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Because it’s there

These are the “three most famous words in mountaineering”, as they have been defined.

In 1923, George Herbert Mallory – an English climber – was traveling through the States to get new sponsors for his third attempt to climb Mount Everest and when he was asked by a journalist “Why climb Mt. Everest?” he promptly replied with these few and iconic words.

Mountaineering can be hardly considered just a sport: it is indeed a cultural activity, that implies huge philosophical and ethical questions. On the philosophy and ethics of mountaineering a lot of literature has been produced, in many languages. The core question is always: “why?” and to this question a number of different answers have been given. No one is satisfactory by itself.

People climb mountains to challenge (the others, their own limits, the natural hurdles), to improve (physically or mentally), to leave for a while our chaotic towns, our crowded lives, our angst-filled works, etc.

In any case, there is an inevitable dimension in mountaineering: you must take your backpack, wear your boots and go gasping on a path or on a wall. Mountaineering requires efforts. To what end? To go somewhere.

That’s what mountaineering is: exploration. It is just a founding pillar of human behaviour: curiosity. Anyone can, climbing mountains, go beyond their personal “pillars of Hercules”.

Curiosity and exploration often challenge the rational behaviour, but they are a powerful engine for human development.

So, do follow your curiosity, your willingness to explore a new space. And if anyone would question you “why?”, don’t worry, you already have the answer: “because it is there”.

The Giant's Tooth, Mont Blanc (Italian side)

The Giant’s Tooth on the Mont Blanc, Italian side (photo by the Author, from Flickr)