6 Life Lessons Mountaineering Can Teach You – And Why You Should Start Right Now

Amazing sunset while downwalking “Cavall Bernat” in Alzira (Spain)

There is no heartache a good day out in the mountains can’t ease. Many hikers and rock climbers would agree with this statement. Of course, it’s not that simple and mountaineering is not a magic potion which makes your worries, love trouble and problems suddenly go away. However, exploring a mountain can help you to relax and sort things out.

You may have this image in your head of the “typical” hiker and climber. Bold and daring, maybe even reckless. Being able to survive on very little, doesn’t care about material possessions, except maybe his or her climbing shoes and backpack. Passionate about the sport, lives for the adventure and is willing to invest everything.

Do you really have to be like this to enjoy mountaineering? Well, let me tell you something about me. I was exactly the opposite: Rather fearful than adventurous, afraid of heights. Getting grumpy when more than four hours without food. A general dislike of mud, cold and rain. However, hiking and especially climbing changes you. Not everything of course. I still appreciate having food on a regular base and not freezing to dead in the wilderness. But I learned how to deal with my personal struggles and fears.

Still not convinced? Here are six reasons how mountaineering teaches you important lessons, applicable for university and work and helps you to lead a happier and more fulfilled life.

1. Your everyday hassles are not as big as they seem

Every student knows that feeling: Deadlines, upcoming exams and assignments, sometimes it’s just too much. It seems like that solving one problem there is always another one, just waiting around the corner. However, sometimes a day out in the mountains is all you need. Compared to hills and huge climbing walls, your problems suddenly seem smaller and less important. And science proves it right: Studies on mental health suggest that hiking can lower the risk of depression and increase your mental health and general wellbeing.

Trying a new route in Montanejos (Spain)

2. Appreciate the little things

You don’t need much to be happy. In everyday life, we often tend to gather a lot of things around us and give them too much importance. Hill walking teaches you, that you don’t need any material belongings to feel good. Okay, that maybe that’s not 100% true. Waterproofs and comfortable shoes might be quite essential for your happiness up in the mountains, but there is not much more needed.

3. Persistence and Patience are the key to success

Sometimes mountaineering is not fun. From time to time it might be even the exact opposite. Hiking and climbing can be cold, wet and painful. However, nothing compares to the feeling when you finally made it to the top. Just like that, life can be uncomfortable at times. Studying is not necessarily fun. Preparing exams is not much fun either. But remember that you are doing all that for a reason.

Hiking Austrias snow-covered mountains on a sunny day in December

4. Don’t underestimate yourself

How much time did you spend worrying about a task that seemed impossible and realized when finally doing it that it was not that hard. It is the same with mountaineering: When standing at the bottom they seem inaccessible and intimidating, but somehow you always manage getting to the top. Or like Swedish diplomate and Nobel Prize winner Dag Hammarskjöld put it into words: “Never measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top. Then you will see how low it was.”  You are stronger and more capable than you think!

5. Don’t panic

When climbing up a mountain you can find yourself, just as in (university) life, in difficult situations, situations which even seem hopeless. Now you have basically two options: First, you can freak out and panic. Not the best idea of course, because let’s be honest: You won’t achieve anything by pitying yourself. Better take a deep breath, try to stay calm and analyse. What can you do improve your situation? Even if it seems hard, that’s the best and often only way.

Hierve el Agua in Oaxaca (Mexiko)

6. Start NOW

Why wait? We lose so much time procrastinating and feeling bad because our To-Do list is growing and growing while we are watching Netflix. Don’t be like this when it comes to mountaineering. Tie your hiking boots, pack your backpack, grab a waterproof jacket and get started. You don’t have to hike the Munros and you don’t have to do it on your own. There are mountaineering clubs where you can meet like-minded people and go to trips together. Don’t fancy hillwalking? Why not check out your local climbing gym then or, if you prefer keeping your feet to the ground, join a walking group.


©All pictures by the author.

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