Mountaineering is hard. I can’t think of any other sport where people put in so much training time and invest so much money — all for a summit which is far from guaranteed. So how do you stay motivated to keep moving toward your goal? Today I’m going to share my No. 1 mindset hack that will supercharge your mountaineering training motivation.
It’s my number one piece of advice for everyone who comes into my mountaineering and backpacking training Facebook Group.
And it’s something I struggle to remind myself!
Here it is, in three words:
Love the journey.
Sound a little like rainbows and unicorn farts? Hear me out on this one.
In mountaineering, the main event is never guaranteed.
On every single trip, we were climbing 3–4 mountains, and I failed to summit at least one. Sometimes it was due to lighting or cold or the snow pack or icy conditions. And at least once, my body just was not feeling it that day.
After I turned around on Orizaba, I was hanging out in the hut waiting for the rest of the team to come back. Another climber who had turned around came in, and she was really devastated. She kept saying, “This is the first time I’ve gone for a summit and didn’t make it!”
My first thought was, “Girl, then you haven’t been doing this very long.”
It can all get pretty emotional. But here’s another truth:
Failure is inevitable, but disappointment is not.
It’s possible to spend a ton of time training, blow thousands on gear and travel, miss the summit — and still have an awesome, life-enriching experience.
In fact, until I started writing this blog post, I totally forgot that I’d missed a summit on all three of those trips. Yeah, I was bummed in the moment — especially about Orizaba, because that was the one where I just tired out. But mostly the memories are amazing.
Here’s another thing to remember. Sometimes we think that getting to a summit is going to make us feel really great about ourselves. Or that it’s going to prove something to the world.
And maybe for a minute, it does. But the victory is surprisingly fleeting. In fact, you’ll be shocked at how unimpressed most people are. They’ll be like, “You climbed a mountain! That’s awesome. Hey, did you see the Broncos game this week?”
At the end of the day, how you feel about yourself as a mountaineer and a human being isn’t up to the mountain, it’s up to you.
So how do you enjoy the journey knowing that you might never get to the summit?
Here are some things to enjoy and celebrate along the way during your mountaineering training.
Health and fitness.
It’s really hard to train for mountaineering without seeing some health benefits! Whether or not you stand on the summit, you will almost certainly be leaner, faster, stronger, and more resistant to chronic disease than you were when you started.
Training every day for months on end to reach a big goal takes incredible mental strength.
There are probably things you’d rather do than get up at 2 a.m. to climb a couloir or haul a sled through the snow. But if you made it all the way to the mountain, you were able to delay gratification over and over to focus on a bigger goal.
And if you can do that, you have the mental skills to reach just about any life goal. So get out there and start the business, get the guy/girl, write the book, etc.
It’s one thing to take a day hike with someone. But training together for months and then attempting this huge, lofty goal really takes your relationships to a whole new level. Your mountaineering friends will probably see you elated, devastated, exhausted, and possibly pooping. Talk about breaking down barriers.
A chance to see the world.
Ecuador was probably our least successful mountaineering trip. Of the three mountains we had planned, we summited only one.
But how cool was it to hang out in South America on the equator, looking at all these snowcapped peaks and jungles? Pretty freakin’ cool. (I actually seriously want to move to Ecuador now. Stay tuned.)
So as you can see, mountaineering actually brings a lot to your life. And a lot of these things last longer than standing on some summit and taking a selfie.
One more thought: if you can’t enjoy the journey, don’t sign up.
This is not a sign of weakness. Sometimes it’s just about being honest with yourself.
Because if you can’t enjoy the journey right now, you’re going to miserable through all those months of training.
I had a chance to climb Denali this year, and I turned it down because I just wasn’t in a place where I felt excited about training for another mountain. I was more excited about writing a book, growing a business, remodeling my condo, and hanging out with friends.
It was a hard decision, but I’m happy now that it’s made. And the mountain is always there if I feel differently next year.
So are you stoked for the journey and ready to start your mountianeering training?
If so, check out my 21-week Mt. Rainier Training Plan. This science-based program walks you day by day through four months of strength, cardio, and hiking workouts. Take the guesswork out of training so you can focus on the rest of life.
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So there you have it. My No. 1 mindset hack to help you love your mountaineering training and life.
And if you want a great place to celebrate the journey, definitely hop into my Facebook group and post your training pics!
Originally published Feb. 15, 2019.