On Climbing Mountains


There is nothing wrong with living on flat ground. In fact, it can be quite gratifying and liberating. You can walk in whichever direction you choose: right, left, east, west, diagonally. Flat ground is safe. It’s familiar. However, after a while, it becomes inevitable that you’ll want to experience the world from different vantage points. You’ve heard that there is real beauty up there, above the clouds. And that’s when you decide to start mountain climbing.

Searching for the perfect mountain can be a challenge. Especially when there may not be a perfect mountain, or even the perfect mountain for you. Or there may be many that are right for you. It’s impossible to know. People have said that when you find the right mountain to climb, you’ll know. You desperately want to believe that this is true. We all want to believe that our individual destinies are designed to fit us like gloves. That hope keeps us moving upwards.

You’ve also just come back down to base camp from your last climb. It had a nice ascent but you lost some footing on the way down and are wondering if it’s time to take a break from climbing for awhile. Maybe you can just rest under a tree, or play in the sand dunes for some time.

But no, let’s try climbing again. The cordilleras can be breath-taking and exciting and life is too short to miss out on the spectacular views that might await you if you embark on a really amazing climb. So you start looking.

Some mountains seem great on paper, but when you finally arrive at their base you realize that the terrain is either too rocky or the view is less promising than you thought. Mountain climbing is a serious, potentially dangerous business and it’s important to prepare yourself. You need to get into good physical and emotional shape before climbing. You need to tread very carefully; you could get hurt. There are techniques involved that you find out about as you go. For example, you should never start out at a run lest you slip and fall. You make many mistakes, but it’s all part of learning to climb.

You eventually find a promising mountain. You begin to climb it, anticipating taking in the view once you reach the summit. You’re exhilarated. This could be really great.

After a few days of climbing, though, you become lost and the ground beneath you crumbles and gives way. You fall flat on your face. You get up, turn back and begin the long descent alone, dejected and discouraged with bleeding palms. You wonder if it’s the mountain’s fault, the route you took or you, the climber, that was the problem. It could be that your connection with the land just wasn’t right. That mountain is best suited for other climbers; you’ll find yours eventually. That last one was still a bit of an asshole, though, you think to yourself, as you tend to your wounds. And you head back to your tree to rest on flat ground and wait until you have the energy to begin another climb.

Disappointment can be a bitter emotion where mountains are involved.

Maybe you should just try dating instead.


7 thoughts on “On Climbing Mountains

    1. Hi, Kelly. Thanks. As of right now I don’t have a newsletter. People can follow my blog and get email updates when I post. They can also follow me on Twitter or Facebook (links on the right-hand side of the main page) where I post recent publications regularly. Thanks for contacting!

  1. It just so happens I’m a mountain enthusiast. I’m not sure if you gathered that from my own blog, but if you didn’t, I must say it’s quite a coincidence you asked me to read this. This entry particularly resonated with me because I have encountered more mountaineering failures than successes, and often times I find myself, groggy at the ass-crack of dawn, slathered in sunscreen and a cold, hard Cliff Bar for breakfast, wondering, “What am I doing? What is all this for?”

    But, there they are, and up we go.

    And for the record, climbing a mountain is far less emotionally draining than dating.

    1. And yet you continue to climb! Thanks so much for reading. It was inspired by some shitty online dating experiences – if you didn’t gather from the vaguely disguised metaphor. I’m glad that, for a mountaineering enthusiast, it resonates. And, yes, thank god for Cliff Bars.

      1. Truth be told, my mountaineering record is far better than my dating record, but on a more critical note, I didn’t catch the metaphor until just now when you brought it to my attention. I’d like to go ahead and blame my own lack of astuteness in reading, probably because I was too excited about mountains to think about it as a dating metaphor, but alas I tell you this for the record lest there be others who didn’t quite understand there was a metaphor (in case you’re concerned about clarity for the lowest denominator of readership).

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