Why We Do It
Page Type Page Type: Album
Additional Information Image Type(s): Rock Climbing, Ice Climbing, Alpine Climbing, Bouldering, Aid Climbing, Hiking, Skiing, Wildlife, Flora, Scenery, Panorama, Humor

Table of Contents

     Why Is It You Do What You Do?
         An introduction to this album.
     Why They Did It
         Some notable quotes about why "they" did it.
     Other Expressions of Why You Do It
         Trip Reports, special articles about why you do it.
         Images that best illustrate why you do it.
         Additional comments that further explain why you do it.

Why Is It You Do What You Do?

Why is it that you climb the rocks, hike the miles, summit the mountains? What is it that causes you to venture out into the wild places of this planet? Why is it that you put up with ominous weather, lousy food, blisters on your feet, mosquitos the size of small birds, and a partner who hasn't showered since last week?

Is there one image, quote or other memory that best expresses the story of why you do it? The purpose of this album is to serve as a repository for those thoughts from each SP member. Please feel free to attach your image (or collage, if one won't do!), or add a comment that will help visitors to better understand just why it is that you do what you do!

Why They Did It (Notable Quotes)

An old, now gone missing, forum thread called "Climbing/Mountaineering Quotes" included some beautiful expressions of why people climb mountains. Below is a sampling of this rich treasure (listed in the order they appeared and with the first person to post that quote acknowledged as the contributor):

"Hours slide by like minutes. The accumulated clutter of day-to-day existence – the lapses of conscience, the unpaid bills, the bungled opportunities, the dust under the couch, the inescapable prison of your genes – all of it is temporarily forgotten, crowded from your thoughts by an overpowering clarity of purpose by the seriousness of the task at hand." --Jon Krakauer (contributed by Haliku)

"The mountains are calling and I must go." --John Muir (contributed by Mark Doiron)

"The mountaineer returns to the hills because he remembers always that he has forgotten so much." --Geoffrey Winthrop Young (contributed by Mark Doiron)

"Although civilization is a nice place to visit, I wouldn't want to live there ..." --Tobasco Donkeys, "I Don't Mind" Lyric (contributed by jomal)

"Nobody climbs mountains for scientific reasons. Science is used to raise money for the expeditions, but you really climb for the hell of it." --Sir Edmund Hillary (contributed by Mountain Girl BC)

"You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Because what is below does not know what is above, but what is above knows what is below. One climbs, one sees. one descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know." --Rene Daumal (contributed by supermarmot)

"Eventually, I sickened of people, myself included, who don't think enough of themselves to make something of themselves--people who did only what they had to and never what they could have done. I learned from them the infected loneliness that comes at the end of every misspent day. I knew I could do better." --Mark Twight (contributed by GravityPilot)

"Better to be in the mountains thinking about God, than to be in church thinking about the mountains!" --Ace Kvale (contributed by Hulio)

"Men go back to the mountains, as they go back to sailing ships at sea, because in the mountains and on the sea they must face up, as did men of another age, to the challenge of nature. Modern man lives in a highly synthetic kind of existence. He specializes in this and that. Rarely does he test all his powers or find himself whole. But in the hills and on the water the character of a man comes out." --Abram T. Collier (contributed by SJD)

"I have not tired of the wilderness; rather I enjoy its beauty and the vagrant life I lead, more keenly all the time. I prefer the saddle to the streetcar, and star-sprinkled sky to a roof, the obscure and difficult trail to any paved highway, and the deep peace of the wild to the discontent bred by cities." --Everett Ruess (contributed by mtnpainter)

Here are some other notable quotes that have been submitted to this album:

"To those who have struggled with them, the mountains reveal beauties that they will not disclose to those who make no effort. That is the reward the mountains give to effort. And it is because they have so much to give and give it so lavishly to those who will wrestle with them that men love the mountains and go back to them again and again. The mountains reserve their choice gifts for those who stand upon their summits." --Sir Francis Younghusband (contributed by gimpilator)

"If the conquest of a great peak brings moments of exultation and bliss, which in the monotonous, materialistic existence of modern times nothing else can approach, it also presents great dangers. It is not the goal of "grand alpinisme" to face peril, but it is one of the tests one must undergo to deserve the joy of rising for an instant above the state of crawling grubs." --Lionel Terray (contributed by gimpilator)

"Climbing mattered. The danger bathed the world in a halogen glow that caused everything - the sweep of the rock, the orange and yellow lichens, the texture of the clouds - to stand out in brilliant relief. Life thrummed at a higher pitch. The world was made real." --Jon Krakauer (contributed by gimpilator)

"Because it is there." --George Herbert Leigh Mallory (contributed by Dalton1)

Other Expressions of Why You Do It

Do you have a trip report (or something else) that describes why you do it? Let me know and I'll provide a link here.

Alan Arnette's Article: Why I Climb
     With over 300,000 vertical feet, 90,000 on Everest expeditions alone, Alan attempts to tell why he does it.

Pablo's TR: Mont Blanc – Our Dream Becomes True
     Showtime has arrived for the “Blanco” brothers; their rendezvouz to climb this mythical mountain has come.

BSihler's Article: Ephiphanies and Revelations
     BSihler explains his awakening to why he goes to the mountains.

Surrealsummit.com's TR: The Waianae Mountains
     Surrealsummit.com describes his first climbing experience.

The Chief's Article: "Driven"!
     The Chief explains how, upon first sighting the Eiger in 1968 at the age of nine, he has been driven ever since to climb.

Alpinedon's Article: What Climbing Means to Me
     Alpinedon explains how climbing led him from a life of continual failure to a new focus and drive, and an unwillingness to quit.

Schmidt_th's Article: Why I Have to Go to the Mountains – A Declaration of Love!
     Schmidt_th explains how being in the mountains makes him happy, and gives him inner peace and unbelievable satisfaction.

Nattfodd's Video: Why Do We Climb?
     With great music and outstanding photography, Nattfodd illustrates the draw of the mountains.


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-20 of 37
Mark Doiron

Mark Doiron - Apr 27, 2006 3:55 pm - Hasn't voted

Why I Do It

There are three reasons I enjoy being in the wild places and my image (Who Needs a Five Star Hotel?) includes elements of all:

1. First and foremost, I get to spend quality time with my son. He's just turned 16 and is growing far too rapidly to suit me. But such is life. I hear parents complain that their kids never talk to them. That's hardly a problem between Curtis and I. He's always eager to discuss our next venture, a scientific challenge, or some political question (what a mix!). And I attibute a lot of that to the time we spend together, especially our traditional 3-4 week extended camping trip each summer. So, first and foremost I do it because if him.

2. Secondly, I love the night sky. I live on the eastern edge of Oklahoma City, so I have okay skies when looking to the east. But, as an amateur astronomer, I love the inky black night skies that only the most wild of places provide. Looking up at a moonless night sky and seeing the dark rift in the Milky Way is only possible from such places. And seeing this makes me realize that a T-shirt I bought last year near Big Bend National Park is right on: "Out here you're nothing. Perfect!".

3. I'm an avid amateur photographer. I enjoy shooting images of my very active Scouting life. But far and away my favorite shooting is that of nature's majesty. Creatively capturing it should be every photographer's goal. I appreciate the challenge that presents, especially when others comment positively--They got what I felt!



ksolem - Apr 28, 2006 3:30 pm - Hasn't voted

Why do I ...

...climb the rocks..

Every time I go climbing I am looking for a certain experience, a breakthrough of sorts, which I do not always find. It is a transcendental experience where you are entirely in the moment - almost like being on the outside looking in. The picture I have attached is taken just as I finish the crux of a route called Smiladon, at Courtright Reservoir in California. To climb this crux I had to be completely "in the zone," this is where I find the reward. Over and over again I drive many miles to special places and take serious risks in the pursuit of this rare experience.

...hike the miles..

Being out in the beautiful terrain is a reward in itself. The physical work enhances the whole experience.

...summit the mountains..

I have limited experience with summits, climbing mostly in my local Sierra Nevada mountains. I will say though that every summit I have achieved has been a unique and special experience. You can start up the mountain thinking you know what it will be like, but then the climb begins and everything changes.

Climbing is an individual thing but it's also about teamwork, and sharing these experiences with other like minded people is a big part of the fun.


hansw - Apr 28, 2006 6:19 pm - Voted 10/10

Why he did it...

More then ten years ago I asked chris@bonington.com why he did it. Within two minutes he answered:

”For the sheer joy and fun of it! The physical process. The thrill of playing a risk game. The joy of exploration. The beauty of the mountains. Friendship. A bit of competition - kept in balance”


MountaingirlBC - Apr 29, 2006 2:38 am - Hasn't voted

Why I do it

"One reason is never given openly, rather is disguised and hidden and never even allowed in suggestion, and I venture to think it is because it is really the inmost moving impluse in all true mountain-lovers, a feeling so deep and so pure and so personal as to be almost sacred, too intimate for ordinary mention. That is, the ideal joy that only mountains give - the unreasoned, uncovetous, unwordly love of them we know not why, we care not why, only becasues they are what they are; because they move us in some way which nothing else does... and we feel a world that can give us such rapture must be a good world, a life capeable of such feeling must be worth the living." ~ F.W. Bourdillon

When I'm in the alpine I feel confident, courageous, peaceful and joyful. I like who I am up there. It fills my soul. Climbing is the only way I can get my head to stfu and the peace and quiet is nice.


peninsula - May 4, 2006 1:41 pm - Hasn't voted

Why I do it...

I do it because there is no other place I would rather be. It is as close as I come to a spiritual experience. Half the fun is planning the trip. Half is doing it. And you get a bonus half with all the memories. I can hardly wait until August.

Mark Doiron

Mark Doiron - May 4, 2006 9:35 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Why I do it...

Peninsula--I've got your user profile image atch'd. Please check to make sure it's the right one! :-)


mark d.


Luciano136 - May 5, 2006 4:31 am - Hasn't voted


My comment goes with the 'sunset in the San Gabriels' pic...

Why? Every week I wonder if I can obtain the same emotional high by going on a trip again. Right when I start out, I think: naah, probably not this time... until I reach the summit or get an awesome view and feel alive again!
The small things can do it; a crisp day, the sunrise, birds, a cloud flying over, an adrenaline rush on exposed ridge, etc. Almost every time something amazes me. Not too long ago I was coming around the corner and was treated to a nice sunset... (see pic)

Romuald Kosina

Romuald Kosina - May 8, 2006 5:24 pm - Voted 10/10


Nature is for me like a crystal! The mountains are one of the best images of the Nature! This is an answer.
Thank you very much, Mark, for this album!!!!!!!!!!!

Mark Doiron

Mark Doiron - May 8, 2006 10:49 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Why???

Thank you, Romuald! Please feel free to add an image that explains why, too! :-)

mark d.

Alan Arnette

Alan Arnette - Aug 30, 2006 4:38 pm - Voted 10/10

Why I Climb


I have an essay on this at http://www.summitpost.org/article/219717/Why-I-Climb.html that tries to explain my reasons but most easy questions have hard answers. And that is what I love about mountaineering - there is no "right or wrong" it is just there for all of us to enjoy!
Climb On!!

Mark Doiron

Mark Doiron - Aug 30, 2006 6:42 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Why I Climb

Thanks, Alan, for that inspiring article! I've added a link.

--mark d.


gimpilator - Aug 30, 2006 4:51 pm - Voted 10/10

Because Mountains...

make me so very small
test my strength and endurance
scare the day-lights out of me
help me practice teamwork
boost my confidence
show me beauty and wonder
teach me to feel serenity
give me hope for the future
bring me back to the present
expand my love of life

Mark Doiron

Mark Doiron - Aug 30, 2006 6:44 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Because Mountains...

Wow, Gimpilator! Well said! I guess I'll just have to think of that as the "condensed" version of Alan Arnette's wonderful article! :-)

--mark d.


pablo - Oct 17, 2006 7:01 am - Voted 10/10

Why I climb

Hi Mark
Congrats for the article/page
May I add a couple of comments:
- I climbed this July (2006) the Mont Blanc. While climbing and when reaching the summit i felt/was the happiest man on earth... more details in my trip report "Mont Blanc - Our dream becomes true" http://www.summitpost.org/trip-report/210520/Mont-Blanc-Our-dream-becomes-true-.html
- I am reading Kiss or Kill of extreme climber Mark Twight and he says "Success estimulates the appetite of having more success...I reject any sensation weaker to the one provided by climbing the highest mountains of the world... I get along without things other people consider essential...If i stop climbing I'll be nobody".

Mark Doiron

Mark Doiron - Oct 17, 2006 12:21 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Why I climb

Thanks, Pablo! I've added a link to your Mont Blanc article in the "Other Expressions" section of that page. --mark d.


kitcarson61 - Dec 23, 2006 4:07 am - Voted 10/10

Why do/would you do it?

In my own experience I've come across the question "Why WOULD you do it?" more than "Why do you do it?". Please, no one take this the wrong way...
Many of my self propelled back country trips, maybe one trip of every three, have had some point in them that I, personally, would consider a religious or nearly religious experinece. Whether it's coming around the bend to witness condors soaring in the Ventana Wilderness, sitting atop some lonesome, pristine peak and gazing at what seems to be the end of the earth or holding onto some handhold just that one second longer than I thought I would be able to, that one second that made the difference... there's an almost, if not a religious experience to be felt and cherished. Those moments don't ever seem to come to me while watching someone else climb a mountain on the Discovery Channel. They never come to me while commuting to work. It's not quite the same as seeing my son score his first goal in soccer or watching my wife turn our old "humble commode" into a veritible resort. Those moments, those "me and the universe" experiences only happen when there are only the creator and I and the wonders of this world in attendance.
Agreed, they actually more often happen when someone else is there also as I rarely head into the back country alone, but... Well, you get the idea.
In looking back through history, I can't think of any of the great philosophers, prophets, religious leaders or anyone else who came upon one of those moments while at work, doing their banking, shopping, laundry, lawn, etc.. Those moments seem only to happen when alone, or nearly so, and in more remote settings.
Why do I do it? I'm a spiritual man chasing more spiritual experiences. If that's not good enough, then maybe it's because I get to see parts of the world that not many do or have and keep fit while doing it. And if that's not good enough, then I refer you to the comment left by, I guess it's "I wish I could be more li" 's comment in this thread - "If you have to ask the question then you'll never understand the answer."

Mark Doiron

Mark Doiron - Dec 23, 2006 1:45 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Why do/would you do it?

Thanks, Kitcarson61! Even Jesus found refuge from the masses in the wilderness.

BTW: Did you mean "commode" or "abode"? An abode is a home and a commode is a . . well, you know! :-) --mark d.


kitcarson61 - Jan 2, 2007 4:50 am - Voted 10/10

Re: Why do/would you do it?

I meant "commode". Combo joke and dig at my own housekeeping. Thanks for noticing and alerting me.


Dean - Dec 23, 2006 3:07 pm - Voted 10/10

Sunrises / sunsets

I love mountain sunrises and mountain sunsets. It is the time when I feel the true peace of the wild places I go to and marvel at the colors that can stop me in my tracks to take them in. It is hard to put into words why I "do it" but suffice it to say, my love for being in the mountains seems to be a driving force in my life that keeps me going back for more.

Mark Doiron

Mark Doiron - Dec 23, 2006 4:06 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Sunrises / sunsets

Thanks, Dean, for adding to the Why Do You Do It album. Certainly mountain sunrises and sunsets are an awesome experience. --mark d.

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