Why I Climb: The 14er Experience

View from Longs Peak

There comes a time in every conversation I have with family or friends, when they turn to my hobby of mountaineering. "I understand why you might climb one or two 14ers," an aunt told me, "but after that, doesn't it get old?" While on a date, my potential suitor told me, "Well you've only done a couple, you'll get bored of them after you've done 5 or 6, trust me." Yet here I am with fourteen successful summits, and I'm anything BUT bored. So what is it, why do I climb?

Time to Think

When you're climbing a 14er, you have a lot of time to think. And strangely enough, this is a topic I come back to often while hiking through evergreen forests or along a snow-covered ridge. The more I climb, the more I discover new reasons for doing so, which just makes the next summit even more rewarding. And that might be among the best reasons I climb: The excitement of experiencing and discovering something new with each summit attempt.

Always Something New

Mountaineering is itself a diverse field with hundreds of distinct activities. Depending on what type of mountain you climb and when you may need to know rock, snow and/or ice climbing, 4-season camping, high altitude cooking & camping, navigation & wilderness first aid, along with much more. While I've gotten quite used to summiting 14ers in the summer, I've barely scratched the surface of winter mountaineering, and all the skills that come with it. There's always something new to learn, which is super compelling to someone who loves to learn!

There's Something Sacred About it

Then there's the older, more mythical reason for climbing: Seeking the sense of awe and wonder that only high peaks and ridges can supply. The mountains are humbling, a reminder of the overpowering strength of nature and time, the insignificance of humans in the long run, and yet the damage we can do in a moment that lasts 1,000 years. There's a reason why the mountains attract pilgrims & monasteries to their slopes:  they're a place for reflection, and finding one's self in the bigger picture of the world.

A Healthy Sense of Accomplishment

Finally, there is the internal reason for climbing: The feeling and sense of accomplishment that rushes over you as you take your last few steps on to the summit. Self-confidence is core to everything we are: It's the foundation we build to fall back on during bad times, and the motivation to push forward and climb higher when we're performing at our best. A regular climb in the Rockies is like forcing yourself to recognize that you are responsible and capable of anything you put your mind to.

Like I said, every time I climb, I find new joy in the pilgrimage I call mountaineering. I'll continue to share these new discoveries with you all in the future!

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