When Did Climbing Get So Serious?

A repost from a very prolific writer / mountaineer, Sir Kevin Jason Manuel, written last March 17, 2015

photo by Kevin Jason Manuel
photo by Kevin Jason Manuel

When did climbing mountains get so serious?

That’s the question in my head last weekend as I was making my way up Tarak Ridge. Color me crazy, but I feel that it’s gotten a bit out of hand. These days, it kind of seems that everyone wants to be the toughest mountaineer.

Everywhere I turn, there’s someone talking about all the mountains they’ve climbed, how fast they were taking the toughest trail, how awesome their gear is, how hard-core they are. I must have missed the memo because I did not know that climbing mountains has become a competition. In essence, climbing mountains is (and always will be) a leisure activity, an act for no other purpose but one’s own enjoyment. So for the life of me, I cannot understand why so many want to compare themselves against others, why so many seek to gain dominance and superiority. Did a Talomo-Apo megatraverse in 3, nay, 2 days? I applaud you. Did a cross-country basagan ng tuhod? Bravo. Scaled every single mountain in the country? Eto, bigyan kita ng medalya.

Why do so many people treat mountain-climbing like a checklist? Why do so many climb merely for the recognition, complete with a gopro forever aimed at themselves to capture the glory?
Because mountaineering has become mainstream. Yep, it’s undeniable. Ever since social media has enabled us to post photos about our achievements, it’s all we’ve been concerned about. people naturally do not want to be left out; people want to take part in the awesomeness as well. Understandable. it’s human nature. And as always, we always want more. So we climb more. We post more. We get more likes. We feel better about ourselves. All the likes and admiration validate our strenuous efforts. Pretty soon, we climb only for the sake of Facebook and social media: to be able to post how great our lives are compared to others. I would find it funny, if it weren’t so pathetic.

New mountain to climb? New blog featuring an awesome new destination? All we’ve ever become concerned about now are hypes: trends. Ayaw nating mapag-iwanan. Because unfortunately, mountaineers are weighed by how many mountains they’ve climbed. [realize that Sicapoo is more than the penguin. Pico is more than the monolith. Maculot is more than the Rockies. Makiling is more than the Haring Bato. Pulag is more than just a sea of clouds. It’s never the destination; it’s the journey.]

We have degraded mountaineering into a culture of bragging. We are in a never-ending cycle of pagalingan where we try to best another. more mountains. faster times. more hard-core. for what purpose? For fame, for recognition, for the photos, for the whole world to see how awesome we are, for the bragging rights. So what if you’ve scaled a hundred mountains in a matter of months? What did you learn from it? Did it make you a better person? [whothehellcares]

You should never climb to prove yourself to other people. Climb to prove yourself to yourself. And let that be enough. Climb for yourself. Climb to see the world. Stop acting like a damned tourist, always needing the affirmation of other people. Climb for the joy of hiking.


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