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Climbing & Emotions

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

Postby ashlee03 » Mon Aug 13, 2012 9:27 pm

Is it just me or can the altitude play a role in your emotional well-being? I know it can mess with your judgment, but the last two times I've been to Colorado, I just couldn't control my emotions (became scared & overly emotional). I'm from a low elevation, but have never had this problem before. I stayed in Denver for a couple of days prior to ascending to 9,000 ft. Perhaps the first couple of mountains I climbed I was doing it off of adrenalin?

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Re: Climbing & Emotions

Postby oldschoolczar » Mon Aug 13, 2012 9:33 pm

Hmm.. I've never heard of that. I think the task of climbing a mountain definitely tests the emotions though. It is definitely as much of a mental challenge as a physical challenge. I wouldn't doubt that the altitude could exaggerate that effect as well as the dehydration, exhaustion, lack of energy, lack of sleep, etc. I have found that I'm overwhelmed with the weird sensation of desiring to grow a moustache as I climb a mountain. I become obsessed, but usually this urge goes away as I reach the trailhead. Usually...
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Re: Climbing & Emotions

Postby tmathews » Mon Aug 13, 2012 9:48 pm

ashlee03 wrote:Is it just me or can the altitude play a role in your emotional well-being? I know it can mess with your judgment, but the last two times I've been to Colorado, I just couldn't control my emotions (became scared & overly emotional). I'm from a low elevation, but have never had this problem before. I stayed in Denver for a couple of days prior to ascending to 9,000 ft. Perhaps the first couple of mountains I climbed I was doing it off of adrenalin?

Ashlee


For me, it does play a role in my emotional well-being. Altitude keeps me sane. I leave the city for altitude every week because it's therapeutic. Even if I'm nervous about a route, the altitude invigorates me and heightens my senses. It is not detrimental in the slightest. If anything, I'm more likely to shed tears after the completion of a particular route that I've enjoyed so much or because the beauty of an area or because a poignant memory has been triggered by it. Willow Lake is one of these places for me. Every time I go there, it feels like my soul has come home.

Emotions are not a weakness. They give you strength and keep you grounded.

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Re: Climbing & Emotions

Postby kimo » Mon Aug 13, 2012 9:55 pm

ashlee03 wrote:Is it just me or can the altitude play a role in your emotional well-being? I know it can mess with your judgment, but the last two times I've been to Colorado, I just couldn't control my emotions (became scared & overly emotional). I'm from a low elevation, but have never had this problem before. I stayed in Denver for a couple of days prior to ascending to 9,000 ft. Perhaps the first couple of mountains I climbed I was doing it off of adrenalin?


I'm sure we all get emotional to an extent. I know I do. But it manifests itself in many different ways. Joy and fear, sometimes on the same hike. Those are the best trips. But you gotta keep the head in it. Think good thoughts.

Perhaps the fear was intuition. Was there reason to be scared? Maybe some exposure, or a storm brewing in the distance? Trust the gut when in the mountains.

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Re: Climbing & Emotions

Postby ashlee03 » Mon Aug 13, 2012 10:30 pm

I think a lot of it has to deal with it not having a partner to hike with the last couple of times. I usually get a good night's rest but wake up terrified or not feeling excited like I did the day before. I somehow need to tell myself that once I get going, then I'll enjoy it.

I also get choked up when summiting (I know I'm not the only one), due to the beauty & the physical & mental energy that goes into the experience. I'm coming back on the 25th, so one of you better kick my butt into gear!! :D

P.S. You 14er climbers are so awesome! I also can't say that I've had an urge to grow a mustache. Maybe next climb.

Ashlee

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Re: Climbing & Emotions

Postby peter303 » Tue Aug 14, 2012 8:47 am

People have been getting emotional about dogs here lately :wink:

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Re: Climbing & Emotions

Postby USAKeller » Tue Aug 14, 2012 9:02 am

ashlee03 wrote:Is it just me or can the altitude play a role in your emotional well-being?

Interesting topic. To answer your question, yes. Not sure if this is TMI but here goes... for the last year and a half since my mom was unexpectedly called Home, I tear up every time I hike, usually around 13,500' or higher. That emotion, although often times fleeting, results from knowing and feeling that I'm 9,000 feet closer to her than I am in Boulder. When I'm with other people it's hidden by my sunglasses, but when I'm hiking solo there's no holding back. Weird, I know...
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Re: Climbing & Emotions

Postby Dark Helmet » Tue Aug 14, 2012 9:06 am

yes, there is a rational physiological connection between altitude and "getting emotional."

three things in play.

1) Significant physical stress. ever see someone finish a marathon? yeah, pretty emotional. I went to B-school, so I can't say WHY this happens, but it is very common in athletic endeavors.

2) Dehydration. dehydration is exaggerated at altitude, and if we look at common dehydration scenarios at low altitudes there is a corollary. a) heat stress: if I run 8 miles in hellish heat, I'll be dried out horribly and will start to shake and feel scared, some as an reflex, some due to the inability to control my body and the realization I am in physical danger. b) being drunk... the cognitive effects of inebriation are driven by dehydration where alcohol is there instead of water. and we all know emotional drunks, do we not?

3) oxygen deprivation... at altitudes above 10-12Kft (for an average flatlander like me), the body starts freaking out because its basically asphyxiating slowly, it cannot take in enough O2 to feed itself. Much of this effect can be mittigated through acclimation and the body's adaptations to the thinner air, but for a commuter-hiker, its a very real issue.


you'll need an MD to explain all of the chemical processes, but yeah, it completely makes sense.




and Keller, I know exactly what you're talking about... you're a LONG way from alone in that.

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Re: Climbing & Emotions

Postby James Dziezynski » Tue Aug 14, 2012 9:23 am

While there are lots of reasons for being emotional on mountains, there is also a very basic nutritional reason that can trigger a lot of emotions. Endurance racers (biking, running) call this "getting weepy". And science backs it up. If you begin to get underpowered and dehydrated, it effects your body and mind. For racers, if you start to feel weepy, it's time to eat. In fact, it's a good idea to eat throughout the day while hiking. I like to take in 200-300 calories per hour between gels and gummies precisely to prevent getting weepy.

Now of course, that's just one piece of the puzzle. Mountains evoke some powerful emotions. I remember an unexpected and overwhelming wave of emotion on a winter ascent of Grays some years ago. It was like the floodgates just opened. And it can be a good thing!

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Re: Climbing & Emotions

Postby MtnHub » Tue Aug 14, 2012 10:02 am

I agree, climbing can have a definite effect on your emotions. Several years back when I was mainly a hiker and didn't really climb peaks, a friend and I were climbing the Middle Teton. He had a bad toenail on one of his feet that was really starting to bother him, so he bailed out on me about halfway. But he encouraged me to keep going giving me some tips and route information (he'd been up there before). I completed the climb but the gully leading to the summit was quite loose and sketchy for me since I had never really done much stuff like that before. Coming back down I got a bit teary-eyed and emotional it was quite an accomplishment for me. I really wanted to do it!

Don't get that way much anymore, but many climbs do still give me a very deep spiritual emotion. I just came back from CO a few weeks ago, and my first climb up Bison was especially spiritual for me. I was literally overwhelmed by the beauty of the area!
Last edited by MtnHub on Tue Aug 14, 2012 1:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Climbing & Emotions

Postby ajkagy » Tue Aug 14, 2012 10:40 am

it's not altitude...just the anticipation of having a big day in the mountains. Nerves are a big factor and I've had many sleepless nights thinking about a ski descent or knowing I'm going to be moving for 12 hours straight the next day. I think it's all about new experiences.
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Re: Climbing & Emotions

Postby climbing_rob » Tue Aug 14, 2012 10:41 am

My emotions are definitely "enhanced" when I climb, but I've always simply attributed this to an endorphin rush. Anything this physical creates a body chemistry that will accentuate all emotions, both positive ones and negative ones. I used to get the same enhanced emotional highs/lows when I swam and ran competitively. I really don't think this is anything more than simple body chemistry, triggered by the beautiful but sometimes scary environment of mountain climbing.

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