I go to the wild to be put in my place, to be battered and
embraced by wind, rain and sun;
I go to the wild to be reminded of what matters in this world;
I go to the wild to remember who I am;
I go to the wild to feel;
I go to the wild.
R. Bradley 25th April 2017
Rachel Bradley is a student at West Highland College here in Fort William. She wrote this poem recently, when she finished writing her dissertation as part of her fourth year studies. We liked it so much we asked if we could use it and you'll now see it on the home page of our website. Her dissertation is all about motivation to take part in outdoor activities and it got me thinking more about why I like climbing mountains so much.
Immersion in Nature
The first thing to appreciate is the value of being in touch with nature. I know people whose job it is to re-green city streets so that people get to see things growing in their daily lives. GP's are prescribing daily doses of being in nature by walking through a town park, which is very good for people with depression. Imagine then the positive impact on us when we immerse ourselves completely in nature by climbing mountains. The further away from anything man made the better. Once you know about why the landscape looks the way it does, you'll realise that it is all affected by people. However, if it is growing or natural it is easy to convince yourself that it is wild and natural, and we can be totally surrounded for days at a time.
Modern daily lives are lived at a frenetic pace with continuous stimulation and information for us to digest. It is important to take time out every now and then; breathing space to reset your brain, slow things down and take stock. You can do this in many ways, all of which are a form of meditation. In fact you can simply meditate in your front room. However, when you combine this meditation from physically and mentally separating yourself from your day to day concerns with total immersion in nature, it becomes all the more effective.
Climbing mountains is perfect exercise. It involves a fat burning, lung and heart loving cardio-vascular work out with plenty of bending, stretching and toning. We are designed to be out and about, constantly moving and working. Climbing mountains is the best way to get that level of exercise that you can keep doing well into later life, that is continuously inspiring and that is free! No gym membership fees are required to walk or run or climb up a mountain!
You can get in touch with nature, meditate and do exercise in a park in a city and achieve everything so far. This would be a very good thing for everyone to do. However, mountains also the chance to challenge ourselves, to push us to our limits and to feel what it is like to be committed to our own ability for survival. I don't just mean hanging off cliff faces, although for some this is the level of challenge that is appropriate. For most it is taking on a walk, reaching the top of a Munro, scrambling along a narrow ridge or dealing with all the natural hazards of winter. Think how much more intensely we are connected to nature when we take on this challenge in the mountains. How much more are we separated from our daily lives when our whole world is reduced to a single moment, a single hold on the rock, a single bearing on the compass we have to get right. And think how much more we will drive ourselves to perform when getting back down in one piece is dependent on it.
Rachel's poem expresses all this perfectly, and far better than I can ever hope to do. We don't climb mountains "because they are there". We climb them for very good reasons that are well understood, studied and researched. It's a potent mix of being in touch with wild nature, escape from our daily lives, exercise and challenge that gives us the chance to reset, re-calibrate, and regain a proper sense of perspective on the world.
Self reliance is a fundamental principle of mountaineering. By participating we accept this and take responsibility for the decisions we make. These blog posts and conditions reports are intended to help you make good decisions. They do not remove the need for you to make your own judgements when out in the hills.