11 Things the Mountain Teaches You
World traveller Jamie Bowlby-Whitby shares what he has learned.
From a distance, a mountain may be no more that a picturesque postcard scene, something to take a quick photo of, an object to point out to whomever you happen to be with at the time. Getting out into the mountains and hiking in them, sleeping in them, and learning to survive in them, is a far different experience. From my past explorations of big pointy hills, there are eleven valuable lessons that the mountain has taught me so here they are!
1. There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear
When out in the elements, the weather is your best friend and your worst enemy, dictating both your safety and your general happiness. If you pack well however, any cold, wind, or rain can be conquered by appropriate kit. Sleeping bags are made for the poles, a good jacket can repel all weathers, and hard wearing, comfy shoes are invaluable. If you lack any of these items when you set off, there is nowhere to hide on the mountain.
2. Mountains have bad weather
Rule 1 applies to most places in life. Big mountains, however, are one of a few exceptions. Respect them at all times – you are a lucky visitor.
3. Pack light
When you carry your whole world upon your shoulders, every gram counts. Take high calorie food (and maybe a beer can stove) and as little as possible without compromising your safety. Too much weight will slow your progress and make your journey unenjoyable. While crossing Iceland on foot, I had to dump most of my pack, keeping only high calorie food.
4. Loneliness is a city problem
Being alone in a crowded place can be the worst feeling in the world. Being alone at the top of the mountain makes you feel like you are the centre of the universe.
5. Half of the mountain is your friend
What goes up, must come down. As you battle gravity, remember that it will soon be on your side. I found this particularly important when cycling through mountains in Germany and Czech Republic.
6. Life will find a way
Wind, rain, crazy gradients; no matter what you battle with, nature will have been there first and it will live there, every single day. Look on in awe.
7. Possibilities are endless
Skiing, mountain biking, paragliding, base jumping, and who knows whatever else that hasn’t even been thought of yet; do not think that there is only one way to do things. If someone hasn’t invented a way to do something that you like, invent it yourself.
8. Sweat and tears feel good
After a hard day of sweating (and maybe crying) on a mountain, sitting down to drink a lukewarm hot chocolate has never been so good. Pushing yourself to your limits and learning how far you can go is both humbling and inspiring. Once you experience the natural endorphins that your body produces during physical challenges, you might find them addictive; they are nature’s own drug.
9. Nothing takes your breath away as much as nature
Technology, digital entertainment, breathtaking photography; nothing prepares you for witnessing nature in the flesh in its most epic form. Mountains are pretty epic.
10. There is light at the end of the tunnel
No matter how hard the mountain (or life) is, things can get better. When things get tough, hold tight, because tomorrow will be a new day. When they are good, enjoy the ride.
11. Sharing is human nature
Whether you explore the mountain with a friend or simply hold onto the memories to share with someone else as a story over a campfire, the mountain helps you connect with people, something that unites us as social beings.
Imagery: Lizard, Sfio Cracho, Difught, alphaspirit, Evgeny Bakharev, Vitalii Bashkatov, kilerus, S.Borisov
Enjoyed reading this? Check out Ten of the World’s Best Lesser-Known Trails.