I think for a lot of people (at least in the younger generation) hiking is a pretty pointless, boring pastime. I still remember my childhood and young days too well, when my parents wanted to go hiking with me and my sister and we were anything but enthusiastic. There was no point: walking seemingly aimlessly through the landscape and in the end you get nothing for your efforts.
That is, of course, not necessarily true.
You get a lot: apart from great views and mental relaxation in nature, you always get confirmation that you can achieve a set goal. Despite all the external and internal resistance. And that is a lot in those challenging times we are living in.
As mentioned in the header, Covid-19 has not only brought bad things with it. Due to the travel restrictions and the resulting break from wanderlust, the places in the vicinity have become more interesting again. And I realized that I don’t have to go far to experience spectacular scenery and adventure. I live in Munich, very close to the Alps with their invitingly peaks and hilltops. Many people come from far away every year to spend their holidays here. I often forget that in the troubles of everyday life, what a dreamlike environment i actually live in. Thanks to Covid-19, my perspective has changed a bit again, so I almost have to be thankful for the virus, LOL. It has really become an obsession for me to go out on my own and take on a mountain peak in the area.
I go alone, among other things, because I noticed that I can immerse myself in the surroundings much better then. Without distractions, just being with myself and letting my thoughts run free – that is a big part of recreation for me. I know a lot of people don’t understand that, but it fits for me. When I’m on a tour in company (which also happens from time to time), in my opinion there are too many conversations that only revolve around work, money, everyday life and gossip. It’s not really relaxing for me, at least in that very moment. I notice quite often that I don’t even have the desire to take pictures (actually one of my hobbies) for example, because I have no inspiration or leisure. Instead, I’m already thinking about the continuation of the conversation. Well, i guess that are the problems of a loner, LOL
But of course, you need to be careful! Certain routes and paths in the mountains are not made for setting off alone. I had this experience once and I still think back with a bad feeling today. It was a completely different setting though:
The jungle in the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia.
The marker – Jungle Walks No. 9 – looked so tempting and I was immediately seized with a thirst for adventure. There are many beautiful trails in the Cameron Highlands, unknowingly I picked one of the least frequented. In fact, I’m not sure when anyone walked that path for the last time. The jungle was so dense and overgrown that you could only guess where the path led. Driven by the incentive to reach the summit and also by the mentioned (and in that situation stupid) thirst for adventure, I literally tortured myself up the mountain. Just thinking about which wild animal is about to attack me or which poisonous plant I am going to cut myself on. Nothing like that happened, in fact I didn’t see a single animal on the whole tour (apart from a few insects). But I absolutely couldn’t enjoy the whole way and that shouldn’t really be the point.
Insanely enough, I found out a few months later at the Jim Thompson Museum in Bangkok that he had disappeared during a similar “walk” in the Cameron Highlands in 1967. Several searches were unsuccessful. His body was never found, nor were any other traces found. Ok, maybe that was a different time back then, but it was still a lesson for me.
And lesson is a good keyword: I think the mountains are true teachers for our lives. Whenever I start a tour, I indirectly compare it to a “project” in real life. You have to torture and overcome yourself a bit in the beginning, you have to take the first difficult steps and overcome your weaker self. As time goes by you keep going, you go forward step by step and you reach more and more height. It still doesn’t work by itself, you have to do something to get ahead, but it’s easier than at the beginning. At some point you will reach the summit, the goal, and at that moment you know that all your efforts have been worth it. You look back on the path you have taken and you are proud of what you have achieved. That is what we call success.
But you don’t always make it to the top. And that, too, is an interesting parallel to real life. The mountains are sometimes unforgiving. The weather or other circumstances can force you to cancel your plans or to take a detour. This has happened to me several times and it hurts at first. But it is also important to accept these natural conditions. Because it is crucial that you have set out, that you have tried. Breaking off a hike, like breaking off a life goal, is rather an expression of strength than weakness.
It doesn’t mean you can never try again. You always meet twice.
Top of Germany – Zugspitze (2962 m)
In fact, it happened to me when i tried to climb the Zugspitze last year (of course in a guided tour, I couldn’t do that alone and without the right equipment). There, too, it was only on the second attempt that I really managed to get to the top. Just on the day when the ascent was planned last summer, an unexpected thunderstorm came down the mountain in the morning. An ascent was out of the question and so we were disappointed and headed home again without having achieved anything. A lesson in humility towards nature.
In autumn, on the second attempt, it finally worked and I was able to enjoy the good feeling of standing on “Top of Germany”. But actually that wasn’t the best moment on the tour, it was more the eclectic route that inspired and demanded everything. There are quite a few difficult passages on the way, which I looked at on pictures and videos beforehand. For an average hiker like me, these can be quite challenging. In particular, I am thinking of a section where you have to cross a steep rock face only by using a few iron bars which are inserted in the rock. I had been thinking days and nights whether I would be able to master this passage or not. A nasty feeling accompanied me until we actually stood at the said spot. And lo and behold: it was rather harmless and I realized very quickly how exaggerated my fears were. It then became difficult in completely different situations, which I never could have known before.
And isn’t that a wonderful metaphor for life, too?!