Why Do We Climb Mountains

John Mattson climbing the Totem Pole in Monument Valley

My wife and I recently met an Argentine psychiatrist on the top of a small mountain in Patagonia, and I couldn’t resist the age-old question, “Why do people climb mountains?”

He told us jokingly that we were both very crazy, and that we should come to his office as soon as possible.

“Because they are there,” or “If you have to ask the question, you won’t understand the answer,” are the most common stock responses I’ve heard, but the true reason is much more difficult to define.

The Rest of the Story:  http://danceonedge.com/?page_id=12

The Totem Pole:  http://danceonedge.com/?page_id=30

The Devils Tower and the Grand Teton


West face of the Devils Tower in Wyoming.

The trail wandered through a pristine forest and soon reached the magical high alpine zone that I was learning to love. The rock was a lot more stable then The Deadly Bells, and I quickly scrambled up to The Belly Crawl Ledge. This was mentioned as one of the cruxes in the guidebook, so I studied the route carefully before starting the traverse.  Crossing the ledge was easy, but it was a bit icy and very exposed, and the weather was deteriorating rapidly, so I moved cautiously.  A sudden squall of icy rain slammed the mountain as I looked over the edge at the infamous North Face. But the squall passed as quickly as it had arrived, and I continued on the safe ledge to the double chimneys. This crux had a rating of 5.4, which means that a rope and technical gear were recommended, but a confident climber would find it easy.  I stopped for a brief rest and studied the route very carefully.  If I slipped here as I had on the Devil’s Tower, I would probably die or be severely injured, so mistakes were not an option.  The route looked fairly reasonable and the weather was clearing, so I took three deep breaths and headed upwards.

The first moves were a bit scary, but they felt good and I started to relax and truly enjoy the high-altitude experience. There was a secure place to rest about half way up the chimney, so I stopped to take a breath and survey the fabulous mountain scenery.

“Wow!” was about all I could think, as I looked down at the Middle Teton and off toward the plains of Idaho.  If there is a stairway to heaven, it is in the mountains, and I felt like I had found it.

After a brief rest I looked upward. The path looked easy, so I carefully followed it and arrived at the summit just in time for another squall, which dropped a bit of sleet and headed on its way.  After a quick lunch, I found the rappel anchors and started to head down.       Table of Contents   http://danceonedge.com/?page_id=22