Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Why I Climb

I've never liked the conventional reason people give when they are asked why they climb mountains, "Because they are there." That's not the reason I climb, I climb because it makes everything afterwards seem easy in comparison.

Mountain climbing, to me, is the ultimate test of mental and physical strength. There was a point during our summit of Kilimanjaro where all three of us had the same thought, independent of one another, which we discussed afterwards. The singular thought when we were on the verge of breaking, "I'm never doing something like this again."

The irony was I had this exact same thought while climbing Mount Rainier in 2004. It was on the icefield above Disappointment Cleaver where I swore, swore to myself that I would never be so foolish as to attempt something like this again. That moment, so vivid when I climbed Rainier, was only revealed to me again while I was busy summitting Kilimanjaro.

In the days leading up to our final ascent of Kilimanjaro, Andy, Tom, and I would sometimes discuss other big mountains we planned to climb. I had fantasies of climbing Mt Elbrus in Russia, another one of the seven summits, while Andy and Tom were interested in tackling the mountains of Pakistan. We had our eyes on other mountains before we even finished the one we were on.

These planning talks ended abruptly after summit day. Getting up at midnight and hiking for ten hours straight while battling altitude sickness on two hours of sleep will do that. I was stumbling around like a drunk at the end.

The more time passes, the more you forget the pain and hardship and are left only with the glory. That was the reason I was so stupid to summit Kilimanjaro after knowing full well the pain.

When we were flying back, Andy said to me "I think this might be my last big adventure" and I agreed, it was probably mine too. But I know myself well enough to know that it probably wasn't, it's just going to take some time. The memories of pain and fear fade but travelling to Africa and climbing Kilimanjaro are things I will never forget.


At 12:18 AM GMT-5, Anonymous ( said...

Kristine tried to get a hold of Emily and checked out your website for fun. I was impressed to read about your climbing adventure. I know exactly what you are talking about feeling the pain of the moment, and how as more time passes you forget the pain and only remember the rush and adventure you had. The next thing you know, a few years later, you're ready to come back for more! Kristine and I are hoping to do Mt Rainier this summer since we've been held back a few years with our two boys. take care,

At 1:08 PM GMT-5, Anonymous sandra said...

My god -- go you! I felt really good about climbing a giant hill yesterday...

At 8:23 PM GMT-5, Anonymous Dave Greten said...

Mark - Good to hear from you! You still have one up on me - Mt Shasta, a mountain I swore I'd climb when I lived in CA.

Sandra - Thank you! Climbing giant hills is how I got my start :-)

At 5:58 PM GMT-5, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn't we climb Mt. Washington once with shorts, flip flops, and a half bag of doritos? - Todd N.

At 12:42 PM GMT-5, Anonymous Dave Greten said...

Todd, yes (how could I forget??) and we didn't bring any water. Inadequate salty chips and no water, good times.

At 8:13 PM GMT-5, Anonymous Andrea Wolfe said...

I have created a website for Kilimanjaro advice. I added my trip report at:

Would you be interested in sharing your story? If so, please contact me by email:


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