People have a wide range of activities that they enjoy. Some people enjoy bungee jumping off the 233 meters high Macau Tower in China. Yet others enjoy lying on a sandy beach sipping mojitos in the Maldives. However, whether you have a knack for extreme sports or are more interested in relaxed activities, you should consider hiking.
Mountains are among the few untamed frontiers where anyone can venture. Apart from taking a rocket to the moon, there is no higher ground to stand than on the top of a mountain. In essence, there are more reasons to hike mountains than not to.
If you don’t think you are fit enough to attempt hiking, think again. You don’t need to have Olympic training to run a mile. In the same way, you don’t need to be a seasoned mountaineer to hike. This article focuses on a few excellent reasons to go hiking.
1. Renewed Life Goals and Drive
If you are advanced in years, you may have covered the basics of your life goals. You may have already made significant headway in your family and career choices. At this point, you could be stuck in a fixed mundane routine. However, deciding to hike a mountain can put a new spring in your step.
If you are new to hiking, the preparation for the climb can become your hobby. This can revive your passions and give you a new goal to work on. Keeping in shape is more effective when working towards a specific target. You may need to adapt your diet and fitness regime to suit the mountain you plan to hike.
As you set and reach for new goals, your mind, body, and soul work in concert to achieve them. Your efforts can rebuild your resolve and character. The drive you need to conquer a mountain can give you the push to achieve many of your other life goals.
2. You Gain a New Perspective on Life
Eagles are known to rule the skies and make their nests in the mountain tops. The Eagle’s eye view is more than what you see in magazines and wallpapers. When you stand on top of a mountain, you walk where eagles tread. You combine the amazing view with the experience of the fresh mountain air and the effort it took you to get there.
Seasoned mountaineers talk about how small other challenges seem in the light of a conquered mountain. Hiking gives you perspective on the real challenges of life. It broadens your world view. In the words of the famous German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, “He who climbs mountains laughs at all tragedies, real or imaginary.”
Hikers have a conquerors’ perspective on life. Summiting a mountain can give you the confidence to walk into challenges with a winning attitude.
3. You Reconnect with Nature
The mountain landscape brings you up close and personal with a wide variety of natural ecosystems. Many mountains still have a natural environment intact. This is because many governments have set up policies to protect their mountains.
Natural ecosystems vary according to altitude, as the atmospheric conditions change, different plants and animals thrive. While some people may hurry to reach the summit, a patient mountain climber can stop to smell the roses. Herein lays the added benefit of pacing yourself. Mountain climbing exposes you to more sights and sounds than you can ever experience in ordinary life.
It’s only at the top of a mountain that you can truly distance yourself from urbanization. National parks and game reserves still have rumbling vehicle engines in the background and skyscrapers shaping the skyline. On a mountain top, you can truly stand separate from any signs of civilization.
4. You Relearn Life’s Values
Hiking is like taking a practical master class on life, taught by Mother Nature. Among other values, hiking can teach you resilience, patience, gratitude, and positive thinking. There is no room for negativity as you scale a mountain. Each step needs your full commitment and resolve.
At certain points, it will take all the energy you have to lift your limbs and keep hiking. You will learn to appreciate every breath when you get to the higher altitudes. The air gets thinner as you approach the summit of the mountain. You will need to make the most of every breath you take.
If you are not in excellent shape, you may need to pace yourself. Even seasoned hikers tend to slow their pace as they age. Taking your time reduces the pressure on your muscles and joints. In these endeavors, patience reigns. The more you practice patience, the more patient you become.
5. Understand the Importance of Conservation
If you have never thought about environmental conservation or the effects of climate change, the mountain will introduce you to it. As you interact with the natural environment, you will learn first-hand why conservation is necessary.
Your guides can show you the direct effects of climate change on the animal population and vegetation belts of the mountain. You may even see signs of receding snow caps and endangered species of plants and animals.
It can take a few days to hike a high mountain. The time you spend on the slopes can teach you how to live a low impact life. Hiking strips you down to the essentials. Since you need to carry all your equipment up to the mountain, you will learn to pack light. You also learn to appreciate how simple life can be. Many hikers learn how to steer away from wasteful living both on and off the mountain.
6. Perfect Reason to Travel
Hiking is an excellent reason to travel. Mountains are well distributed geographically around the world. Since the mountains are few and far apart, many people don’t have a mountain in their vicinity. You can choose to hike in a continent you have not visited before. Hiking in a new country enables you to experience the culture in a uniquely natural way.
In 1986, Patrick Morrow from Canada became the first person to complete what is now known as the Seven Summits Challenge by all definitions. This challenge involves climbing to the highest peak of all seven continents in the world. The list of mountains that constitute the Seven Summit challenge varies due to the definition of continental boundaries. However, Morrow was the first to satisfy all versions of the challenge.
Every mountain is unique. Many hikers travel all over the world to enjoy the thrill of a new challenge and experience on the slopes.
7. Improves Your Physical and Mental Health
Hiking is not a walk in the park. You may require intense training to hike any mountain. The variations in terrain, gradients, and rock structure can cause you lasting damage if you are not well prepared.
Once you have chosen a mountain and done your due diligence, you will learn the distance you need to cover per day based on your hiking plan. Training should build your capacity to cover the more miles than the daily recommendations before you attempt the hike. Your training should also improve your lung capacity. It may also be necessary to change your diet or take nutritional supplements to boost your immunity.
In addition to rekindling your goals and positivity, hiking also has positive therapeutic effects. When your energy is focused on the hike, your mind can get to relax. The mountain shifts your attention from worry and anxious thoughts. Also, the clean mountain air combined with compelling views can reduce your tensions and help you to relax. Reaching the summit of a mountain has amazing stress-relieving benefits that are more easily experienced than explained.
8. Meet New People
According to Warren Buffet, “If you want to soar like an eagle in life, you can’t be flocking with the turkeys”. The 2019 Forbes list has Warren Buffet in the fourth position. By my count, this means he knows what he is talking about.
Hiking is not for the faint-hearted. Many novices may hike a mountain once in their lifetime. However, seasoned hikers are constantly working towards hiking another hike. They may not always reach the summit but they keep trying. Hiking needs commitment, resilience, and tenacity.
When you begin hiking you begin making friends with a new breed of people. They are full of life, positive, and motivated. Enthusiasm, whether high or low, is contagious. If you spend time with discouraged people you become low. However, if you spend time with hikers, you can learn to soar like an eagle.
9. Overcome Your Fears
Hiking can be dangerous. The best word to describe hiking is ‘Terrific’. It is so terrible that it is great. Hiking creates the perfect blend of terror and adventure, a cocktail of fear and faith.
When you hike a mountain, you will most probably come face to face with some of your fears. This is because you are attempting a dangerous feat voluntarily. As you push forward and overcome the challenge, you discover new things about yourself. You learn what your fear looks like and become acquainted with your weaknesses.
Most people go through life fearful of their fears and never quite understand them. When you know your fears and can overcome them, it builds your self-confidence and character.
10. It Is a Welcome Challenge
George Mallory was part of Britain’s first three expeditions to reach the summit of Mount Everest in the 1920s. Back then, it took a lot of courage to be a mountaineer, more so attempt to reach the highest peak in the world. The pioneers had to map out new unchartered routes. Also, they did not have the type of reliable equipment we use today. However, when Mallory was asked why he dedicated his life to climbing mountains and his famous answer was ‘Because they are there’.
George Mallory’s words echo in the hearts of most mountaineers. Challenges exist to be conquered. While many people shy away from the challenges of life, mountain climbing teaches you to chase them down. You cannot become a high achiever in life passively.
Mountains stand strong, solid and unchanging. Hiking forces you to change and grow and improve to overcome your challenges.
11. Because You Want To
The list of reasons to hike is endless. However, the mother of all reasons is your desire. Personal desire is the main ingredient that sets hikers apart. If you have a strong desire to climb, no obstacle or reason can deter your resolve. Yet if your desire is weak, you may give up during training.
Your primary reason to climb should come from within. In your heart and soul, you desire to stand on top of the world. Your desire to reach the top keeps you going no matter how many attempts you need to make.
Hiking is a challenging activity that needs you to be prepared both psychologically and physically. Your body and mind need to be healthy enough to deal with the ups and downs of the climb.
There are many more reasons and benefits of hiking however, you should personalize them. As you go through our list, find and develop your own reasons to climb mountains. Your list of reasons will remind you why you started the hiking journey and renew your strength in the difficult times.