Since first coming across the following quote some years ago, I’ve liked it to describe my own thinking as to why I climb mountains to then ski back down them. While George Mallory was referring specifically to Mount Everest, I like to modify the quote in my own mind, for my purposes, to describe any mountain, and I further mentally twist it to include descending on skis. As I tend to climb the snow covered portions of mountains, I find the notion of not searching the ground for natural resources or material gain, to be an apt description. Of course, it’s also a fine way to escape smog.
I find that I appreciate reading words the way in which people spoke in years long past. This is so, not because it is more flowery, but because it often strikes me as more considered and thoughtful, unaffected by an urge towards a ‘sound bite quality,’ and the following quote is no exception:
“The first question which you will ask and which I must try to answer is this, ‘What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?’ and my answer must at once be, ‘It is no use.’ There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behavior of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron. We shall not find a single foot of earth that can be planted with crops to raise food. It’s no use. So, if you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life. That is what life means and what life is for.” - George Herbert Leigh Mallory, English Mountaineer
I believe Mallory scored a bullseye with the sentiment behind that quote. If something in mankind did not find joy in challenge, it seems that mountains would be largely unexplored places. As I see it, there is more and more joy occurring in the mountain ranges of the world, as ever more people search for life.