Posted on May 14 2018
By Mitch Clark
Mt. Rainier 14,411ft elev.
For anyone that has climbed a mountain, they will, without fail, have someone ask them why they do it. This isn’t always the easiest question to answer, and the response doesn’t always satisfy the person asking the question. There is not a right answer to that question, and the response will vary between people.
For me, the answer isn’t so much in the act of getting on top of a mountain. There usually isn’t much up there anyway. Maybe a marker left by a geological service, a view and maybe some solitude. No, the reason I do it is for the journey, and what I learn about myself in that process.
For some climbs this process is only a matter of hours. For other climbs, the process can be longer; months of long hours of training, and sacrificed time to attempt to get on top of a big rock. It sounds stupid when you distill the objective into something as simple as just trying to stand on something tall. This is the reason that the person asking you why you climb a mountain is looking for some sort of deep philosophical answer to their question.
In this article, I’ll do my best to give the closest thing that I’ve been able to figure out why I pursue the peaks of mountains.
Recently, Matt Winslow (your friendly e-commerce specialist at Readyman) and I had the opportunity to train for and take a shot at climbing Mount Rainier, a 14,411 foot volcano in the Cascade Range. Over ten thousand people attempt to climb the mountain each year via different routes. Of the ten thousand, about half are successful in reaching the summit. Matt and I chose a route that is far less traveled than the boot packed Emmons Glacier or DC routes. We chose to climb what has been labeled by many veteran alpinists as “one of the 50 classic climbs of North America.” The route is known as Liberty Ridge. It is a far more technical route, and sees significantly less people making an attempt on it.
Matt and I spent 3 months following a training plan just to prepare for the physicality of a climb like this. A lot of our work out consisted of long, weighted pack hikes up mountains, but we also spent a few hours in the gym each week doing strength training. At the core of our strength training was, well, the core. All of our workouts involved engaging our core in some manner, be it deadlifts, a carry series or squats.
We put all of this time into ourselves so that we could feel confident when it was time to put boot to trail, and begin our ascent of Liberty Ridge. All said and done, we spent 56 hours on the mountain. In that time, we pushed ourselves in so many ways. We overcame physical dangers like crevasses and rock fall, as well as the psychological obstacles that the terrain created for us in our minds. In the end, we learned more about ourselves, how far we can really go, and how to conquer a goal that requires some serious dedication. We learned what we were capable of in this journey. That is the answer that I like to give people when they ask why I climb. I learn what I truly am capable of.
Whether we made it to the top of the mountain, or left whimpering with our tails between our legs is up for you to find out. You can watch our mini-documentary of our climb below: