So, you’ve been planning to climb a significant peak over the last few years, you’ve been shooting the breeze with your friends and family, doing a lot of talking about it and facing different opinions on what it will take to get to the top. Through these conversations you may have become familiar with this comment that people seem to love repeating.
“Ahh…. climbing mountains, it’s all mental strength”
And while this, in my experience, is absolutely true, it does give the impression that physical strength is less important, which I would disagree with; Instead I prefer to think of the two as both equally important and inherently correlated.
Those who have the right attitude towards the task at hand, and have the drive to put one foot in front of the other usually succeed in the mountains under the right conditions, and they always have the desire to train well. But what exactly are these qualities that can help us succeed? And how do we develop this ability if we aren’t sure we possess it already? Lets get straight into it:
The desirable qualities in the Mountaineer Mindset
Here’s a short list of mental qualities that I have found to be congruent and consistent in many successful climbers that I have read about or climbed with:
- Unwavering self belief
- Ability to visualize success in detail
- Ability to accept and deal with fear
- Ability to manage doubt
- Bulletproof positivity
- The enjoyment of suffering
- Mental Endurance
- Sharp Focus
- Confidence in your ability
- Risk management skills
Each of these deserves a defined paragraph, but in this short article I’d like to speak about these in a general sense. I believe success comes down to developing positive thought patterns, believing in your abilities and being able to visualize, very clearly, a successful outcome. It’s also important to be extremely positive, be able to keep smiling through any adversity, and to really enjoy the suffering that comes hand in hand with the mountain environment.
Your mental abilities need to be widespread in terms of endurance, as repeating process like approaches, abseils, jumaring, rope work are repetitive, but are extremely important. On the other end of the scale we also need to be able to focus our entire mental ability on one task in times of great stress such as a difficult and technical climbing move.
How do we develop these qualities of a Mountaineer Mindset?
Obviously some of these qualities are climbing specific such as dealing with exposure and bad weather and being calm and composed in these difficult times. But many others, can be practiced and honed in daily life. I firmly believe the qualities of the mountaineer mindset are not so rare at all, and are generally found in most successful individuals.
Why do you think the majority of the climbers on Everest are successful CEO’s, entrepreneur’s and wealthy individuals? It’s not solely because it costs upwards to $60,000 to climb Everest, it’s also because the qualities developed in these lifestyles lend themselves to the mountaineer mindset. To be truly successful in your career and in business you must possess all of the qualities listed above. Being mentally (and physically) lazy will not prepare you well for the challenges of the mountain environment.
It’s beyond the scope of this article to give you a instruction booklet on how to be successful in life and in the mountains, but I can share with you one way that I have used to train my brain to produce only positive though patterns and lay the neural pathways that lead to success.
The first is anchoring:
This is a technique to train your brain to only think in a positive manner. Get a loose bracelet, something that is easily changeable from one wrist to the other. Start your day with a smile, a positive mindset and the bracelet on your right wrist. When you catch yourself thinking negatively, stop take a breath, tell yourself that you can solve the situation with a positive approach and it will all work out fine. Then, swap the bracelet to the other wrist. Record how many times per day you swap wrists. At first it will be a lot, but as your mental processes improve, the number will gradually decrease. This is physical action of moving the bracelet is far more effective than just simply thinking about being positive, it is actually anchoring positive thought processes into your physiology.
These are many other ways to secure your mindset in day to day practice and I recommend you do some reading into the huge variety of both mountaineering specific literature and general “self help” style books that have helped me shape my mountaineer mindset.
Further to that, perhaps the best way to exercise your newfound mental strength is to follow a specific training program diligently. Only Base Camp takes the guess work out of training for you by giving you the exact movements and instructions to build a body that’s ready for the mountains, and if you can apply the mental strength and motivation, your going to be in the best possible condition for success.