/ Should I give it all up?
I have been climbing for now 8 years, and have done over 20 European alpine trips and been on expeditions to the greater ranges, and climbed all over Asia, Australia, New Zealand and parts of Africa. I also enjoy rock and sport climbing, though not as much as mountaineering. I have completed many things such as the Wainwrights or long distance treks too.
However, the last few months have seen me very disenchanted with climbing. Maybe it's the lack of a good friend and partner. Maybe it is life getting in the way( nearly fully qualified after 10 years of training now), am getting older and maybe want kids. Training for climbing is just a chore now
So am at the point where I am thinking of giving up mountaineering/climbing for good.
I could still go explore many other places to climb, but what motivation do I have? All the beautiful sunrises and sunsets are the same, the suffering is the same. So much time and effort has gone wasted to bad weather days.I will never be able to climb say E7 or Alpine ED but pushing the grades do not attract me as just having a great time in the mountains, but finding that perfect time is getting harder and harder.
My photos have won prizes, and I have featured in articles and magazines as well as written my own. I enjoy the literary side of mountaineering a lot, and devour such books, but again feel that they all tend to be the same after a while.
I have had friends die in the mountains, and have mourned them. I have found excellent friendships though that have lasted till now.
What else remains for me out there?
Maybe this is far too egotistical, but surely someone else has been though this?
Take a break, reflect on what you miss and what you don't and what else you want from life and shape your future as best you can around that.
No easy answers and certainly none that anyone else can answer for you.
In short, pretty much everything. I am rapidly on course to fail in all my climbing (grade and hard route related) goals. But I still have only climbed a fraction of what is out there after nearly twenty years. I just had my arse kicked at a bouldering comp today by people half my age but I just ask myself what else do I want to do with my life... do I want to be the bore propping up the bar in the local pub or am I going to take up stamp collecting or something else trivial where 'failure' isn't an issue.
Equally there is nothing to stop either of us taking up another sport. A decade ago I would have told you climbing and mountaineering were the best thing in the world. Now I recognise they are just one of a whole range of lifelong sporting pursuits that one can immerse oneself in. In fact it is debatable whether in any objective and unbiased analysis mountaineering would even make the top three. By the time you consider sailing, paddle sports, cycling, caving, skiing and boarding, running, triathlon, swimming, rowing, parachuting, paragliding etc. there are a dozen lifetimes of adventures out there.
Yes. Someone I was climbing with fell and broke both his ankles when I should have lead the pitch instead. I was about to quit completely, but it came back to this issue of what else was I going to do with my spare time and enthusiasm. I decided I was an old dog and I would stick with climbing things rather than either trying to learn new tricks or risk turning into the aforementioned pub bore.
Not sure if that helps but you are not the first person to question what the hell life and mountaineering are all about and you won't be the last.
Put your fishing gear in the loft. It'll still be there in a few years time.
Go running until then.
Then start again when you realise it's not about the buzz of the new, but the return of same old buzz.
And lay off the wacky backy.
"...but surely someone else has been though this?"
That answer to that, from most of us is undoubtedly a resounding Yes. We've all, at sometime, had periods of manic activity and at others, complete indolence.
I have been climbing & mountaineering, in all its' forms, for 40 years now and have experienced many of the things you describe; great achievements around the world; family pressures; lack of motivation; bad weather days; endless suffering; the search for the perfect; the death of friends; the timeless friendships.
Personally, I have experienced massive highs (literally and metaphorically) and some appalling lows during my mountaineering life, as for me life and mountaineering are inextricably linked. Some of the dark places I have been to I have no wish to revisit....ever. Ironically, climbing and mountaineering has always been my fall-back in life. I eventually realised that for me, the best things that came along in my life were always as a result of my climbing, be it friends, relationships, experiences, opportunities.
Someone, (very well know in our world, an Everest summiteer, but who shall remain nameless), once suggested to me that I think about two questions:
1. Who was I born to be?
2. What was the life I was born to lead?
From that, for me, all else followed. In my fifties now, I am performing at my best, doing what I was born to do.
The answer can only come from within yourself mate, but maybe asking yourself these questions will help you to find your path. We all have an inner voice, an inner guide if you like,.......listen to it.
Email me privately mate if you wish,
Hope this helps....
One day -- anytime! -- you are gonna die. And then there is nothing else. If you are lucky, before then, you will get old, and you will develop injuries or degeneration that prevents you doing things you want to do. So until any of that, do whatever you like with life while you have it.
Mix it up with other activities. I've recently taken a short kayaking course and I will try to develop that as well (it will also involve me confronting my fear of deep water!) as keep up my walking / wild camping. A friend I used to go to gigs with has recently returned, so I hope to do more of that again. As my wife or I might say, you're 'veggie burgering' mountaineering (we went through a period of making veggie burgers at home, ate way too many, hated them for a long time and still cannot eat them at home).
I should also say, and this is probably the most important factor for me, that much of my enjoyment of days out came from the company of my dog. I am now finding it much less rewarding / appealing without him: the hills can be lonely. A night spent in a tent alone can seem a time-stretched soul searching ordeal. An otherwise great walk can seem futile without the company of my furry friend. Maybe find someone you can share your life with who will do these things with you, whether a partner, friend or dog!
Im confused? you say you climb to have a greaqt time in the mountains, not to push grades, so why does not having the time to train matter? you dont need to train to have fun, and maybe it was the training which was taking away the fun?
if your not enjoying something then dont do it, simple. the trials of finding ti9me and beating the weather and conditions are all part of the fun, and the less time you have to get out, the more special each time becomes.
No 2 views are the same, and even if they are, there are plenty of mountain vistas in our meagre mountains in the UK which i would never get sick of, and thats just the UK, there is a whole world out there!
I've been climbing/mountaineering for almost 30 years now and have had periods where I've lost the loving feeling for it. It's never been a conscious decision to give it up, I've just had periods where the desire to climb has waned.
As we all know, climbing is something you've got to really want to do, in order to enjoy it. If you have guidebooks by your bedside and spend your time not climbing/mountaineering dreaming about the next trip, then it is the activity for you. If you get dread and anxiety at the thought of your next climbing trip, then give it a break and find another activity that excites you.
If it is any consolation I've had periods of a few years away from climbing and came back to it getiing as much fun and pleasure out of it as I did when I first started.
Perhaps try another activity in the mountains that is new and you can feel some form of progression in - running, mountain biking, paragliding? Maybe even try a different environment like the ocean - kitesurfing, surfing, diving?
Don't force yourself to do something out of habit if you are not enjoying it. Ultimately these pointless pursuits of ours have got to be fun
My advice is simply to take it as it comes. If you don't feel like going climbing or training then don't. If you don't feel like going on another expedition then don't. Do other things instead. But if you do feel like going climbing again then do.
Find something else!!
Swimming, kayaking, mountain biking, fell running, cycling - all have different challenges from the simple to massive undertakings.
You don't say anything about your personal life, maybe that should be a focus!!
Sorry sound like a psychologist now.....
have a break, take time, reflect and try something different
anything can become mundane in the end....
ps can i buy some cheap gear from you.....only kidding...
One of the most important things about climbing is not climbing. In case that sounds a bit zen, let me explain a little. Climbing in all its forms can be a dominant, near-obsessive experience. You train, you climb, you want to do a certain route, you train harder, you do the route, or fail to do it, and then move on to another target, and on and on and on. A journey, with significant milestones, but it can be a journey without a destination.
So from time to time, it's important to step off the track. If you've had a week or so climbing and feel too pumped physically or mentally or both to do it any more, then what you declare is a day of Not Climbing. This is what you are doing; Not Climbing. If anyone asks you what you're doing that day, that's your answer. Not Climbing. With capital letters. What you do that day is more or less irrelevant. Go mooch about the shops, go to the pub, read a book, whatever you like because what you are doing that day is Not Climbing.
The day after, you may find that motivation has returned and if it has, great; go climb something. If it hasn't, carry on Not Climbing until the drive returns. It may come back after a week, a month, a year. You haven't stopped being a climber in this time, it's just that what you are doing is Not Climbing.
I haven't stopped being a climber, though illness means it is now some years since last I did any climbing. It's just that I've been Not Climbing. I still think of myself as a climber and probably always will, even if my health prevents me ever from doing it again.
Try Not Climbing for a while. You won't have stopped or given up; you'll just be actively not doing something, defining who and what a part of you is by its absence. The drive may come back quickly, or it may take an extended sabbatical. Don't fret about it, it'll come back when it, and you, are ready.
Thank you for all your replies. It is heart warming to know what others have gone through.
To answer some questions, yes I have a full time job in the healthcare profession, and have been blessed with multiple opportunities to take time out for other pursuits. Some of you have recognised me and thanks for your words
I am taking some time out from it all, and was quite pleased with myself that for the first time in a long time, I had a week off last week and didn't go to the mountains once or made plans to travel abroad. Going to go home and see family and do some other things, and maybe with time, things will change
Thanks for all
As you get older you change. You no longer have the drive you once had.
You've done a lot, if you've had your fill, which it sounds you have then so be it.
I speak from experience, if you feel like giving up then do so.
BTW those special climbing relationships are rare. Only a lucky few people have them, I believe. People tend to settle down, have children, so you lose touch with people.
There are plenty of other new challenges out there that you can pursue. It can actually become a problem when you have done so much. You have a different angle on things to everyone else, you perhaps don't feel like you fit in, perhaps you think differently to others. Ordinary life can seem boring in comparison.
I'd be interested in updates on this thread. Feel like I am in a very similar position.
I've been climbing for over 50 years and been through everything you describe. I have other interests too and the intensity with with I pursue these varies like climbing as I dip in and out. In recent years I have had a number of health issues, including a few of years ago being diagnosed with Prostate Cancer and two years ago I underwent a Radical Prostatectomy, and over the last year I have been plagued with kidney stones and I go into hospital next week for an operation to have these removed.
These health issues have made me realise how important the great outdoors is to me, and I have been getting back into climbing and do a lot of walking. The main thing I have learned is that I do it for pleasure, not so much now as a challenge, and this increases my enjoyment, not to mention my overall fitness which has enabled me to have speedier recoveries from surgery.
As others have said take a break, do other things and enjoy them. Taking a break is a very different thing from giving up completely.
I made the decision to give it all up in Dec 2012 but I hadn't actually climbed for over 2 years at that point. The make or break decision was when I started to flog all the climbing gear I owned. It felt quite liberating in a way as I knew there was no going back....well there could be but it would have cost me many thousands of pounds to replace what I was selling.
For me I had grown out of love with it to a point but the real reason was the arrival of my two children. I simply lost the desire to risk my neck on alpine/winter climbs which were what most of my desire to climb revolved around. Single pitch cragging never really did it for me during the last 10 years of my climbing career.
The irony of this is that I will probably take my children out climbing when they are old enough and if they enjoy it I will probably return to it so the very thing that made me pack it all in will be the only route for me back into the sport! If they don't like it then that is it for me, I'll just have the memories to look back on.
I don't think I would do anything as risky as I used to with them though, just pottering round on easy things would make me happy and I have a desire to set foot on an alpine summit with my son.... anyway I don't think my body would be up to anything major in 10-15 years times when I will be in my 50's.
For a long time (teens through to age 26) I was an extremely keen caver, and went on some big expeditions. I even wrote a book about them. Then I discovered climbing and mountaineering, and pretty much gave up caving for more than 20 years. I'd just been doing too much of it. It had started to seem a chore.
In 2003, after an ascent of the S. Ridge of the Aiguille Noire de Peuterey, I escaped death by minutes. My partner and I were sitting on the terrace of the Borelli Hut having lunch when the entire SE face of the mountain seemed to collapse, showering the path we had just strolled down from the descent route with car and piano-sized boulders. My wife was pregnant with our second and last child at the time, and I found that my desire to climb big routes had simply vanished. I have only been back to the Alps to ski.
A few years passed, and slowly I began to get into caving again. In 2009 I went on another expedition; since then I've been on another three, the most recent a few weeks ago. I'm 55 but still fit, and with the kids somewhat older, it hasn't been too hard to make time to get away sometimes. Meanwhile a little while ago I took my elder son to Idwal and led him up Hope. The joy of climbing came flooding back: it was the first multi-pitch route I'd done for years, and way easier than the E1s and E2s I used to get up, but I loved it.
I don't know if I'll ever get back into mountaineering. Lately, however, I've begun to feel the lure. I do know that I will climb and cave and ski for as long as my body lets me, and keep in as good a condition as I can to make that possible. There are no rules of principles here. All you can do is follow your gut. Or maybe there is one rule. Only do these things when you truly feel the desire, but when you do, make sure you make it happen.
I like this sentiment.
Well, I pretty much stopped alpinism for a few years because I had done some cool stuff and wanted to spend time just cragging without the effort of alpinism. I then went and did a week last summer and had a great time but my old drive to spend a long time each summer on it isn't there - I'm quite happy with winter climbing and UK cragging
I'm a bit worried if my body will be up to it in my 70s. Seems to be functioning OK at the moment though, I just hope I can manage the Taschhorn -> Dom traverse in my 60s. Lauteraarhorn couloir would be nice too, as would the Via Brioschi on the Monte Rosa East face.
Will let you know how things go next year.
If you want a new challenge try sailing a Cherub: www.uk-cherub.org
Works for me...
I don't think you should give up, especially if you've been enjoying the success you say you have with your photography and writing. But if you've had friends die in the mountains then that is a valid reason to pull back. Do less dangerous things in remoter places. I just went to Kamchatka and the newness of it as a location was striking given that I have visited 70+ countries. And the suffering was quite different from that on previous trips...
I think the word Challenge is over rated and over used whereas the word Engagement is under rated and under used. I can have an hours climbing at my local wall that does not challenge my abilities but I am totally engaged and absorbed in the joy of that movement on rock (Well plastic) that I feel really ennervated afterwards. Perhaps there is an inner challenge to review our relationship with physical activity as an energising device.
I think you might be on to something there. Thanks
Why not take up road cycling? It will get you fitter than you've ever been as a climber, get you outdoors in the fresh air, can be enjoyed straight from your door and is a hell of a lot of fun. If you live somewhere rural a decent road bike can take you beyond your range on foot and still give you that feeling of being alone outdoors and dependent on just yourself and your equipment.
Personally having 1-2 partners who are super motivated and capable is a big factor in my motivation. Having an objective thats gets your all psyched and pushing in the same direction is a great feeling . Problem is the bigger the routes the more commitment and training required and as I get older there are different priorities for me.
A couple of years ago I put away the ice tools and focused on long rock routes and really felt the buzz come back . I still want to do some high alpine routes but without the time to train I worry about risk far more than i did.
Thank you all.
I have channeled energies into other pursuits....been going out for walks with the girlfriend and enjoying them, on days where everyone else i know is going climbing.....been going cycling as well a lot more, and i must say there is pleasure in covering long distances fast....a few friends have raised some eyebrows as to what I am doing but time will tell....
if your the same age as me (and as climber 81 you may well be) with a girlfriend of similar age. methinks this climbing hiatus may soon be less of a problem and more of a necessity/opportunity!
I've enjoyed this thread I suspect I'm a lifer for mountains but my engagement will vary. With kids now big scary routes don't seem fair on dependants but a weeks peace and quiet trekking somewhere cool is very attractive. have also started to enjoy fell running (jogging!) as a very time efficient fix.
I'm on a bit of a slow patch for climbing I haven't actually quit climbing just haven't been properly for a couple of years. I get bored quite quickly indoors unless I'm working towards something outside so am either climbing outside or not at all really. I have been doing Muay Thai and submission wrestling most nights so sort of fill my time with other stuff. I do know I will climb again but not in a rush as such!
I have gone through similar pauses in motivation since beginning climbing/mountaineering nearly 25 years ago - and always I've come back eventually (though sometimes it has taken years). Bearing this in mind, I say this to you in the nicest possible way:
Bugger off and do something else for a while!
Elsewhere on the site
Pete Whittaker has flashed the 32 pitch route Freerider 5.12d on El Capitan in Yosemite Valley over three days,... Read more
Last year, Finn McCann wrote an article about climbing El Capitan with his terminally ill father Seamus, who had been... Read more
A fantastically versatile little pack; whether out running in the hills, hitting the trails on the bike or just running for the... Read more
Manchester Climbing Centre is showing Reel Rock’s Valley Uprising on Tuesday the 11th of November at... Read more