The Wall Street Journal printed an article titled “Why Climb a Mountain? A New Museum Tries to Explain.” The article discusses a new museum built in Golden, Colorado that tries to address the question of why people actually climb mountains (alpine style) or huge routes like the Nose on Yosemite. The article made me smile as it was written from a non-climber perspective and because it seemed so silly to me to have a museum trying to understand my main hobby. For instance is there a Why Golf? museum out there somewhere?
My favorite quotes / sections from the article:
“One section [of the museum] is called “In search of difficulty”, which is as good a definition of alpinism I’ve ever heard”
The writer wraps up the article on how if the museum was to actually emulate a climbing experience how it would have to be this horrible place that was freezing cold and where you don’t eat. And then writes “such a museum would, in other words, be a place that no one in his or her right mind would visit.”
But my all time favorite quote, “Is there a more senseless activity than climbing a mountain? And yet a small number of otherwise (mostly) normal people make it the organizing principle of their lives. Why?”
Ha ha ha. What an interesting viewpoint! Though I found it humorous, it made me re-circle on why I actually do climb? (And note that I am more of a cragger rather than a multi-pitch climber or alpinist.) I often think about the reasons and think they are plentiful:
- I love the intense workout
- I love the culture and attitude that accompanies the climbing lifestyle. It is one of simplicity and independence.
- Climbing allows me to enjoy the outdoors, finding new areas of my local canyons while learning about geology and the qualities of different rock types
- I find it to be amazing when I realize how a miniscule feature can support my weight or how a single finger can pull my body up a wall
- The movement of climbing is invigorating
- Climbing takes me to places that very few people experience
- Climbing has given me an appreciation for aesthetic rock formations and lines
- Being able to climb these intense lines gives me confidence and makes me realize that I can be strong
- Climbing makes me trust people, trust with my life
But the number one reason (hence why I love that last quote the most) is climbing is definitely a mental game, anything BUT mindless. It makes me push through my limits of sheer exhaustion, teaches me to face fear (fear of falling, fear of slamming into a wall, fear that my gear won’t work, fear that my belayer might not catch me right … fear of failure), and when the variables all come together I can experience almost this “zen” situation where I feel like I can do anything (hitting new redpoints). I love to climb because I believe that someday I can learn how to capture this zen-like state and move it into other areas of life, using this mind-set to address fears elsewhere. It sounds so silly to actually put it into words, but climbing makes me mentally strong.
What do you readers think? If you are a climber, why do you climb?