Mountaineering Through Life

Mountaineering Through Life

While mountaineering isn’t for everyone, peak experiences are super popular. Getting to the top (field, class, department) is generally seen as a notable achievement. The view from above, the very real effort it takes to reach the summit and the lessons learned along the way make up the stuff of movies, books, and inspirational talks.

In adventure education one of our key points is the idea of Transference. It’s not enough to go into the wild, tag a summit, or have an adventure, what truly counts is how we carry the lessons learned along the way back into our daily routines.

It turns out that the skills needed to get to the top of a mountain are easily transferred to our flat land lives.

Here are six ideas about bringing a mountaineer’s approach to less dramatic terrain:

  1. Commit And Bring the Best: From planning to execution, doing well means committing completely, taking care of ourselves, and bringing our best to every moment. When stakes are high, what seems like no big deal one minute can have a huge impact later on. Eat well, drink water, get rest and stay in tune.
  2. Doing Everything Right Is No Guarantee: Even though each risk has been meticulously managed, every scenario has been considered and we’ve done everything right, life often has its own ideas. When nothing goes as planned, it’s time to get creative, adapt quickly and think on our toes.
  3. Celebrate The Small Stuff: There’s more to our journey than just the summit. Since there’s no telling where the path will take us, we might as well have fun along the way. It’s great for morale and overall wellbeing to recognize and highlight little steps.
  4. Summits Are Really Halfway Points: We made it to the top, high fives! Now what? Leaders must maintain their clarity and focus as well as their group’s momentum well beyond reaching the initial goal.
  5. One Step at A Time: Climbing at altitude or in technical terrain is a great way practice tuning out distraction and embracing a one step at a time mentality (that is about all anyone can do). Focus on each step, make it count and eventually, something gets done.
  6. It’s All a Matter of Perspective: Whether climbing the lowest high point in the United States (Florida wins with a summit of 345′ above sea level) or K2, the value of our objective and effort is really up to us. Everything we do is only as meaningful as we make it.

No matter where we find ourselves, we can leverage our experiences to do better. Sure, dramatic terrain makes a mighty imprint on our vision, but any moment has the possibility of having a huge impact on the course of our lives. It’s not just reaching a peak that matters, it’s our ability to identify and do our best in any situation which enables us to reach beyond.


Eli Shostak on a mountainEli is a Lecturer of Adventure Education at FLC with expertise in mindful leadership, expedition planning and leadership, and tons of experience leading others in finding the personal and interpersonal benefits of exploring wild spaces.