Climbing Everest; tool for personal growth?

It is not a new trend or hype, but around the world more and people get into activities like trekking and mountaineering. It is a fact that climbing Mt Everest has never been more popular then today. Off course, as a result of economical growth in some areas in the world, despite the present financial crisis, people from new strong economies like Malaysia, China, India, Brazil and for example South Africa travel to large mountain ranges such as the Himalayas to trek and to climb. It is very obvious here in Nepal, but I guess it is the same for other areas.

It is not a surprising development. Traveling, hiking, trekking and mountaineering (and other outdoor activities) are expensive activities and without money (and time), it is not possible. So, with economical growth it is likely to see more people explore these activities. But there’s more to it. Money buys many activities, experiences or just ‘things’. So why would a trek or climbing Everest be an attractive option? For different reasons off course. One explanation is that treks and climbing expeditions belong to the so called ‘flow activities’. Activities that offer unique, rewarding and valuable experiences. Although we can look at it from different perspectives, here I like to have a better look at ‘what is flow’ and what could be the reward for, let’s say climbing Everest.

Climbing Everest as flow activity

Flow activities are activities that involve the right balance between a ‘personal challenge’ and ‘personal skills’ within a set of rules that give you feedback on your performance. For flow, you need intense concentration and rhythm. You have to reach a level that you don’t pay attention anymore to things that are less important (at that time). Your self-consciousness and your sense of time change, resulting in such a rewarding experience that ‘difficulty or danger’ become less important than the activity itself. Climbing Everest definitely provides you all these opportunities. A climber explains: “…If you are climbing you don’t think of the problems you have. It becomes a world in its own, a world only for you. It is about concentration, focus. If you are on that mountain, then that is the only reality there is, you control it and it needs to be like that, otherwise you will not succeed. It turns into the only ‘world’ you live in…”.

You recognize the feeling? Now, you could think that it is similar to the effects of drugs, a trance in a night club, a thrill… Yes, partly true, it may even feel quite similar, but there is an important difference!  In contrast to real flow activities, these experiences do not lead to a more complex self-consciousness, or better said, they don’t lead to personal growth. Climbing Everest might!

Personal growth through trekking and mountaineering

So, how to gain personal growth while trekking or climbing a mountain? Well, like I said before, you need to challenge yourself. It does not matter at what level you trek or climb, as long as it is challenging enough for you, and not above (or under) your skills level. Luckily, nature’s rules are clear and honest. She can be easy going and she can be very demanding. No matter what, you will always get clear feedback. Completely neutral.

For that, trekking and mountaineering are unique flow activities that provide you a feeling of exploration, a sense of discovery and a possible development of yourself towards a new kind of reality. A more complex self-consciousness reached because you learned new skills, you gained new experiences. In other words, you learned and you grew.  A simple graph about the essence of growth through flow experience might clarify this idea.

Imagine yourself as a teenager dreaming of climbing Mt Everest. We all start at A1 level, low skills, no experience and hopefully an easy challenge. From there we move on to probably A2 or A3 before moving to A4, the point where we’re still having flow experience, but at different, increased level slowly growing to achieve our dream.

Personal Growth of a Mountaineer

A1 state: low skills, low challenge
First mountaineering experience. A real challenge, everything is new, exiting, impressive and the difficulty is probably and hopefully in balance with the skills. It’s an intense experience, we’re concentrated, we may get into a flow.

A2 state: increased skills/ low challenge
Ok, during our first experience we have learned new skills and if the next challenge remains at the same level, we may leave the flow channel and feel a bit bored.

A3 state: low skills/ increased challenge
If we have not learned new skills, but we challenge ourselves at a much higher and technical mountain, we probably may be afraid and if the challenge is too big, we will fail and return unsatisfied.

A4 state: increased skills / increased challenge
With our new skills and experience, we move on to a bigger challenge, a higher and more technical mountain, we may even decide to climb Mt Everest. We enter the flow channel again and the entire process starts all over again.

Does climbing Everest really lead to personal growth?

That off course depends on you! Your approach to the challenge, your willingness to learn and to experience. But basically, you could say that climbing Everest at least provides most of us the opportunity to grow. I would even say that it is almost unthinkable that you will NOT learn and grow by climbing Everest. Life will never be the same after wards, but THAT you could also experience by trekking to Everest Base Camp. It all depends on your level of development. If it is challenging enough for you or not. If you need to use all your skills to achieve your goal or not.

Want to experience ‘flow’? Choose a challenging trek or climbing expedition!

First, make the decision to do a trek or climb to the summit of a non-technical mountain. Then, get in shape! Here we can have a look at ‘how’ you can choose a trek or climbing expedition that matches your skills. It is not an easy question to answer, as there are many factors that can influence the total experience. Off course, weather and personal health can turn any trip (even below your skills level) into a nightmare. However, a good physical and mental preparation combined with some knowledge, experience and detailed information about the journey, you can choose the right challenge. You should off course understand that venturing into wild nature always includes risks. Many unexpected and even unpleasant things can happen, but… without taking some (calculated) risks, you will never have flow experience and there will never be personal growth. Rely on yourself (with or without help of experienced people) and give your best to grow. It is a dynamic, but rewarding road that most likely will lead to happiness.

What can we do for you?

To support you, we (and many other companies) try to give you loads of detailed information, we provide you realistic pack lists, tables to explain physical requirements and the required technical climbing skills if any of them are needed. We invite you discuss your plans with us; make use of our skills level and extensive experience. Let us suggest ideas and let us explain if you have doubts or questions. It all starts with a few simple questions…

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