Driving around Austria it’s abundantly clear that there are a lot of mountains. I’ve spent a few years now climbing very small pieces of rock and concentrating on difficulty over size, but when I look up at all the mountains I do find some sort of force that entices me to reach the summit. I’ll be totally honest, I have no real interest in Mountaineering, but walking to the top of a mountain around here strikes me as a potentially good/rewarding rest day activity.

But what is it about walking up a mountain that makes it so appealing? I often wonder this when I see the crowds of hikers, equipped with serious boots, poles, and gear heading up the trails. I don’t particularly enjoy the physical act of walking. If anything, it’s rather boring, and I see it as a tool for getting from A to B. So for me the walking is not what appeals. The summit. Is that what lures me upwards? Reaching the top and looking down, seeing incredible 360 degree panoramas, and feeling a little like “I made it”? Perhaps that is something to do with it, as I always feel better when looking at vast landscapes… perhaps something to do with my eyes relaxing when focusing on near infinity (who knows).

The mountains have often been associated with spiritual quests, and many religious/spiritual people have gone to the mountains to find their answers. When I was in Mongolia a number of years ago I met a Monk and his student walking around in the hills. They would walk, talk, ponder, reflect, and probably a whole lot of other deep/meaningful stuff which I wasn’t aware of. They’d been doing this for probably 40 years (or more) and still continued to do it, which clearly implies to me that the walking is a by-product rather than the goal. Perhaps in a way this allure is also part of the reason why I go the mountains.

Whilst walking ever upwards, step and monotonous step, the mind is free from thinking about what the body is doing. The external stimulation is not particularly invasive either as the view tends to change ever so slowly as you walk upwards, so the mind is free to do a bit of work on it’s own, about whatever falls into it’s path. However, on today’s journey I wasn’t alone. I was with Lisa, a girl I’d met whilst out climbing one day and a local of the Zillertal valley. She was leading the way up to the top of the Ahornspitze and provided some really insightful conversation. Meeting new people is always interesting for me as it can often open my mind to new ideas and new ways of thinking. Perhaps all of this came together on the mountain as we slogged up hill.

You can just see the hut in the middle of the picture, which is the half way rest point… which we duly ignored and kept on moving!

By the time we reached the top I think we were both a little physically tired, but I think I’d really tired out Lisa mentally as the most frequent word I’d used was “why?”. We sat at the summit and chilled out for quite a while, long enough to see people walk to the top, release a short but animalistic scream, and then walk back down. What struck me was the lack of time people spent at the top. They simply arrived, looked around, took a photo, and then trundled off back down from whence they came! We did quite the opposite, sitting up there for nearly 2 hours, but I couldn’t resist joining in the club and taking a photo. Unfortunately I’m camera less at the moment (which is a GREAT shame) so this awful camera phone picture is all I have to share (forgive me!). I need to stump up the cash and buy a decent camera again… easier said than done!

The summit, 2973m, the Nikes… they’ve not let me down yet…

The way down was just as amazing, that is, once I’d won a round of Shnick, Shnack, Shnuck! Lisa wanted to descend via the method we’d come up, and I wanted to descend via an amazing ridge line. Luckily (or perhaps fatefully), I won the rock, paper, scissors (although the Austrian’s seem to have invented a fourth element – the well) and we headed off down along the ridge. You can see it in this picture, it’s the one closest to the camera running down all the way to the Gondola;

The walk down was just as interesting as the way up, and I spent a lot of time thinking about what it is to be. Perhaps that was missing the point exactly, as “to be” is maybe the opposite of the thinking rational being that I think I am. Lisa had fed me much food for thought, and I want to thank her for the day out. It was a great rest day activity and another reason why I’m glad I made the move out here. I think I’ll probably head up another few mountains before the summer is over, as it beats sitting here in front of this monitor banging my head against the keyboard when my render crashes again and again…