Monday, March 18, 2013

Why climb?

 It's all about taking something that is scary, possibly risky, physically demanding, or seemingly impossible and breaking it down into manageable chunks. During the processes of climbing your body is coursing with adrenaline, dopamine and maybe some serotonin followed by a large dump of dopamine once you have gotten to the top which makes you feel alive and high. Is this enough reason to climb? Maybe not, similar reward pathways can be attainted else where. In some ways it's like any challenge, it's about attaining a goal that at first you found daunting and once you over come the challenge you feel like you have bettered yourself, you have conquered something, you have more sex appeal, more social appeal and it boosts the ego. However with climbing there is something more, something primal, something more animalistic.

Climbing speaks deeply to the remnants of our evolutionary roots. It lights up all those instinctive neural pathways that our ancestors used in pursuits of fight, flight and daily locomotion  It's even more primal than arguably the purist sport/activity, fighting. Take any baby that can stand on two legs and put them next to something that can be climbed, there is a great likelihood that they will without any instruction whatsoever climb. People speak as if fighting is the most raw sport or form of athleticism, which I can see their point but I don't see any infants laying out each other, that comes a bit later in life.

 I also reserve to call climbing a sport. I view climbing as both an activity and a fundamental movement skill much like walking, running, swimming or throwing and it's only a sport through the comparison of specific skills and arbitrary rules. Even running, swimming and throwing tend to be skills that are actually taught once more motor skills have been developed and you can't exactly get too much of a thrill from walking can you?

...maybe you can?

The irony is that climbing is somewhat of a fringe activity. It's an intuitive human skill and activity that's suppressed in fear of danger and is completely neglected by societies interest as being something worthwhile, unless the name Everest is thrown into the mix, which is a whole other story.

I feel like I know why I climb, which can be summed up with cliché explanations of feeling of self awareness, one with the moment, fulfillment and so on, but these explanations don't offer proper justification to the subjective experience. I feel like it's a deeper experience and process that outside the realm of words. It's like trying to explain what red is to someone who is blind.

 Maybe that's why people find George Mallory's famous explanation to climb Everest lame and cheesy"because it's there". Climbing just is a naturally rewarding activity for reasons of which we cannot accurately put words to and when we do it sounds cheesy, but we know it feels exciting and intriguing and therefore we do it. Regardless of how I try to break climbing apart philosophically it won't really do it justice, so go climb something you will know what George and I are talking about.

If a lion could speak, we could not understand him- Ludwig Wittgenstein

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