Did you had a chance to climb a mountain this summer?
September is still a beautiful climbing time; you should give it a try. Pack your back, grab your kids and off you go.
But if you want to climb a mountain, you need to plan. Check for the right weather and depending on the altimeter ahead and the baggage you take, you must budget with your personal forces. Maybe you can hike the trail in one go, maybe it´s better to go slowly and have a rest in between.
What’s up there for me? What will I find on top of the hill? A beautiful view, some nice flowers or maybe a path to your innermost self? Be exalted, enjoy the view, and feel the humblest.
In the Austrian Alps (check Nationalpark Hohe Tauern)there are a lot of family hikes. It´s easy to walk them with kids and you will be rewarded with a beautiful view and the possibility to stop for a bite to eat.
“Can´t we sleep on a hut in the mountains?”, asked my friend, while we were planning the summer vacation together with our 5 kids. “Of course”, I said.
Up the hill we go
3 adults, 5 kids, make their way up the hill. The stony way is meandering up the mountain and we must carefully place our feet. We pass by all kinds of blooming flowers, bright green fern, shady trees, and a myriad of insects flying and crawling along the way. The bag packs hang heavily on our shoulders – due to Corona, we need to take our own sleeping bags along as well as a variety of spare clothes as the weather changes easily in the mountains. The sun is burning merciless down on us, little drops of sweat dripping from our backs.
While we walk through the woods, we get only flashes of the view. The huge waterfall in the middle of the hike, is the first reward for the effort. The last third of the way is mounting up the hill in zigzag, the stone-build house in sight, but hardly coming any closer.
It´s 5.30 am. The caretaker of the mountain lodge has promised a beautiful sunrise over the ridge. The hut is located on the south end of the valley, at the valley head. The sun rises to the right and sets to the left. The sunset was covered in clouds, all hopes are on the sunrise now. It´s still cloudy, but rays of sunlight are already flashing over the rugged rock faces.
I sit here in silence, taking in the scenery. A washed-out blue valley, a couple of hundreds altimeter down below, forested hills to the right and snow-covered rocks to the left. I am on top of it, while the sun radiates the first warm beams over the edge.
I can feel the silence, even though it´s quite noisy out here: birds are trying to wake me up, groundhogs whistle their family together and the wind is blowing over the grass. A symphony of different sounds. The air is fresh and dusty.
My thoughts go inward, and my heart turns silent. My mind has come to a standstill. I am taking in the beauty of nature as if I see it for the first time.
Feeling humble and elevated at the same time.
I made my way up the hill, only to see how distant and trivial life is. I am a leave on the tree, a drop in the waterfall. I sit on top of this world, gazing; mountain after mountain as far as I can see. The rocks do not even recognize me. They have seen seasons change, they have seen gold miners digging for gold and wanderer searching for the pursuit of happiness.
How small is the life span we have compared to the immortality of the massive stones beneath me? How trivial are the problems we deal with most of the time?
When Francesco Petrarca (anglicized as Petrarch), Italian scholar and poet during the Renaissance (*1304-1374), climbed the Mont Ventoux in France just for pleasure, he took Augustine‘s Confessions with him. At the top, he pulled it from his pocket, and it fell open on the following page:
„And men go about to wonder at the heights of the mountains, and the mighty waves of the sea, and the wide sweep of rivers, and the circuit of the ocean, and the revolution of the stars, but themselves they consider not.„
Petrarca’s answer was to turn inward and stop looking at the mountains:
„I closed the book, angry with myself that I should still be admiring earthly things who might long ago have learned from even the pagan philosophers that nothing is wonderful but the soul, which, when great itself, finds nothing great outside itself. Then, in truth, I was satisfied that I had seen enough of the mountain; I turned my inward eye upon myself, and from that time not a syllable fell from my lips until we reached the bottom again. “ (Source: Wikipedia.com)
The reason we climb mountains is not only to test physical borders and proving ourselves that “we can do it”. With every step we walk away from the valley, we leave our lives behind more and more. The hike can be challenging or pleasant, but we are one with nature for a couple of hours. With every step we take, we move further away from our conscious self.
Sitting on top of a mountain gives us a feeling of humbleness, being a single light in the whole universe. At the same time, we feel exalted to be in one line with the horizon, watching the valley below. This is the moment we can let go of all the burdens in our life, it is the precious moment, where we can find ourselves.
„And into the mountains I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.“