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How to Climb a Mountain

August 5, 2012

Mount EverestIn mid-May, a 33-year-old Canadian woman – Shriya Shah-Klorfine – died on the side of Mount Everest.  She had reached the summit two days earlier, but succumbed – along with three other climbers – to ‘exhaustion and altitude sickness’ during the descent.  Since the first expedition up Everest in 1922, a total of 210 people have died there.  I am sure people have perished in attempts to climb other mountains as well, but thousands more reach their snowy peaks and live to tell the tale (and/or go on to scale others).  So – why do they do it? Apparently Shriya Shah-Klorfine had flown over Mount Everest in a helicopter when she was nine years old, and had dreamed of climbing it ever since.   It’s certainly not something I’d ever consider doing, but to each his (or her) own, I suppose.

The Incredible Hulk Roller CoasterPeople undertake activities like climbing mountains, jumping out of airplanes, running with the bulls, surfing the big waves, and other highly rigorous and/or dangerous pursuits for any number of reasons – some are adrenaline junkies or thrill seekers, some like the idea of living ‘on the edge’ and taunting death, some are simply looking for ‘the next big risk’.  Personally, I don’t mind a wickedly twisty-turney roller coaster, but that’s about as dare-devilish as I’m willing to get!

I recall watching an interview not too long ago during which a young woman (in her mid-twenties) discussed how she had scaled several ‘mid-sized’ mountains; she had a dozen or so more peaks she planned on conquering before her 50th birthday (Everest wasn’t one of them; she said she wanted a reasonable chance of success, and she knew her own limits).  The interviewer asked the obvious question: ‘Why climb a mountain?’ and the answer was the usual ‘quick quip’ most people expect: ‘Because it’s there’.  But the young woman went on to explain some of the joys – and challenges – of reaching a mountain peak.  I’ve paraphrased some of what she said below:

  • Mountain GreeneryThe mountain always looks easier to climb than it is. For one thing, it looks shorter from the bottom than it does from the top. But if you know that going in, you can accept that it’s probably going to be harder than you thought, and you won’t lose faith that you’ll make it all the way to the top.
  • The trees and the shrubbery look lush and quite pretty from a distance, but can be dense and thick and sometimes nearly impenetrable.  Paths become overgrown; occasionally you can’t find the trail markings – if there are even marked trails to follow.  You have to learn to trust your instincts as much as your map and compass.
  • Mountain ViewMountains don’t have smooth sides – there are rocks and ridges and valleys and creeks and rivers that you have to get through or over or around.  Every mile presents new challenges and you have to be up to accepting them and overcoming them.
  • One thing people don’t think about is that once you’re on the mountain, you can’t see the top – so you really don’t have a clear idea of where you’re going. It’s easy to get disoriented or lost if you aren’t paying attention.  You have to stay sharp, and focused, if you want to succeed.
  • The higher you climb, the more difficult the going gets, but the better the view becomes.  You absolutely have to stop once in a while to take it in and appreciate how far you’ve travelled.
  • Reaching The SummitYou have to be determined to make it to the top.  You need to have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish – and once you start, you can’t give up. You’re going to slip and stumble and fall and get tired and cold and want to just turn around and go home a dozen times a day.  But if you do, then you’ll never get to the summit. And that’s what you came for – that’s the goal – so you have to just suck it up and get on with it – or you’ll never experience the exhilaration you get from achieving what you set out to do.

I’ll never be a mountaineer, but everything that young woman said about mountain climbing can be seen as a metaphor for any major task you undertake in life (and not just sports-related ones, either).  You just have to apply the same mindset.  So whether it’s that 5k you want to walk (or run), that storage locker you need to clear out, that room you want to redecorate, that fancy French recipe you’ve been dying to attempt, that exercise program you’ve been avoiding, that wardrobe makeover, that new job or hobby or relationship you’ve been contemplating, remember:

  • It’s probably going to look easier than it actually is, but that doesn’t mean its not achievable.
  • You’ll likely face any number of obstacles, and you might occasionally lose your way, but if you trust yourself and keep moving forward, you’ll stay on track.
  • You’ll probably encounter numerous set-backs and ‘rocky patches’ and detours along the way; work around them or get past them and keep going.
  • Climb Your MountainYou have to keep the end in mind; stay focused and don’t become discouraged or get distracted from achieving what you set out to accomplish.
  • The closer you get to your goal, the more difficult it might seem to reach it; stop every once in a while and ‘take in the view’ – recognize what you’ve accomplished at each step along the way, then continue ‘ onward and upwards’.
  • Don’t give up – no matter how many problems you face or how many times you want to give up and ‘go home’, envision what it is that you set out to do – and go out and do it.  Then revel in the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel when you reach the summit (and remember: no matter how large or small it may seem, any goal you set for yourself is worth achieving).

I may not know WHY anyone would want to climb a mountain, but I do know HOW they do it – one step at a time.  So get out there and find your own personal ‘mountain’ and start climbing it, one step at a time.  You don’t even have to wait until you’re on … the other side of 55.

One Step A tA Time

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101 Comments
  1. August 23, 2012 2:37 am

    I am one of those who used to say that I would not climb. But some things happened and I don’t have a choice but to go with the flow. Now, I practically enjoyed climbing once in a while. I actually have a write up on this, you might find my reason unique. 🙂

    • August 26, 2012 2:21 pm

      We each have our own reasons for the adventures we undertake. Good for you for pursuing yours.

      Margo

  2. Jeff Nguyen Eckert permalink
    August 12, 2012 11:49 pm

    Great post, I hiked one mountain in Colorado’s Rocky Mtn. National Park, it was the hardest trek but the reward was unbelievable.

    • August 13, 2012 9:53 am

      Good for you. The closest ‘mountain’ I’ve ever scaled was the Niagara Escarpment (and I was sixteen at the time). Maybe someday I’ll try something more ambitious.

      Margo

  3. balancedwesomeness permalink
    August 10, 2012 2:42 am

    Love it…and love climbing mountains. We try to do “a peak a week” but have a race coming up so training for that comes first. Our miss 5 has become quite fearless of late tho’ and we have now had to tether her to us. For us, we do it for the views and for the sense of accomplishment. 🙂

    • August 10, 2012 8:56 am

      A ‘peak a week’ – I love it! I think that’s what I’ll call my new ‘bucket list’ (my ‘things to do’). I envy your courage and enthusiasm (not to mention your fitness level). Good luck and keep climbing! Well done!

      Margo

      • August 10, 2012 10:45 am

        Yes we get lots of giggles (not to mention looks of absolute horror when they look at our very petite 5 year old that climbs with us … LOL), but it has taken me over a year to get to this fitness level (30+ kgs lighter makes it easier). We aim in the next few months to start scrambling and abseiling some of our beautiful summits here in oz! Go bucket lists!!! 🙂

        Be Awesome!!!
        Tam 🙂

  4. August 8, 2012 9:22 am

    What an inspiring post! Thank you.

  5. August 8, 2012 2:17 am

    This reminds me of an interview I read yesterday in a literary magazine with Malidoma Somé, talking about initiation ceremonies into adulthood and about how many young people hunger to go into the wild, unpredictable spaces and experience another dimension of consciousness. Like climbing a mountain, or walking the Pacific Crest Trail as I recently read and reviewed here in Cheryl Strayed’s Wild.

    He says a successful initiation requires three parts: a separation, an ordeal of some kind, and a homecoming, but that the final stage – the homecoming – is often what is missing in our culture, that recognition and acknowledgement by our community that the person has survived, which causes some to go back into the ordeal.

    Its all fascinating stuff and I have a couple of mature students who are mountaineers, who do it now for the love of mountaineering and its a topic I never bore with making them talk to me about in English! Mountains aren’t what lure me, but I feel something similar for the sea, as others do for the land.

    Congrats on being fresh pressed and thanks for sharing such an interesting topic and insights.

    • August 8, 2012 10:25 am

      We certainly need to do a better job of acknowledging individual accomplishments. Thank you for commenting.

      Margo

  6. August 8, 2012 1:46 am

    Reblogged this on Couch to Mountain.

  7. August 7, 2012 10:34 pm

    We’re all always climbing the mountain of life 🙂

  8. August 7, 2012 10:08 pm

    I love this post!!!!!! It is so authentic…if you get that. I am on my way to Colorado next week to watch (but NOT participate in) the Pike’s Peak Ascent. I’ve done it, but now it’s time to cheer others to the challenge. I agree with you…life is a challenge AND any task in life can be considered…a CHALLENGE…so, bring it on!! Thanks for sharing.

  9. August 7, 2012 9:40 pm

    I greatly enjoyed your post. Congrats on being freshly pressed!
    Kristine

  10. kollshi17 permalink
    August 7, 2012 9:33 pm

    Great post; thank you

  11. August 7, 2012 8:48 pm

    Reblogged this on Makais Blog and commented:
    some great tips

  12. August 7, 2012 7:16 pm

    A great write-up, and of great interest to me. It is a funny thing but many people I talk to think that theo nly reason you want to climb a mountain is because it is there, and because youi might be able. But it is far deeper than that. There is no hiding from yourself on the side of a mountain, you come face to face with your true self! Cheers, Baz, The Landy

  13. August 7, 2012 6:22 pm

    Reblogged this on Alco the Visioneer.

  14. August 7, 2012 5:19 pm

    How did I know that the way you climb a mountain is “one step at a time”? That’s the way we do life, right! The mountain in front of me right now is running my first marathon before I’m on the other side of 55. Right now, I’m holding there. I have encountered the obstacles and setbacks that you’ve talked about in this post, but I’m determined and not going to give up. My husband and I just took up running a year and a half ago. I not only like the fitness benefits from running, but I love the mental strength it gives me. So, the workout that I’ve been putting off today, it is now time to conquer, one step at a time. Thanks for sharing.

    • August 7, 2012 6:04 pm

      Oh, my goodness – good for you. I keep ‘thinking about’ doing a 5K walk/run but I never quite get around to it! Thanks for commenting.

      Margo

  15. August 7, 2012 3:44 pm

    Excellent analogy! 🙂

  16. James permalink
    August 7, 2012 3:17 pm

    I have always wanted to climb a mountain. God is giving me a wonderful opportunity to bag my first peak this weekend. It is not a big one or a famous one. Just a 6000 ft, peak in a island range in Montana. For my health and skill level it is a great beginners peak. I am looking forward to it. I never want to climb Everest but I would love to try my hands at McKinley or Rainier one day…

    • August 7, 2012 3:22 pm

      Good for you James – good luck. 6,000 feet sounds like cloud territory to me. Aim high!

      Margo

      • James permalink
        August 7, 2012 3:23 pm

        Thank you so much. I enjoyed your blog very much.

      • August 7, 2012 4:42 pm

        I’m pleased you enjoyed the read!

        Margo

  17. August 7, 2012 2:46 pm

    Great way to look at life, from the top of a mountain!
    Congrats on the FP’d. Nicely written post.
    Cheers,
    iRuniBreathe

  18. August 7, 2012 2:37 pm

    Perfect timing with your mountain metaphors. Am having one of those days and this gave me inspiration and made me smile. Thanks for posting!

    • August 7, 2012 3:15 pm

      I’m really happy you found inspiration in my words! Know always that tomorrow will be better!

      Margo

  19. August 7, 2012 2:31 pm

    Thanks for the vision at the top..Still working on that–blog-wise!

  20. August 7, 2012 2:05 pm

    This post really represents this sentiment for me, when I think about growing older and the path of my life.

  21. August 7, 2012 2:05 pm

    Fantastic post! Well written. Thank you.

  22. August 7, 2012 1:50 pm

    Very good!

  23. August 7, 2012 1:38 pm

    Thank you for sharing this! I have only hiked a few mild mountains, but this is so encouraging, both in physical and general-life endeavors.

    • August 7, 2012 3:20 pm

      I’m glad my words meant something special to you. Keep climbing higher!

      Margo

  24. August 7, 2012 1:35 pm

    I loved reading this post, beautifully written!

  25. August 7, 2012 1:01 pm

    I’m a mountaineer and I love climbing metaphors. Well done.

  26. August 7, 2012 1:01 pm

    I don’t climb mountains but I do love going on beautiful hikes up mountains. I think most hikers and mountain climbers feel the thrill of being alive when they are surrounded by so much beauty and peace in nature. I really like how you applied scaling mountains to life. More people should open their eyes and see the beauty in the life that surrounds them.

    • August 7, 2012 1:27 pm

      I couldn’t agree more – we give too much attention to the ‘nasty things’ in life when there’s so much more we should savour and enjoy.

      Margo

  27. August 7, 2012 12:52 pm

    Love mountains. Nice photo; great view. Thanks for wonderful article.

  28. August 7, 2012 12:24 pm

    I absolutely adore your post. I go hiking every now and again, but I do consider life to be the biggest mountain of them all. And I am quite enjoying the journey so far. Thanks for this wonderful post : )

    • August 7, 2012 12:30 pm

      It’s all about putting one foot in front of the other (no matter what your goals)! I’m glad my words touched you. Thanks for leaving such a wonderful comment!

      Margo

      • August 9, 2012 11:33 am

        I went rock climbing last week–and did a little bit of a comparison as well. Thanks for the inspiration.

      • August 9, 2012 3:00 pm

        You are welcome.

        Margo

  29. Crista permalink
    August 7, 2012 12:24 pm

    One step at a time … 🙂

  30. August 7, 2012 12:13 pm

    What a wonderful and inspiring post!!! You said it so well!

  31. August 7, 2012 11:32 am

    Awesome post! Makes me wanna climb 😛

    MontrealDSL
    Business Blog

  32. August 7, 2012 11:29 am

    As a writer / blogger / aspiring author… this hits so close to home! Thank you. Needed this reminder today.

    • August 7, 2012 11:52 am

      We all need to be reminded once in a while that anything worth doing is worth doing ‘all the way’.

      Margo

  33. August 7, 2012 11:28 am

    Excellent analogy, and great advice for living. Goal setting is so simple yet so many of us fail to set them. Writing is so simple, yet we fail to write down our goals for fear of achieving them. I am a blogger, and this year I decided to read other peoples blogs. I set a simple goal, read five blogs a day and make comments. Yes, I have missed a few days and some days I read ten, on other days only two. What I have learned is that I have opened a world of new friends whom I will most likely never meet, see, nor hear, but I will continue to read their words, enjoy their humor, or heed their advice.
    Great post, you made my day.

    • August 7, 2012 11:58 am

      Thanks, Grumpa Joe. I’m thrilled to know I made your day! And you are right – many of us tend to say we’re going to do something, then fail to write it down and make a true commitment to the goal (because it’s so much easier to just let it slide, then, isn’t it?!?!?) I used to teach goal setting as part of a career strategies course to first year (College level) Business students, but I didn’t always follow my own advice (I suppose I was teaching them to “do as I say, not as I do”). I’m awe-struck by the quality of some of the blogs I read, too – there are some wonderful words of wisdom out there if we just keep looking. Thanks for adding your thoughts to mine.

      Margo

  34. August 7, 2012 11:10 am

    I climb mountains because they’re the most beautiful and awe-inspiring places on the planet. And reaching the summit marks a moment in your life you can reflect back upon with pride and sense of accomplishment. It’s not about thrill seeking or adrenaline. Climbing a mountain (except possibly Everest) isn’t adrenaline-filled. It’s work, and lots of it. It’s not the same as jumping out of an airplane or riding a rollercoaster for a thrill.

    • August 7, 2012 11:13 am

      Can’t argue on the ‘beautiful and awe-inspiring’ part, that’s for sure. I’m glad you’ve found something that makes you feel proud and accomplished – we all need that. I didn’t mean to suggest that mountain climbers are ONLY in it for the thrill, but I think reaching the summit (after all that hard work) must be thrilling all the same. Thanks for commenting.

      Margo

      • August 7, 2012 11:18 am

        I’d say it’s less “thrilling” than it is rewarding. It’s gratifying. You feel like you’ve done something worth doing. All your hard work has been for this moment, and here you are! You’ve made it. That’s the pay-off. 🙂

  35. August 7, 2012 10:59 am

    Here I am on the leeward side of 55…and I’m totally with you! Don’t quite understand the appeal of mountain climbing…but roller coaster riding? I’m absolutely there…

    The thrust of your post reminds me of that age-old question: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

    🙂

    • August 7, 2012 11:02 am

      I actually tried to figure out how to work that ‘question’ into the post – so we’re definitely on the same page!

      Margo

  36. August 7, 2012 10:35 am

    Very inspiring! I am an adventure seeker and hope to continue to do so even at 55+! =D

  37. August 7, 2012 10:31 am

    I really enjoyed your post, thanks for sharing it with us. Also, many congratulations on your FP (your second, I think you said? Good on you!!),
    Wendy

  38. August 7, 2012 10:30 am

    I climb mountains! Everyone has their challenges in life and I love how you have transferred it into everyday life. Give it a go and you will know why us mad people do it!

    • August 7, 2012 11:04 am

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I’ve climbed a few hills in my time, but I think I’ll leave the mountain climbing to people like you who ‘get it’.

      Margo

      • August 7, 2012 11:18 am

        Well done on your freshly pressed post. You have to ‘get it’ to keep doing it I guess. Once you have got the bug that’s it you’re off to the next summit,

        Thanks for the reply,

        Roxy

  39. August 7, 2012 10:22 am

    I am now in Bangladesh and reading your post. Last month two women of Bangladesh have climbed up on top of Himalayan Mountain. They are being highly appreciated all over the country.
    This joyous news inspired me a lot. And now after reading your post, I’ve gained more inspiration than last inspiration.
    I would like to thank you for this post & welcome on freshly pressed.

    • August 7, 2012 11:05 am

      It’s good to hear about women in different parts of the world accomplishing great things. Thanks for telling me about this.

      Margo

  40. August 6, 2012 7:42 pm

    Great blog post…and yes, we all need ‘mountains’ to climb. And congrats in advance on being FP!

    • August 6, 2012 7:46 pm

      Thanks, Sylvia. I’m excited (naturally) to have had one of my posts chosen once again to be Freshly Pressed (at least this time I had some advance notice). Now I’m on pins and needles waiting for it to happen. I guess I’ve just reached the summit of one of my own personal mountains!

      Margo

  41. August 6, 2012 7:29 am

    Mountains can be so immense. I will always remember the times I have flown into Seattle and it seems like you can just reach out and touch Mt. Ranier. It’s magnitude is awesome. Re: risky ventures. After daughter #1 was born, I gave up scuba diving, so awed by the responsibility that had been bestowed upon me. Many things –beyond one’s control– can go wrong. The allure of diving deep wasn’t something I was willing to trade away for a lifetime with her.

    • August 6, 2012 12:09 pm

      The next city over from where I live has a small ‘elevation’ but it’s always been called ‘The Mountain’. I used to drive up it to go to work and I never quite understood the nomenclature. However, I suppose I ‘could’ say that I’ve been to the top of a mountain, if pressed. And I do think women probably become risk-averse once they take on mothering responsibilities; you are right – too many things can go wrong. My new ‘adventure’ (writing) at least allows me to live vicariously through my characters – I can make them do things I’d never dare try!

      Margo

  42. Leah permalink
    August 6, 2012 3:52 am

    This is a great post!
    I am not exactly a dare devil but I can honestly say that when I do daring things I feel so alive. I have jumped out of a plane (tandem – I wanted to be safe) and I’ve gone white water rafting. The adrenilin rush gets into your viens and makes your entire body tingle with joy. What an amazing feeling that is! Life is to be lived. Not conserved.
    I’m playing soccer at 46! Yes, when we play a team much younger than us I am a bit worried about getting injured but when I complain to the coach he tells me it is good to play a team younger and stronger because they will teach us to be better players. How true he is.

    • August 6, 2012 12:12 pm

      It sounds like you’ve capture the spirit of adventure more than once. Good for you. I’m not quite that daring, but I did send the heroine in my latest novel white water rafting and just doing the research and interviewing people (including my husband) who’d done it was exhilarating. It’s important to live your dreams before it’s too late and to take (moderate) risks when you can.

      Margo

  43. Cathy permalink
    August 5, 2012 10:51 pm

    Beautifully said, Margo. Congratulations on being ‘freshly pressed’!

  44. August 5, 2012 9:23 pm

    Wow… you get it. Everyone needs a mountain to climb. Thanks for the post. I’ve got to post this on FB…

    • August 6, 2012 12:14 pm

      Thanks, Texas Rambler. I’m glad you agree. I was really excited to get an email notifying me that this post will be ‘Freshly Pressed’ in the next day or two – so if you mention it to your FB friends, tell them to keep an eye out for it! Good hearing from you.

      Margo

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