The Conquering Hero Comes!

This is another day when I feel frustrated because I’d like to be out travelling, although I did get to have a great long walk on the South Downs on Saturday. But rather than post about that at the moment, I have a fancy to re-post this piece I wrote a few years ago:

I’ve never wanted to ‘conquer’ mountains.

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Or any other parts of the world, really.

I’ve always felt this was the wrong way to think of a journey. It was ridiculous to think I could impose my will upon a mountain, or on a desert, or indeed upon any part of my route. That I could, perhaps, somehow bend it to my will.

I feel it is more a case of preparing as best as possible, including mentally, and then perhaps said mountain will tolerate my presence; will allow me passage.

‘Conquering’ also carries the implication of invasion, of fighting, of strife. That is not the sort of relationship I want with mountains, or with any other place I choose to travel.

Certainly, in the past I have travelled at least partly with that mindset at times.

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Some of you may recall I wrote about an extremely foolish journey I took in Oman when I lived there over thirty years ago (Mr. Stupid Goes For a Walk). Although I was running low on water, I pushed myself to the limit to reach the final ridge of hills on the route I had decided I was going to achieve one day, nearly killing my stupid self in the process. And although I achieved my aim, I didn’t feel victorious.

Only a bit stupid.

I prefer instead to think of myself as a visitor. And as a visitor, I need to have some manners. You do not expect to find the visitors pushing through your house and demanding to see this or to be given that, so I don’t.

I am not out to break records, nor to prove how tough I am.

This does not imply a lack of ambition, nor a lack of determination. Indeed, I have both – it’s just that the mindset is a little different. In particular, I give myself different priorities. I want to reach my goal but if I don’t, it does not matter. I think I’m more attuned to my own safety, and perhaps that of others. I hope I can be receptive to the feelings of others, too.

A good example in the climbing world is that of the mountains in Nepal that climbers are forbidden to reach the summit of, due to the belief that they are the abode of gods. Theoretically, a climber will stop some 10 meters or so short of the summit. Opinion is naturally divided over whether a climber would, or wouldn’t, in the absence of any witnesses, respect that ban.

I would respect it every time.

The mountains, of course, are inanimate. They do not wish me harm or otherwise. Neither do deserts or oceans. Even the most inhospitable of landscapes is neutral. It does not care whether I succeed in my aim to reach or traverse a particular part of it, and it will not hinder or help me in the attempt.

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My feelings about a landscape are just my reactions to it, and if I should choose to give this landscape a kindly or vindictive character, I am only projecting my own feelings onto it.

This may give me comfort, or otherwise, but will make no material difference.

Maybe I am simply suggesting it’s good to travel with humility.

I have touched upon that before!

48 thoughts on “The Conquering Hero Comes!

  1. Good advice for life, Mick. I’d rather cooperate than conquer any day. Also had my share of near misses from being overly confident, like the time we got caught at night on the river in kayaks during and Ansel Adams-esque lightning storm so humble has also become my new friend. 🤓

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, we started in the daytime, around 1p, but got bad advice from the ranger who said it would be a 5-hour float but it was more like an 8-hour float and with the thunderstorm became a 10-hour float from hell! 🤪

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Right. Nearest bridge was 7 miles away so couldn’t even get a ride back to our car, etc. plus there were 20 of us on the river, adults and kids, and it was pouring and there was no where to take shelter. 🤪

            Liked by 1 person

              1. 🤣😂 Flares and what not, I’m going to guess. What else do I’ll know for next time? We had water and food and life vests and cellphones but there was no intention call. Sometimes even being prepared you miss stuff.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. I expect it was a hire from a company. They’d give you the basics. I’m speaking as an ex-instructor – amongst other stuff, I’d have ensured the group had shelters in the event of getting stranded due to accidents or bad weather.

                  Liked by 1 person

                    1. Would you send me a link to something you recommend? 🙏My son is out in Idaho right now doing an internship with Americorps and sometimes he rides his motorcycle up into the mountains by himself and I worry that it might let him sit one day and he won’t have any cell reception and be stuck overnight. It gets below freezing way up in the mountains at night even though it’s summer.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. Let me have a look around. Most of my info is from training courses and the such – mostly we work on the assumption people are willing to carry the correct equipment on expeditions to keep them safe and relatively comfortable.

                      I’ll get back to you.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    3. When they go on their 6-day back country jobs they do have all kids of equipment but I’m thinking for when he’s out on his own riding or even after he leaves that job. Thanks, Mick.🙏👌

                      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice post sir.
    Conquering a mountain is definitely a wrong way to look at it. Whether you look at it as inanimate or not. It being inanimate means there is nothing to be conquered. If it were indeed to be treated as an entity, a more correct terminology would be that the mountain provided the climber safe passage.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have always felt that the mountains, desert, oceans, forests … all of nature … preceded humans and that we must respect, not try to dominate. Having hiked some parts of the Appalachian Trail here in the U.S., I have tremendous respect for the beauty and power of nature, whether mountains, oceans, forests. I love the mountains and once dreamed of owning a log cabin far from the madding crowd in the Smoky Mountains. Perhaps in my next lifetime! I hope you can set out on a new adventure soon, Mick!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Such a shame that more people haven’t got the same feelings regarding travel. So many want to conquer/achieve/beat or just simply tick things off a list. No respect for where they are or what they are seeing. We try and act as you suggest, as visitors purely passing by and enjoying the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I often think people have no respect for nature. They go out in tiny boats when the weather is bad, ski off piste etc, and often necessitate other putting themselves in danger in order to save them. And I won’t even get started on leaving rubbish behind etc…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great photos and memories ~ and you have very good insight and advice when it comes to the conquering of mountains/jungles/or anything for that matter. A journey it seems it very much a collaborative effort, and yes it is almost silly to think we can impose will upon a mountain, or on a desert, or jungle, and often attempts to do so will lead one to feeling a bit silly. And on that note, I have to go read your hike in Oman…it sounds like something I’d do (and still do). Enjoy your weekend 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I do understand why for many people these sort of journeys do seem like an actual battle; the physical struggle against difficult terrain or climatic conditions, but it then seems a bit silly when they realise there is no entity battling back against them. The only battle, really, is against themselves.

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