For all the right reasons (by M. Volken)

Or hats off to many of my clients

In the beginning it seems like most everybody goes to the mountains for all the right reasons.  We try to get away from the bustling crowds and trade our civilized world for a simpler reality. A world of eternal beauty and guaranteed fairness. We are attracted to a world that lacks judgment about  ones socio-economic background, race, gender and looks. A place full of magic, excitement, challenge and learning opportunity.

Just like in the civilized world, the mountain environment can convey very clearly to us how small and insignificant we are, but the difference is that one can feel good about being small out there. When such powerful places can be associated with fairness, equality and a natural rhythm that stands far above the latest trends, a great calm can come to a person and a deep sense of gratitude for being able to roam the landscape can occur. 

The mountains present challenges for a human and naturally we want to measure our strength against them. Sneakily our motivation changes to "conquering a peak” and “established a line”. We have this inherent drive to control things, make a mark for ourselves and maybe even derive some form of material benefit from what we do in the mountains. 

We get to post that we were the first to do something and it lets us profile ourselves on the web blogs etc. That's great. It is kind of fun. 

Suddenly egos get involved and fame is to be had. Positions in the market place need to be established and most of all money needs to be made.  Before we know it we end up arguing on the internet about the cleanliness about ones ascent style and weather it was worthy of recognition. Some amazing feats have been pulled off in recent mountain history only to be pulled down to mediocrity by unfortunate acts of self promotion and self styled comparisons to historical greatness. The fact of the matter is that 99.9 percent of the population does not give a shit and it is good to remember that. 

The point is that if healthy athletic challenges the desire to talk about it in some senses were suddenly the principal reason of why we go to the mountains, we would express a very linear world view. You know - one that provides knowledge and not necessarily connection with the landscape. 

Our professional or avid recreational involvement might then be based on sponsorship contracts and we might have cornered ourselves nicely into having to project a “civilized world” value system into a wild landscape. Maybe we need that next better photo for the next catalogue if we still want to renew the contract or we haven’t climbed or skied a desperate line lately and are worried about becoming a “has been”. We might have completely leveraged ourself starting a cat or heli operation and now we best be “producing some powder” for that expensive product that the European clients flew all the way to Canada for. It may have seemed like such a good idea to go to work for a gear manufacturing company.  This was going to provide the connecting link to the mountains – now you are attending sales meeting that will most and foremost debate the next goal for the projected growth curve. Making a living in the mountains or based on the mountains has become an industry. This has brought many great things, but it has also (and this is my point) without a doubt dulled our sense of connectedness. Suddenly our zonal decision making can have underlying business decisions without our conscious knowledge. 

Our safety decisions should be based on the rhythm of the landscape and the people we are with. 

Everything else will decrease our safety in the mountains. 

It is like we went out there to get away from the chatter and all we do now is talk. We have taken our civilized stresses into the place that is supposed to give us some relief from all these pressures. Kind of funny – really; until these self imposed stresses start clouding our judgment in the mountains.

We just can’t help ourselves I guess and the other option is not very spectacular. The other option is simply to find out about oneself and the mountains. 

It seems to me that many of my clients over the course of the years have enjoyed a more unencumbered time in the mountains. They never were sidetracked by the societal pressures that start infiltrating ones mountain-live once you start going there professionally. This is all in the process of changing a bit with access the internet, blogs, facebook, you tube etc. 

If we can achieve and retain a simple state of just being in the mountains, I believe that we will make safer decisions, because our mind will be operating more clearly.   This does not sell products, create fame and fortune or the recognition that we are after. It is simply the underlying truth of why we should go to the mountains or any natural landscape. 

Can you still do this or is the client, the photographer, the magazine, the internet or the sponsor subtly influencing our decision making process?

If you are a mountain professional or avid skier or mountaineer you ought to ask yourself the question on a very regular basis. 

Are you still going to the mountains for all the right reasons? It will guarantee you years of future enjoyment and will help you make safer decisions in the mountains.