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  • Writer's pictureAtiqah Nadiah Zailani

Why you should go mountain-climbing (Part 2)

Reasons why climbing a mountain can be the best thing for you to do.

Mountain range

[If you haven't already, read Part 1 first. This is a direct continuation of that article - enjoy!]

6. That feeling when you reach the top…

That being said, I don’t climb mountains just for its good looks. I also climb it to build myself up, and perhaps even defy my own expectations.

If you are feeling a little down, a little less sure of yourself, or in need of a change, I really believe mountain-climbing can help. When I climbed my first mountain, I had just exited a low point in my life and struggled still with the echoes of an emotional upheaval. The mountain I was physically climbing was, in a way, a representation of the uphill journey I was trying to make privately in my own head.

So when I reached the summit at the dawn of a beautiful day, I naturally had a lot of feelings running through me, but the most intense feeling was this: INVINCIBILITY. I hadn’t just conquered the mountain, I had also conquered myself. I was capable, I was strong, I was invincible! I had just climbed a mountain; I had overcome a treacherous landscape, intense lack of oxgen and borderline mental breakdowns, yo! Having done this, what else can I do? EVERYTHING!!! What can I not do?? NOTHING!!!

Uhuru Peak Kilimanjaro

I'm at the top of the entire freaking continent of Africa - I'm AMAZING!!!

7. What goes up must come down (that also means you).

Unfortunately, at the same time as my new-found sense of self-worth, I also found out very quickly that I quite literally could not come down the mountain.

My legs had stopped functioning, and the downward trek seemed infinitely longer than the path up (even though it was the exact same one). The never ending trail seemed to descend straight down to hell. The option to curl up on the side of the trail and rot to death had seemed way more appealing than to continue on walking/ hobbling.

Coming down Mount Kinabalu

Struggling down the mountain, legs trembling and using a cane like an 80-year-old - I'm not so amazing after all

I found this to be consistent over my next few climbs: going down the mountain is infinitely harder than going up the mountain. Logically, it doesn’t make sense, as climbing uphill requires more exhertion than heading downhill.

In reality, however, your chances of injury are higher when going down, and having to pay the utmost attention to where you are stepping drains out your already-dwindling energy. My knees and feet have sustained the most pain during my downhill journeys and were, in fact, the leading cause of all the tears I’ve ever shed on mountains.

But hey, that’s life – it’s pretty dandy to be up top, but boy does it hurt when it’s time to come down a peg or two. And just when you’ve experienced an euphoria about your invicibility too. It does serve as a reminder that, though you may not be able to control or avoid your downfall, you can prepare and make the journey down hurt less. In mountain climbing, you do that with support gear (knee braces, fitted shoes…etc), proper pacing and adequate rest. In life, you do it with humility and generosity. After all, they say you meet the same people on the way down, so the kingder you were on your way up, the gentler your way down will be.

8. It’s life in High Definition

On my Kilimanjaro trek, I took a swig of my lukewarm Coke infused with a limp piece of lime that came with breakfast. It was the BEST COKE of my life. When we completed the climb, returned to civilisation and showered for the first time in 6 days, it was the BEST SHOWER of my life. These are things I normally would have found mundane and not worth mentioning, but boy, I could’ve waxed poetry over that bottle of Coke and that shower. And to this day, I recall them with utmost fondness.

If you ever find yourself feeling blasé about your current life, then go climb a mountain.

There is nothing quite like being transported out of your day-to-day life to make you appreciate it on a whole new level. You will realise how very little you need to survive and be happy with, and rediscover the immense pleasure inherent in the little things you take for granted. You will find the air you breathe fresher; the water you drink sweeter; the smiles you give and receive more sincere; and the sky you look up at night brighter with more stars than your eyes can handle. It’s a different life, and you will feel like a different person with a different set of dreams and concerns.

Mount Kinabalu view from the top

Not your everyday life

Now, admittedly, it’s not a life you can sustain forever (I certainly would not be able to go longer than a week or two in the wild, pooping in bushes and hoping nothing will come out to bite me in the ass), but for that short amount of time that you are on the mountain, it is, to quote Disney, “a whole new world”.

9. The person who came down is not the same one who went up

Aside from discovering a whole new world, you may also discover a whole new you. Being away from your usual luxuries (your phone, your couch, your bed, the internet) and thrown into a new and strange set of circumstances awakens different parts of you that you probably never even knew existed: the adventurer in you, who otherwise would remain stifled, confined between a swiveling office chair and the computer screen; the survivor in you, who in most cases slumbered on, not required in a world of comforts that you live in.

I don’t know if I came down the mountain a better person necessarily, but I was definitely not the same. Even as I returned to my normal pre-climb life and typical daily routines, something within my little world had undeniably shifted. In the context of a game, it would be as though I had ‘leveled up’, with replenished points and brand new tools/weapons, ready to take on whatever was next with renewed vigor.

So if you find yourself a little bored with your life, a little too complacent, utterly unexcited about the days that lie ahead, I say go climb a mountain. Disrupt your life, shake things up a little bit, and surprise yourself – you’ll be so much better for it.

Mount Kilimanjaro view

Pretty pleased with life in general

I told myself I would never do it again…

The first few days after my first climb was pure torture, no lie. I was dizzy with exhaustion, puking out the non-existent contents in my empty stomach and unable to even look at a flight of stairs without wanting to cry. I promised: Never again.

I was lying of course, because less than a few months later, I was happily booking my hike up Kilimanjaro.

The first few days after my Kilimanjaro climb, I could barely walk, having shredded the bottom of my feet into a raw, painful mess (this is what you get when you don’t tie your shoes properly tight, people). I had also gotten the worst sunburn of my life, causing colleagues to yelp in fright at the sight of me. I thought: Okay, that’s enough now.

Naturally, it only took me a few more months to cheerfully book my next climb.

The lesson here is not that I am a masochist (though that’s a possibility), but that some things are totally worth the pain. Some experiences build you up, make you that much better, and take you that much closer to the person you want to be, the manifestation of all that you are capable of – and isn’t that what we all want? To be the best version of ourselves.

So, who wants to try Everest with me?

Salkantay Trek view

Let's go.

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