It’s the time of the year for new plans and aspirations, and many are thinking about their health and fitness goals. One exciting possibility is adding mountain climbing to one’s dreamed-of (or already-existing) active lifestyle. If mountains do not yet loom large in your imagination, here are some reasons to try climbing them in 2019:
#1. It’s good for your health
G.M. Trevelyan said it best: "I have two doctors, my left leg and my right.” As an aerobic activity, hiking can boost cardiovascular function and blood circulation, and can be part of one’s weight management plan. Studies have also shown benefits to bone health - helping prevent osteoporosis - as well as muscle strength: gym-goers can think of a day of hiking as a ‘leg day’!
Beyond its physical health benefits, hiking is also good for mental health. Being in the mountains, surrounded with trees instead of the traffic, hearing birdsong instead of buzzing, is itself therapeutic. Doubtless, seeing the vastness of the wilderness can help us see things in perspective, while reaching a mountaintop can boost our confidence to overcome the figurative ‘mountains’ of our lives.
#2 It can make your travel plans more exciting
Hiking gives a reason to visit - or revisit - various places, including those you wouldn’t normally go to. And while hiking might be one’s main objective, every hiker will inevitably have to travel - and eat - and do side trips - making for very eventful adventures. For those whose itineraries are already set, hiking can be another highlight of your trip, apart from dining, shopping, and ticking off one’s must-sees and must-dos.
Meanwhile, those traveling abroad will also be pleased to know that there’s almost always a nearby hike wherever you go. Those in Tokyo can take a train to Mt. Takao; those in Seoul can take a bus to Bukhansan; and there are countless trails in Hong Kong. The pursuit of mountains can take you to destinations like Tanzania (home of Mt. Kilimanjaro), where going on a safari is surely the best post- (or pre-) climb activity.
#3. You learn more about the country and the environment
There is a great disconnect between life in the cities and those in the hinterlands, and unfortunately issues like mining, logging, and indigenous peoples’ rights often feel distant for many Filipinos. By climbing mountains, one gets to meet people living in geographically (and economically) marginalised areas, boosting one’s awareness of social issues.
Mountain climbing is also an immersion in nature, making us appreciate what’s at stake in environmental issues - from deforestation to species extinction. You cannot love what you do not know: Those who have experienced the beauty of the forests will be more likely to be more concerned about threats to our environment. Indeed, when one has actually camped on a mountain it becomes more than a place in a map, but a special place in one’s memories.
#4. It’s a great bonding activity
Hiking is not just a physical, but a very social activity: imagine spending an entire day - or even two or more days - walking (and talking) with one’s friends. At a time when people have divergent careers, climbing a mountain gives people a common ground and a shared goal (i.e. to reach the summit and get back safely), even as the mountains can also be the venue to exchange your life stories - with plenty of time to spare.
Hiking also makes for great family activity - one that kids will surely look back on with nostalgia. Because mountains attract people with interesting personalities, they are also a place to encounter new friends and expand one’s social horizons.
#5. You learn more about yourself
Hikers may often highlight photos of themselves smiling triumphantly atop a summit - or posing frivolously on a rock - but getting there is a test of character as much as it is a test of fitness or strength. So is failing to get there— a very real possibility when pursuing more challenging peaks.
Perhaps this may apply more for experienced mountaineers like Carina Dayondon, who had to repeat a 21-day expedition up Mt. Aconcagua in South America because the first attempt was met with bad weather. First-timers, however, can feel the same way even for easy hikes. Because of the hardships along the way - thirst, hunger, cold, heat rain, physical fatigue - mountain climbing allows people to pursue the ancient Greek advice “to know thyself” - and by realising (and acting on) one’s weaknesses, be a better person.
And so as we enter a new year, you may want to consider trying out some of the beautiful hiking trails in our country and beyond. Surely, something good is waiting for you at the summit! As William Blake once said: “Great things are done when men and mountains meet.”
Here are more trails and mountains to explore. Click on the image below for slideshow
Mt. Takao in Tokyo Photograph from @hana4115 on Instagram
Mt. Takao in Tokyo Photograph from @thematoy on Instagram
Mt. Takao in Tokyo Photograph from @thecuriousgeorge23 on Instagram
Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania Photograph from @hello_steph on Instagram
Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania Photograph from @chestynuts on Instagram
Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania Photograph from @davidliano on Instagram
Mt Bukhansan in Seoul Photograph from @mrbolice on Instagram
Mt Bukhansan in Seoul Photograph from @mrmistryy on Instagram
Mt. Aconcagua in South America Photograph from @eric_crumbaker on Instagram
Mt. Aconcagua in South America Photograph from @vikingdriver on Instagram
Mt. Aconcagua in South America Photograph from @alpenglowexpeditions on Instagram
Dragon’s Back Trail in Hong Kong Photograph from @wanessaurus on Instagram
Dragon’s Back Trail in Hong Kong Photograph from @wlin_037 on Instagram
Lion Rock Hill in Hong Kong Photograph from @timothyma_ on Instagram
Lion Rock Hill in Hong Kong Photograph from @airasiafilipino on Instagram
Lantau Peak in Hong Kong Photograph from @zacki_hamid on Instagram
Lantau Peak in Hong Kong Photograph from @henronica on Instagram
Sunset Peak in Hong Kong Photograph from @bunsai on Instagram
Sunset Peak in Hong Kong Photograph from @wan_lou_hang on Instagram
Pyramid Hill in Hong Kong Photograph from @_extremechan_ on Instagram
Maclehose Trail in Hong Kong Photograph from @city_to_summit_taka on Instagram