Sunday, 22 February 2015

Rather you than me mate...

When I was younger and newer to this whole outdoor game it was seemingly the done thing to be into everything.  Paddling horrendously polluted rivers in a playboat, awesome!  Scottish Winter hot aches, love it!  Scared shitless and freezing on a dark Alpine face, bring it on!  As I've matured (?!) I've realised that actually there's a huge variation in what's happening in 'the Outdoors' and in reality some of it I've little interest in doing.  Likewise, there are clearly massive differences in personality type, motivation and levels of devotion required for different activities.   Walking in the Mournes and then going for a coffee is a lot less involved than new routing on a secluded crag but I'm sure it's no less satisfying to the people that love their chosen activities.

For me, I've had extended periods of being obsessed with mountaineering, climbing and fell running with mountain biking being the constant love that still lasts after over 25 years.  Getting out running or on the bike is so second nature now that I often find myself in the forests or mountains before I'm really conscious of what I've chosen to do that day.  The thing is, my favourite pastimes invariably involve physical pain, suffering, getting cold and wet, occasional broken bones and lots of cleaning, maintenance and expenditure.  So the often asked question is why the hell do we do these things?

We've all heard the ultimate answer to this question, 'because it's there' supposedly provided by George Mallory when probed on why he wanted to scale Everest by a New York Times journalist.  It's a great answer, sufficiently reasoned for those of us who understand and suitably vague and infuriating to those who don't.

However much I appreciate that quote it is a bit grandiose when considering why it is that I, and my friends and peers do the things we do day to day.  I feel priveleged to be in contact with many inspirational people who are regularly pushing their limits, experiencing life despite discomfort and danger and yet I'm still not sure many people appreciate the reason why they pursue these goals.

We live in a world seemingly ever more removed from genuine experience where the rush to share (boast) via social networks often seems to be the actual goal of the activity in the first place (and the irony of me blogging about it isn't lost on me).  I'm not sure whether this is a new phenomenon.  The 'outdoors' seems to have always been full of blaggers, wannabes and bullshitters.  They just used to hang out in the pub/outdoor centre/shop telling anyone who'd listen about their latest supposed adventures.  The internet has given these folk the chance to instantly share their 'achievements' with infinitely more people and soak up the plaudits for their 'extremeness' from their Facebook friends.  These aren't the people I'm talking about because the answer to the question 'why' for them is simple.  They want recognition and they want to purvey a certain image and that's their prerogative.

I love looking through old pics to remind myself why!
The ones I really want to ask 'why?' are a little harder to track down largely because they're out there doing the very thing they love.  They to me are the true heroes but why the hell do they do these things?

Having thought about it a bit I've realised that I've already answered my question, it's because they love doing these things.  So I guess the correct question to ask is not why they do it but why do they love it?

Yesterday myself and big Seamy ran up the frozen face of Slieve Donard and over to Slieve Commedagh getting cut in half by a howling and freezing gale, crawling on hands and feet in places.  Seamus managed to leave his leg bruised and bloodied when the top layer of a frozen bog gave way and the ice sliced and smashed his leg, not that he noticed in temperatures that must have been around minus 15 with the wind chill.  I couldn't feel my face at all coming off the Commedagh summit and I wished I couldn't when the feeling returned and the burning began!  And did I enjoy it?  Yes absolutely.  I enjoyed it at the time and I really enjoyed it retrospectively.  Why do I love it?  The exercise, the fitness, the challenge, the camaraderie, the views, the fresh air etc etc.  I guess if I asked my mates why they love what they do I'd get a similar list.  Does that activity appeal to many people?  No it definitely doesn't.  I tend to get a 'fair play but rather you than me mate' response and that's from 'outdoorsy' people not to mention the 'normal' public out there.  Each to their own and many prefer a trip to the gym, an afternoon in the pub or even open boating!

Everyone's Everest is different and I guess I did run up Donard because it's there.  It would've been a lot harder running up there if it wasn't!

Keep chasing your Everests folks! 

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