

You see, you can learn an awful lot about yourself when you’re lifted out of your everyday comfort zone and thrust into a big-and-extraordinary adventure such as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or trekking through the Himalaya to reach Everest Base Camp. So what sort of stuff might mountain climbing teach you about yourself? I’m glad you asked, because I’ve pulled together a tasty little selection of examples for your reading enjoyment.

Two hikers looking at the Mount Kilimanjaro

Learn who you are. Go climb a mountain.

Going ‘off-grid’ for a while and heading for a mountain trekking in adventure in some far flung corner of the world gives you the headspace you need for a bit of healthy introspection. As a result, you might: 

Banish self-doubt

How many times have you convinced yourself that you can’t really do something because you’re ‘not really up to it’? Newsflash: you are up to more than you probably realise, and mountain climbing is a fab way to prove it. Could you climb Mount Everest tomorrow? No. That would be silly. But, with a bit of fitness training, encouragement, the right kit and a team of expert guides, could you climb Kilimanjaro? Almost certainly. With a positive attitude and a bit of self-belief, climbing a mountain is just like any other journey: if you can doggedly continue to put one foot in front of the other, adapting to the environment as it changes around you, you’ll reach your goal. And, let’s be honest, climbing something like Kilimanjaro is such a damned exhilarating way of proving to yourself that – yes! – you can do it, you’ll soon be crushing lesser challenges without breaking a sweat.

Find inner-peace

Funny, isn’t it, how most of the terms we use to describe our daily lives paint a grim picture? We talk about ‘the daily grind’, the ‘treadmill’, the ‘9 to 5’. We’re often ‘shackled to the job’ or a ‘bit tied up at the moment’. Climbing a mountain takes you away from all that, replacing the demands and frustrations of your usual routine with peace, tranquillity and natural beauty. Perfect conditions, in fact, to engage with your internal dialogue (you know, that funny way you talk to yourself inside your own head) and work through stuff that’s been worrying you, depressing you or nagging at you. Some folk talk about climbing mountains as a form of meditation. You don’t have to go that far – no-one’s suggesting you cart a yoga mat and some incense sticks up Aconcagua – but many people find that the space, freedom and time that mountain climbing gives you to focus on yourself and your own needs is perfect for working through issues and finding inner peace.
Aconcagua from the air

Realise that age needn’t be a barrier to success

Some fun facts for you. In 2014, American climber Robert Wheeler successfully summited Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. He was nearly 86 years old. Trekkers ranging from middle-aged to seventy have completed the arduous Annapurna Circuit. And while 78% of people who trek the Inca Trail are aged between 21 and 40, it has regularly been conquered by folk in their mid-to-late 60s. As the cliché goes, you’re never too old. If you have the right outlook and attitude, and your physical and mental bits and pieces are still in full working order, there’s no reason why you can’t experience the thrill and sense of achievement that goes with climbing a mountain. And if you do, you’ll swiftly come to realise that the notion ‘age is just a number’ applies to many of the things that you might like to do in life but previously thought you might be too old for. This is why local papers often feature stories about skydiving grannies and bungee jumping grandads…

Awaken a taste for life’s simple pleasures

If you think your 65-inch 4K smart TV produces amazing images of destinations such as the Himalaya Mountains, you should maybe ditch the travelogues and experience actually being there. Real life needs no digital enhancement. Why bother with virtual reality, when you can pull on your walking boots, get out and enjoy the infinitely more immersive and entertaining ‘real reality’? The truth is that no matter how clever our technology gets, it will never be able to recreate the sensation of achievement and exhilaration you’ll experience the first time you set foot on the summit of a mountain you’ve just climbed. It can’t capture the splendour of the sun setting at Machu Picchu when you’ve just completed the Inca Trail. Here’s another of those fun facts for you. In Bhutan, the government maintains a measure of Gross National Happiness. This tiny Kingdom, tucked between India and Tibet, is not a technological powerhouse, nor are its inhabitants rich. But life here is simple and, many would argue, so much the better for it. As it happens, Bhutan is a fabulous place for mountain climbing and trekking. Take yourself off on an adventure among the Himalaya here and you could find yourself falling in love with life’s simple pleasures quicker than you can say ‘digital detox’.
Young monks in Bhutan

Become a better ‘people person’

No matter who you are, it’s unlikely you’re going to climb a mountain or complete a challenging high-altitude trek on your own. To do it properly and safely you’ll need to book a properly organised trip through a reputable tour company (*cough* Kandoo Adventures). This means that you’re likely to be accompanied by professional tour guides, porters and a bunch of like-minded adventurers. And when you’re likely to be faced with a series of shared challenges, potentially risky situations and awe-inspiring moments, this is where you’ll learn how much of a people person you are. Climbing a mountain is the kind of escapade during which new acquaintances can turn into lifelong friends. Getting to know folk - and know them really well over, for example, a two-week trek – is kinda unavoidable. Even if you’re the sort of person who’s normally shy or prefers their own company, you’re going to enjoy yourself a whole lot more if you just let your hair down and join in with the gang. Who knows – you might just turn out to be the life and soul of the party; you just didn’t realise it until you climbed a mountain.

Can you see the real ‘me’?

In conclusion, then, mountain climbing can teach you more about yourself than you might realise. It can give you a clearer perspective on what’s important in life; help you to face up to and overcome physical and mental challenges by testing your resolve; perhaps encourage you to take greater pleasure in simple but awe-inspiring stuff such as the wonders of nature and – best of all – it could leave you amazed at discovering what you’re really capable of. As I always say… there’s only one way to find out. Bonus points, by the way, if you spotted that the title of this last paragraph is a line from ‘The Real Me’; a song released in 1989 by American heavy-metallers WASP. You see, I thought I’d end the way I began – by referencing an 80s song that you’ve probably never heard of. I’m like that.

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