To climb a mountain one does not simply start walking up its side. As with any other challenges in life, preparation is key. Mountains do not move, they do not give way nor offer a helping hand. For some, mountains have no interest other than the visual beauty they provide. For others however, mountains are a holy grail, a driving force that imbues these individuals with a sense of adventure. Mountains entice us to reach out of our comfort zones, they inspire us to escape the human world and embrace an entirely alien environment that is their abode. Disconnected from the human world we, as individuals, are able to root ourselves in our own consciousness and expand our understanding of personal actions and thoughts. Through this understanding we are able to connect to the world in a much more primal fashion.
This connection shapes the lifestyle that you aspire to for the rest of your life. This lifestyle revolves around a simple, yet effective plan: one summit at a time. Each summit is a stepping stone to the next, a gateway that has opened in your awareness. Where does this all lead, you might ask? Well, of course there is the goal. The goal is up to you to define, but that goal will impel you higher and higher and higher until you reach places in yourself and the outside world that you never thought possible.
You see, a summit is much more than just the top of a mountain. It is the sum of all of the steps taken to reach that point. By steps, I do not mean one foot in front of the other, but the planning, training and mental preparation that has been invested to get you as far as you have come. This combination of factors brings much more than just the joy of reaching the mountain top. These factors, when combined properly, help you to understand more about your body and aspects of yourself: the ones you excel in, and the ones in which you fall short. Climbing a mountain is physically and mentally strenuous, and while both aspects are imperative to reach the goal, physical training will entirely alter your experience.
We physically trained by climbing every mountain we possibly could within our difficulty level in the months leading up to Kilimanjaro, and were able to notice a tangible difference. Each training made the climb easier and easier, each training informed us on the limits of our body, what we could push and what had to be aware of. This physical training compiled itself in mental exercise. By dedicating ourselves to the goal, in this case Kili, we pushed further and harder than we ever had, always expecting excellence from ourselves.
I would like to digress for a moment to mention a fact that is often ignored: climbing is a very expensive sport. Therefore, in order to excel in climbing one must either attain enough affluence to be financially secure without having to work or be sponsored by organisations. While entirely different methods, these two paths have the same starting point: a dedication to mountains and a drive for the ultimate goal. For some of us, the cost of the next climb may even be the benchmark of what our income should be!
To contemplate a goal, one must first complete the prerequisites: firstly, the ability to fund the trip adequately. There is no cheap way in the mountains, there’s the safe way or no way. Once funding is secured, one must be physically fit. This does not mean going to the gym once a week to lift weights with friends; this is about training for your goal by practicing what you will be doing over and over until it is second nature to your muscles. Assuming you are physically in shape, you must ensure you hold the appropriate knowledge for your climb. Successful mountaineers do not pick a mountain at random, they do their research and know their routes. They expect the best, but prepare for the worst. Being prepared means knowing exactly what you’re going to do and where you’re going to go. But most of all, being prepared means knowing what is safe and what isn’t. Safety is paramount, and the hardest part of climbing a mountain is knowing when to give up. You may find yourself with the end literally in sight, yet, because it is unsafe, will need to turn around and go back where you came from. It can be very hard and the disappointment is immense. Along with safety come limits and boundaries. Boundaries can be pushed in a positive manner to help personal growth; limits on the other hand must be respected. Pushing yourself past your limits takes you from a place of safe development to a place of extreme hazard. You must always respect your limits and listen to your body.
Training isn’t just an excuse to explore the mountains: every time you climb, it is a progressive step towards your end goal. This preparation allows you to visualize yourself completing this goal. The more preparation you have, the more you’re able to visualise, and the more likely you are to complete your goal. But even with all the visualisation in the world, climbing a mountain takes longer than a boxing match; there is no “ding ding” done. To achieve your goal, whether it is a mountain summit, a business venture or personal development, “vumilia” is required. Vumilia, patience, is the driving factor hiding in the shadows: the undeveloped muscle that must be worked every day.
To conclude, I would like to leave you with a quote by the late Roger Payne, a truly brilliant mountaineer and wonderful human being, who took both Arshia and myself up our first summit together. Right before we set out, he told us: “the right pace is the one where you feel you will never achieve your goal. Only at this pace will you not only reach the goal of today, but also the goal of tomorrow.”
Pole Pole Vumilia Sana
“Slowly, slowly, with patience…”