For most new climbers their first trekking experience is bathed in expectations of epic sunsets and triumphant Instagram worthy pics at the top of the summit.
Sorry to break it to you…. while that’s fun, it’s not really what it’s about.
To set out expecting to always reach the top is like expecting to always be happy, it is unrealistic. Every good climber has not just one but a host of non-summits in his pack. If not, I would challenge them to try some bigger, harder mountains. In my 25 years of climbing mountains I’d hazard a guess that at least a quarter of my climbs have been non summits…. And many of those have been my most memorable climbs.
Because it is in these moments you are truly experiencing the power of a mountain. The mountain doesn’t care about your wishes or desires to get to the top. Whether or not you summit, the mountain still remains, as strong and steadfast as it was before you stepped onto it. It will not bend or cater to your wishes.
And sometimes you achieve your goal, sometimes you don’t.
Regardless of skill or preparation or desire, there are occasions when you simply won’t get to the top, when your best isn’t good enough on the day and although that may sound bitterly disappointing it is in these times that we are reminded of two of the great life lessons a mountain has to teach you.
It not about the destination but the journey.
It is not the events themselves but our interpretations of events that shape us.
Most people equate a non summit as failure. But we firmly disagree.
Whacking on a pack and marching to the top with ease in perfect conditions may sound like the ideal mountain experience but what this means is that we have failed to step beyond our comfort zone. We have not been challenged. We have not grown on any level. And if we are not growing we are merely surviving.
When you dare to step beyond what is predictable and certain you have the opportunity to experience something so much more. More than just a physical rite of passage, a mountain exposes your mental muscle too. How you deal with discomfort, disappointment and even joy, cannot be hidden on a mountain.
Every step is an experience…physically, mentally and emotionally, as you test your capability and witness the true power and vast beauty of nature. It can be an overwhelming experience, one every human should get to experience in their lifetime. Some are physically silenced, some are moved to tears, the cameras down as you mindfully take in what no lens could ever capture.
The mountain teaches us how to be present.
How to approach challenge.
How to deal with adversity.
To discover who you truly are and what you are capable of.
And these lessons are not learned at the top. They are learned through each and every step you take.
So step beyond, be brave and take the path less travelled.
Nothing worth doing comes easy. Lean into the experience and grow.
If you want to be your best self, you need to stretch and in stretching, you must change your relationship with failure. It is not something to be feared but something to be encouraged. Understand and accept that on the path to success you will fail, (possibly many times), but it is with these experiences you will find the exact lessons you need to take you to the next level!
“I will come again and I will conquer you because as a mountain you can’t grow.
But as a human, I can”
Sir Edmund Hillary
Mt Picton, Tasmania, August 2016. 350 meters from the summit. Forced to turn back due to weather.