The Psychology of Climbing a Mountain Part Two


In Part Two of her article, Kim Keegan discusses the detachment, discomfort and humour that was required as part of a 14-member group that set out on a 30-day trip into the Himalayas included an attempt to summit Mera Peak (6,476m), a cross over the Amphu Labtsa pass (5,780m), and the final summit of Island Peak (6,189m). These ideas are very much applicable to all aspects of endurance sport and may be applied to your own performance-related goals. 

1)   Allow yourself to be vulnerable.It was taken for granted that on a trip of this nature each of us would face daily personal battles however we did not predict how differently these would manifest in each of us. While some doubted their fitness, others struggled with the distance from loved ones. Physical strength, motivation and resilience will naturally ebb and flow. Personally, I learnt that in the times you need help - take it. Similarly, if someone needs your support - help them. 

2)   Detach (somewhat) from home.For the first three weeks, team members were focused on the task at hand. However, there came a time for each of us when we seemed to allow our thoughts to become preoccupied with the family, home comforts, work or troubles we had left behind. This shift was clear to see, it was as though people had physically turned around in their mind and started their journey towards home. Try to ensure this happens at the moment of your choice. Before this point allow home comforts - music, pictures, family – to provide enough meaning to carry on but not too much to change your mind!

3)   Accept discomfort.To resist something will only give it more power to eat away at you. This may be physical fatigue, a frustrating team mate, or an indefinite wait. Our daily personal limits fluctuated depending on a range of different factors. However, it seemed that those amongst us who expected a certain level of discomfort could more effectively embrace it when it occurred.  

4)   Find humour and capitalise on it.One thing this experience showed me is that suffering and happiness can occur in close proximity to one another and may even rely on one another. The extent of the oppressive bitter cold could be fully appreciated with the contrast of the warm dancing sunlight. In a situation where risk and hardship were dominant it helped to compliment the serious with the silly. 

5)   Be willing to learn.It is through testing ourselves that we can learn to fully know and trust ourselves. However, with every test comes the risk of defeat. Perceived failure can bring up difficult emotions and reactions in all of us. The month was a rare opportunity for each of us to dedicate a significant amount of time to look towards ourselves and ask important questions. Don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself about the things you find challenging. Exposing yourself to failure is an admirable endeavour and one that can grant you access to untapped potential. 

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