10/08/2014 05:32 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Why Do People Climb Mountains?

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Answer by Eivind Kjørstad

Most of the mountains I've been on are ones where you "walk" to the top more than climb. You might need to support yourself with your hands here and there, and it might be quite steep, but I don't tend to visit the kind of mountains where you need a rope and a climbing-harness.

Why does it have meaning to me. Why do I enjoy it ?

The reasons are all over the map.

It's cheap. Given that I already have outdoor-equipment, a week of walking the Norwegian mountains cost me something like a tenth of any other vacation. That's true even though I mostly sleep in the many mountain-huts operated by the Norwegian trekking-association. (because doing so means I don't need to carry a lot, and I prefer trekking light -- I can drop tent, sleeping-bag, fuel, cooking-gear, sleeping-pad and that adds up to many kilos)

It's healthy. I've got a job where I sit in an office in front of a computer most of the day. As such, there's a high and real risk that I'll suffer health-problems or even die because of inadequate physical exercise. Hiking in the mountains is probably the most healthy vacation possible. Beyond the exercise there's also health-benefits like zero stress, like fresh air, clean water and friendship.

It's meditation. Letting your muscles work while resting your brain from the steady stream of demands modern society brings, a calm that it's hard to find in civilization. I never bring a watch. I sleep when tired, eat when hungry, and get up when rested. Once, I managed to miscount the days and was surprised to find on return to civilization that it was, in fact, Wednesday, and not as I'd expected, Tuesday.

It's comforting. The world changes very rapidly. Mountains don't. Karitind looked the same a millennium ago, and it'll look the same a millennium from now. This comforts me sometimes, when I feel caught up in a maelstrom of change.

It's empowering. It's a meaningful accomplishment. You set out to do something that required a significant amount of effort, then you carried trough with it and are now standing on the top. You feel good about this.

It's the best way to get to know someone. You learn a lot about someone when they are testing their own limits, be it for endurance, vertigo or strength.

It's a good way to make women fall in love with you. From my own personal first-hand account, I can report that 100% of the women who spend 3+ days in the mountains with you, will fall in love with you. (of course, it could be that the women who agree to such a suggestion in the first place are already well on the way towards that.)

Edit: Vaidehi Elan points out that this effect works on men too. So if your romantic and/or sexual interests run in that direction, you're in luck too.

It builds confidence. Most trips, there's some spots where in principle a single wrong step could be your last, it doesn't take a lot, a cliff of a dozen meters can easily kill you. Yet, I'd not characterize it as dangerous - because you're more careful automatically the higher the consequences of carelessness are. (unless you're an idiot)

I could list practical benefits like these all day, but still miss the actual point. Because though all of these advantages, and many more, are real, none of them are the important part.

Peter Wessel Zapffe once said; "Tindesporten er meningsløs som selve livet, derfor kan dens trolldom aldri dø."

This translates roughly to "Mountaineering is meaningless, like life itself. Therefore its magic will never die."

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