Our world has never been more connected than it is today. Yet somehow in this interconnected social world we barely interact with one another outside of the digital world. Now look I am not going to go on some rant about the pitfalls of social media or texting culture, or the way people interact over YouTube. This article is discussing the friendliest people that I have met, that group being hikers and climbers.
I have been hiking consistently for a few years now and whether I am climbing a mountain in New Hampshire, or walking along a ravine in Northern Connecticut, if I see someone they almost always say hello. Which is a beautiful thing when you are out alone. Sure it might break the solitude of the experience but it does remind me that I am not the only one out hiking. It does however leave a question. Why are hikers and climbers so friendly?
I really do not know! Climbing is a sport and it has a great deal of competition yet the competitors treat each other like friends. I wrestled in High School for three years and sure we may have shook the hand of our opponent but the things we said afterwards were generally far from polite. This trait at least in my experience does not pertain to climbers. For example last year Alex Honnold, and Tommy Caldwell completed the first traverse of Fitz Roy in Patagonia. Alex and Tommy are amazing rock climbers but neither are grizzled alpinists.
In fact Alex is the first person to have ever won the Piolets d’Or without ever having lead a pitch of ice. Just before they started their epic climb Tommy noticed that Alex had brought the wrong type of crampons. His crampons would only attach to mountaineering boots; he was wearing Gore-Tex tennis shoes. So their already dangerous climb had the added threat of Alex losing his crampons mid climb. However as they climbed they knew that two famous alpine climbers from Patagonia were already attempting the same challenge. One of the climbers Rolo Garibotti a climber who literally wrote the book on Patagonia alpine climbing was feeling sick and they decided to descend mid route. On their descent they met up with Alex and Tommy. Rolo knew that Alex had the wrong crampons and in an amazing show of kindness he gave Alex the crampons he needed to complete the route. Rolo’s party was forced to abort their quest and he decided to give Alex the tools he needed to complete the climb. Which was an amazing show of kindness and benevolence from an amazing climber. How often do you see the New York Yankees handing a baseball bat to the hitter for the Boston Red Sox?
It is acts of kindness like the one demonstrated by Rolo on Fit Roy that truly describe the hiking and climbing community. We are friends within the mountains and we care about one another. I never feel strange asking someone how far away I am from the summit, or how his or her trip went. That confidence does not carry over to my journeys along a Boston Subway.
We are a community and we treat each other well because we know that we are all just trying to have a good time. We are all trying to be amongst friends, away from the world, away from the stress of every day life, and all of its challenges. This is what I have found in my experience at least. Your mileage may vary. So as always remember go out, explore treat your world with respect, and say hello to the people you meet on the trail.
“There is something about building up a comradeship – that I still believe is the greatest of all feats – and sharing in the dangers with your company of peers. It’s the intense effort, the giving of everything you’ve got. It’s really a very pleasant sensation.”
– Edmund Hillary