Climbing & Emotions

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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Re: Climbing & Emotions

Postby ChrisRoberts » Fri Aug 17, 2012 1:53 pm

farcedude wrote:Same here. If anything, it's not being in the mountains that gets to me - if I don't get up into the mountains and away from the city often enough (about every other week) I start turning into a hermit and get stressed out, which affects some ongoing medical issues (not good). I do know for me that solitude on a summit helps a lot (a crowded grays summit does a lot less for me than me and my hiking partner being the only ones to summit that day). I've thought about starting to hike/climb alone, but only after I get someting like a spot or inreach, and am VERY comfortable with its use.

Yup, this is my problem too. I start getting the lowland crazies dealing with all of the crap of real life. Its really refreshing to climb something or go camping when things start getting weird.

I don't get emotional in the mountains or when summiting. When I'm climbing something I'm 110% focused on what I'm doing(and now that this topic has been brought up, I don't recall ever really thinking about real life while in the mountains, I naturally push it out of my mind).
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Re: Climbing & Emotions

Postby chaos52 » Fri Aug 17, 2012 2:10 pm

I was glad to read this as I too stuggle with emotions on some of my higher climbs. At 52, and a newbie to climbing 14ers since I started at 50, I am always so overcome at the summit from the sheer joy and exhaustion of the climb to get there. Much of the steeper climbing involves repetative chanting to myself, just so I can focus on something other than my pounding heart and lack of oxygen. At the summit or end of every climb, I hit my knees and burst into tears for a few minutes, tears of pride, satisfaction, awe and joy.I fight insomnia the night before a hike, I just can't shut my mind down, so I am still wondering what it would be like to do a hard climb with more than 3 hours of sleep. Also, for whatever reason, this year I have fought stomach issues on every single climb. I don't know if it is an altitude or emotional thing, or some combination of the two, but it makes the struggle that much harder, as it makes it very hard to stay hydrated and nourished with constant stomach cramps.
I think what keeps me the sanest is that I am blessed to climb with my eldest son, and sharing the summits with him brings such a rush of emotion, that it carries me up the mountain, and helps my feet to keep moving that last mile or so of the trail back to the car when I am Dead Woman Walking.
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Re: Climbing & Emotions

Postby ilium » Fri Aug 17, 2012 2:43 pm

Totally inspired to climb now. Thanks everyone!
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Re: Climbing & Emotions

Postby MissJonesy » Fri Aug 17, 2012 3:01 pm

Funny thing coming accross this thread since I just posted this to my facebook page yesterday

"Why do I love climbing mountains? Because its a rush of adrenaline prepping for the climb, an enormous wave of excitement comes over me rolling out of bed in the dark wee hours of the morning and driving to the trailhead, at a certain point during the climb I can think of nothing except putting one foot in front of the other, my mantra "I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful", and the immense joy that comes with summiting, taking in the glorious view, and finally reaching the car, feeling accomplished. It's at this point I realize that I can do anything I put my mind to"

And yes, my mantra comes from the best movie of all time - What About Bob. I also like to use "baby steps" as well :)

I got weepy eyed upon reaching my first summit....and since then climbing has become an obsession. I crave it. To the person experiencing stomache issues at high-alititude I can relate! But I think that has something to do with the altitude itself rather than emotions. I too get restless with anticipation the night before....and there's always a little fear - especially when climbing solo.
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Re: Climbing & Emotions

Postby rijaca » Fri Aug 17, 2012 3:04 pm

I climb because it's fun! Which makes me Happy! :mrgreen:
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Re: Climbing & Emotions

Postby Vellum_and_Ink » Fri Aug 31, 2012 11:58 am

It would stand to reason that if altitude can affect your ability to use proper judgement that it would also be able to affect your ability to properly process emotion. That being said, I know I get much more powerful emotions starting near 13,000 (as others have mentioned). I think a large part of this is that its a very intense and emotional experience and Im doing it alone. My first summit I did with my Dad, and it was enjoyable but not overly emotional. My second summit was a few years later, and I was horribly out of shape. Around 12,000 feet on Harvard I was separated from the rest of the group (some ahead of me, some behind), and started getting emotional. By 13,000 I probably should have turned around, I had narrowing vision and nearly blacked out, but somehow I turned my ability to make the summit a referendum on my life. I was unemployed at the time, and felt my life was in shambles, and I had convinced myself that if I could make the summit I could turn my life around, but that if I couldnt make it then my life would follow the same path of settling for "almost". These arent thoughts I would normally have on a day to day basis, and when I finally made the summit I cried with joy. Ironically a month later, after being out of work for a year, I was working again. Also, Ive started a habit of calling my Dad from the summit of whatever mountain I climb that year, and I end up on the verge of tears each time. Im not typically an overly emotional or weepy person, so this is something I would say is brought on the magnificence of the occasion and possibly exacerbated by altitude and solitude.
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Re: Climbing & Emotions

Postby Hungry Jack » Fri Aug 31, 2012 12:10 pm

The strangest emotion I felt on a climb was after my son was born. My friend and I had ascended the Citadel, and suddenly I did not want to be there. There was some exposure, but nothing unlike I had encountered on the Sawtooth, west ridge, Kelso, Loft, etc before my son was born. Yet somehow I was completely tuned into the consequences of my own mortality, despite the relatively low level of risk. It took all the fun out of it.

This feeling subsided on my most recent trip, thankfully. The mountains are a place to clear your mind, challenge yourself, get some exercise, and enjoy scenery and solitude.
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Re: Climbing & Emotions

Postby LuLuLuv » Fri Aug 31, 2012 12:23 pm

Wow, interesting topic. I do think it does. I find hiking to be therapeutic and when I am going through a rough time in life the mountains offer solace. I have teared up a lot during hikes over the years, and full out bawled when I finished all the 14ers (tho I bawled when I earned my black belt in karate too, which was not at altitude and not making me seem like I was very tough :oops: So maybe that theory is blown?) But I do think there is something to be said about it??!!
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Re: Climbing & Emotions

Postby centrifuge » Fri Aug 31, 2012 12:36 pm

I completely agree with the early replies from Dark Helmut and James. I have discovered that its as much of a reaction to physical state as altitude. When you toss mental state/attitude into the equation it becomes even more difficult. Alone, its much harder to manage because you don’t have anyone there to help keep you out of your head when your brain goes south, but with a partner, you are able to help keep each other in a positive place, even when your body becomes dehydrated/nutritionally depleted. I figured this out running in the mountains more so than climbing, because I was able to reach that point of exhaustion often enough that I was able to figure out what fixed it and what didn’t. I know if I'm getting emotional, drink, and eat, if that doesn’t work, take e-caps. One of the 3 almost always fixes it. Being at altitude absolutely makes it more difficult to manage with the lower level of oxygen, but imho, at least in regards to my body, its a sign that I'm not keeping up with my nutrition in some way.
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Re: Climbing & Emotions

Postby SummitKathy » Fri Aug 31, 2012 12:42 pm

I was just talking about this the other day while on a climb. I also experience the same thing in my long distance running races. Not sure how to explain it... but I know that my emotions are definitely tired somehow to how much I'm pushing myself physically.
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”-John Muir
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Re: Climbing & Emotions

Postby joshmcd » Fri Aug 31, 2012 1:09 pm

My wife suffered AMS severely last year when we hiked La Plata. The very first indicators were emotional instability and severe anxiety. She typically handles her emotions quite well, but she became noticeably afraid on the switchbacks at 11,500 before the ridge. By the time we reached the ridge she had a severe headache, nausea, and her fingers were swollen and turning blue. When I realized that she was just keeping quiet about it all and trying push forward for my sake, we stopped at the ridge crest to hydrate, fuel up, and reconsider our summit bid. Her condition continued to deteriorate to the point that when we began descending from the ridge, she could barely step down the rock steps leading down from the ridge. She was experiencing this crippling fear that wouldn't let her take another step forward. I literally had to hold on to her and walk down the steps with her clinging to my arms. When we got back down to 11,000' in the basin, she was perfectly normal.

I've never seen her like that. The initial symptom was emotional instability followed by irrational fear. Perhaps in her case it was just the onset of AMS. We live at sea-level and that was her first time that high. She doesn't hike with me anymore at higher elevation.

I know for me personally, I experience a small level of emotional change but I attribute it to a combination of hormonal adrenaline and mental caution as it particularly shows up in me near dramatic exposure.

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