When I was kid, every summer, my Dad would take my sister and I to the Lake District in the UK. For those that have never heard of it before, the Lake District is one of the most beautiful places in the UK.
We would spend most of a day driving to the Lakes from London, meet my cousins there, and then we would go hiking in the mountains every day for a week or so.
When I go a bit older, in my late teens / early 20s, I would go with my Dad and one of his friends to the Alps each year, where we would climb slightly more challenging mountains.
I always loved being up in the mountains. There was just something about it.
A few days ago, I started to wonder, just what was it about the mountains that makes them so special?
After a few minutes of introspection, I came up with the following list:
7 Reasons I Love Being in the Mountains
1) The Mountains Are Peaceful
Modern life is so busy, especially if you are in a city. There are 1000s of people everywhere doing everything, all the time.
The streets are often dirty, people can be rude, or in a rush. Things are beeping and there are lights all over the streets.
But the mountains… the mountains are peaceful.
Giant slabs of rock, that have stood since the dawn of time, towering over the landscape.
And sometimes, a few people go up them.
The mountains are peaceful, serene and calm.
2) Fresh Air
A downside of living in a modern city, is that the quality of the air is not great.
The quality of the air in the mountains is amazing.
The air is crisp, clean and cool. You can almost taste how fresh the air is.
3) The Challenge
Going up into the mountains for a few days of hiking is challenging. It’s not easy.
You get tired… but you keep going.
You get lost… but you figure it out and keep going.
Bad weather moves in… but you’re prepared, put on your coat, and keep going.
You have to plan your route out, plan your provisions out and prepare for the possibility of bad weather.
If you fail to plan any of those three simple things, there is a chance of death or serious injury.
It’s a challenge. And challenges are what makes life exciting.
Overcoming challenges, pushing ourselves a little bit further, that’s one of the things that makes being human *fun*.
When you are up in the mountains, you have to disconnect.
Well, given the ubiquitous of mobile phone networks, you might have to goto some pretty remote mountains in order to be truly inaccessible, but, going into the mountains is as good a reason as any to turn off your phone data and network connection.
I’d keep my phone, but as a camera.
We are constantly being bombarded by notifications and phone calls. Some of my favourite ways to remain unstressed and productive are to:
- Turn off email notifications. I choose when I will read my new emails. I also set my email program to not download new email automatically, but only when I tell it to.
- Set my phone to flight mode while I am working. In fact, sometimes I take it off flight mode for 2 hours a day.
- Turn off push notifications from all apps. What I am working on is important, my time is important, the notification from Facebook is not.
- Having a change of scenery is the fastest and easiest way to create a change in behaviour.
Going hiking in the mountains for a few days will give you plenty of time to disconnect.
5) Time to Think
Now that you are in the mountains and disconnected from the internet and all your data devices, you’ll find you have more time to think.
A lot of the time, we are so busy, that we rarely ever sit down to think… about anything.
We often worry… but that is not the same as pro-active thinking.
An important exercise that our brain needs, that is not optional, is time for self reflection.
And when you are in the mountains, you have plenty of time for self reflection.
Whether you want to figure out a career move, a relationship, or just some self reflection on the progress you have made, the mountains are a great place to get a serious amount of thinking done.
6) Time to Walk
We have two legs.
We don’t use them as much as we should.
We are built to walk.
I remember reading a sci-fi book when I was a teenager. The protagonist had flown to another planet to investigate a satellite reading, had landed on the planet, and found themselves further than they wanted from the target.
For some reason or other, they could not simply hop in their ship and fly there (fuel limitations or something).
And the book had the following line (I paraphrase):
She looked at the ridge on the horizon. “That must be nearly 8 hours walk away” she thought to herself. “Well, I’m human, I’m built for walking”, so that is what she did.
In our modern life, we spend an enormous amount of time sitting. Which isn’t bad of itself, because as humans become more advanced, our work becomes more conceptual.
But, our bodies need physical exercise, and the best light exercise we can do, is to walk.
It has all sorts of physical and mental health benefits.
And if you are in the mountains, you are walking every day, for several hours a day.
It feels good.
You’ll feel more mental clarity, focus, and peace of mind.
7) The Views
Where else can you enjoy seeing this?
Bonus: Preparing to go Into the Mountains
Mountaineering can be dangerous, so you have to be prepared for it. Like anything, don’t bite off more than you can chew at once.
You can often find gradings for routes. If you have not been to the mountains before, choose an easier route to get started.
People can, and do, die in the mountains from not being prepared.
That being said, being prepared isn’t too difficult.
Make sure you have enough water.
Make sure you take food. Take some emergency rations, like a few snickers bars.
Take a good raincoat with you. The weather in the mountains can change, and change *fast*. Depending on wear you are, consider taking over trousers. If you don’t have a coat and get caught in the rain, you will get very cold, very quickly, and you might not last very long.
Have some decent boots. Trainers will not cut it.
Learn how to use a compass and read a map. I mean a real compass, not the one on your phone. Modern popular routes on some mountains can be well marked, but you can still get lost easily – especially if it becomes foggy.
Prepare your route the day before.
Check the weather. If the forecast is bad, maybe take the day off.
If it’s hot, take sunglasses and a hat. The sun can be very bright, and sunglasses will help protect your eyes. If you are high up, you will be exposed to more UV than at ‘ground level’, which damages your eyes and skin. Take sun cream.
If you are new to mountaineering, go in the summer. Going in winter, and dealing with ice and snow takes a special set of skills that you should be trained in.
Bonus 2: Mountaineering on the Cheap
You can get nearly anywhere in the UK using MegaBus, which is a super cheap city to city bus service.
Check out the YHA website. YHA stands for “Youth Hostelling Association”. They have buildings in all sorts of remote places that you can stay over night in. They are usually pretty cheap.
Some places are “self catering”, which is where you prepare you own food. Some offer meals.
If you are self catering, you can eat cheap. You can throw together a few tins and create a meal.
You can stay in dormitory rooms, which are pretty cheap. This is where you stay in a room with other people.
The cost of decent boots and raincoats have come down a lot in the last few years. You can probably find everything you need at Sports Direct.
Be prepared, and have an adventure