As we were getting ready to climb Kilimanjaro in January 2018, I started thinking about why people climb mountains in general.
Surely you’ve heard, in response to the question, “Why do people climb mountains?” the famous quip, “Because it’s there.” Did you ever wonder where that expression came from?
The story goes that in the early 1920’s, British explorer, George Herbert Leigh Mallory (seated on the far left in the photo above) wanted to be the first man to summit the world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest. He was apparently making a tour talking about his planned expedition and trying to drum up sponsors and benefactors to finance the expedition.
People kept asking him things like, “Why ever in the world would you want to climb that mountain? Don’t you know that’s dangerous? You could get killed! Why? Why? Why?” He apparently tried so many times to explain his motivations that he finally became frustrated and began answering the why question with, “Because it’s there.”
As it turns out, he got his funding and he made his expedition, and sure enough – it killed him and his climbing partner! They were making a push for the summit and their companions say they disappeared into the mist and were never seen again. Mallory’s body was found 75 years later but his partner’s body hasn’t been found yet.
Discussing this story, Theclymb blog quotes Mallory…
“Because it’s there… Everest is the highest mountain in the world, and no man has reached its summit. Its existence is a challenge. The answer is instinctive, a part, I suppose, of man’s desire to conquer the universe.
Have we vanquished an enemy?
None but ourselves!”