Mountaineering is more than climbing, panoramic views, and wilderness experience. It is also challenge, risk, and hardship. And it is not for everyone. Those drawn to the mountains can find them exhilarating and irresistible, as well as frustrating and sometimes even deadly. There are qualities to mountaineering that inspire us and bring us to revel in a pursuit that is more than a pastime, more than a sport; a passion, certainly, and sometimes a compulsion.
"What was the force that impelled me?" asks American mountaineer Fred Beckey. "Something complex and undefinable, the attraction of uncertainty." British climber George Leigh Mallory, many years earlier, offered another version of mountaineering's attraction: "What we get from this adventure," he said, "is just sheer joy."
Distant views of mountains may speak of adventure, but they seldom more than hint at the joys and hardships that await. If you want to climb mountains, be prepared for the totality of nature— storms as well as soft breezes, tangled brush as well as alpine flowers, biting insects as well as singing birds. Climbing mountains is a tough way to spend your spare time, and anyone who does it knows what Polish climber Voytek Kurtyka meant when he said that "alpinism is the art of suffering." Mountaineering takes place in an environment indifferent to human needs, and not everyone is willing to pay the price in hardship for its rich physical and spiritual rewards.
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