Few weeks back I received a mail from a young climber, who has just started setting her eyes upon the lofty peaks around the world, pondering if she could actually climb anything in the world. I guess she found in me a climber old and bold enough to have climbed and not climbed many mountains, who might offer her some insights into the insane world of mountains and climbing. She asked very briefly: the secret of climbing any mountain in the world.
Before I replied back to her, I really gave this short question a long overdue thought. We all climb all the time but seldom do we pause to wonder what the secret of climbing successfully is. Why are some climbers more worthy than others? What makes a successful climb? And here I mean reaching the top or ending the desired line or route till the top as success and not merely making a bold attempt. I analyzed and dissected many of my iconic climbs, both successful and abortive attempts to compare what made the difference between the two. And now I have the answer and here is my point of view to ‘Secret to Climbing’. And the secret is very simple.
It is sweat. I mean precisely the acronym SWEAT
Skill – first and foremost we need adequate skill, expertise, experience, technical knowledge and physical fitness to succeed.
Weather – we need the ideal weather conditions to climb. Though I have climbed through atrocious weather as many of us do to the top but weather plays most of the times the ultimate deciding factor whether we summit a peak or not. And this is one factor that is least predictable and utterly uncontrollable.
Equipment – we need the right kind and quantity of equipment to succeed. We must have the right kind of gear for the right kind of climbing goals. And upon high mountains we got to be precise. Nothing more, nothing less; exactly what we need.
Attitude – you could have everything but if you don’t have the right attitude, mental setup then you are sure to fail. We need mental resilience, a happy and positive attitude and a never say die attitude to succeed. This is more important when we climb as a team, then we got to pick up our team mates carefully to see that the group mental dynamics are in sync with the objectives of the climb.
Time – we got to cater for the right amount of time we are going to spend on a climb. We can’t rush a mountain. For this we need patience, which is part of attitude and we need the climber’s cool headedness and his ability to do nothing when nothing can be done. Many good expeditions had to be called off since they didn’t cater for time. Along with the duration timing of the climb is paramount. Every mountain, each climb has a best and worst time to climb. Go for the ideal window and for the ideal duration.
Now as I analyzed and reached my above conclusion I realized that to succeed in anything in life, we can actually apply this SWEAT formula, modifying a bit according to the desired field where we wish to succeed. Thereby my lifelong belief that mountains have all the answers no matter what your question is; is once again proved correct.
I have been sweating all my life my friends and I intend continuing to do so. Nothing in the world can compare to the intensity with which you live when freezing to death hanging from the edge of a sheer ice wall in death zone, when sweats turn to ice and every breath we inhale actually tells us what life is all about.
So SWEAT it, climb it. Happy sweating!