What the mountain taught me

Mt. Fuji's shadow at sunset

Mt. Fuji’s shadow at sunset

I recently completed what I would call my first real mountain climb, and thought I’d share some of the things I feel like I learned or was reminded of on the climb.

It’s not necessarily meant as something inspirational as such, but as something shared that you might recognise from yourself or feel resonates with you and some of the things you are trying to do in your life.

1. Don’t ever focus on the summit
The fucker is so far above you that it’s often obscured in clouds. Looking at it can quickly lead to frustration about how little progress you’re making towards it, even if you’re charging full steam ahead.

2. It’s one step at a time
Always focus on the step you’re taking. Stay in to moment. Be sure to feel where your head and body are. Don’t think that you’re doing oh-so-well and forget to focus on what you’re doing, because the mountain will punish you for it in no time.

3. Don’t get cocky
Never look at the Sherpa ahead and think ‘oh, I’m doing this just as well as he is’. You’re not. The terrain will change suddenly under your feet, or you’ll get cocky and miscalculate a move from one outcrop to the next. In short, the mountain will fucking hurt you, if you’re not careful. The mountain doesn’t care about you

4. Sometime the summit will escape you – at least for a while
The mountain has been here long before you, and it will be here long after you’re gone. The way that the elements swirl around it, changing the weather from sunny to a blustery shower in seconds can be incredibly frustrating.
It’s not there to be your friend, and sometimes circumstances makes it impossible to scale. You simply have to wait it out, and be prepared to start moving again once the weather clears.

5. I’m a competitive fucker
On my trek, I found that I couldn’t stop myself ‘competing’ with other climbers, and used this as motivation to keep going when I was tired.
I spent a lot of time trying to control my competitive streak when I was younger, but have come to the conclusion that it’s part of who I am, and something I can use in various situations.
As long as it doesn’t become an issue in life-situations, I guess it’s simply part of who I am, and part of what works for me.

6. I won’t always win
One of the most difficult things to realise when you’re competitive is that you won’t always be able to win. You won’t be the best climber, and you certainly can’t ‘beat’ the mountain. It simply doesn’t care what you’re doing.
Realising that sometimes you’re going to compete, try your hardest and loose if a bitter pill to swallow. However, doing your best and not winning is, in my book, not loosing.
Then again, I work with semantics for a living, so maybe that’s why I think that 

7. I have a lot of anger
The same goes for a lot of the anger I have. I guess I’m a bit of an angry/frustrated character at times. You probably wouldn’t notice if you didn’t know me, and that’s partly because a lot of the anger and frustration is directed inwards, but it’s also because I’ve found ways of channelling it into things like sports and physical activity.
Some people might say that this is an unproductive or harmful way of dealing with anger. I say’ fuck those people’. Meditation doesn’t cut it for me and I’m old enough to know who and what I am, and I’ve found a way that works for me.

8. Your mind and body can do so much more than you think
Simply, you are capable of moving way beyond what you think you can achieve or accomplish. It almost invariably means giving up on things and being prepared for the pain and discomfort that comes with breaking through your boundaries, but it’s possible.
Taking a dive in the pain pool can also be cleansing, and there’s a calm to be found on the other side of pushing yourself into the state where your muscles start twitching uncontrollably.

9. The view from the top is worth it – but besides the point
The view from the top of a mountain is something that is incredibly hard to describe. To see the landscape below and the incredible sky is, for me, a beautiful, poignant reminder of just how small and insignificant we are, and the brutal, breath-taking beauty of the world that surrounds us.
It is something that is awe-inspiring and calming in a way that stays with you for months on end…and makes you a bit of a smug fucker for having experienced it.
However, on a personal level, you cannot spend days trekking up a mountain just because of the views that await. There needs to be something deeper, if you will.

10. The way is the goal in itself
It’s like a fortune cookie moral, I know, but I truly think that the process itself is in 99% of the cases more important than the goal you’re striving for.
For me, it was the process of climbing a mountain and what it taught me – or reminded me of – about myself. To achieve something that pushed me way beyond my comfort zone.
If you’re going to the gym in order to get ripped and that’s all you’re focused on, I think you’re missing the point of what’s truly important: that you’re setting goals and striving to achieve them. If you’re going to school to get a good degree, I think you’re missing the point, which is that you’re primarily there to learn.
As a middling B-level student, I would have to say that I don’t give a flying fuck about you’re A’s, if you got them by just parroting whatever a teacher was saying and didn’t grow your skills and understanding.
Plus, I’ve done pretty well for myself after school – and I’m the smug fucker who just climbed a mountain.

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One Response to What the mountain taught me

  1. I’m thinking about climbing Fuji next year! Thanks for your advice and insights.

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