What? That’s right, you read the title correctly. It may sound funny, but mountaineering and music are not actually that far apart from one another. Both are inspiring, engaging and better with friends.
First things first, do you know what a mountaineering course entails? Mountaineering technically refers to the ‘state or sport of climbing mountains.’ When some people talk about mountaineering, they’re talking about traveling in mountains over a certain elevation. Others are referring to long rock or ice routes in an alpine terrain, or define mountaineering based on the equipment that people must use to accomplish a goal. If you want to learn more specifically about what a mountaineering course entails with Outward Bound, refer to this blog post.
So how does music fit in with mountaineering? I will provide a few examples of how certain songs and Outward Bound mountaineering courses have gone hand-in-hand.
Mission Impossible (dun dun duh nuh)
Outward Bound Instructor Jack and his students started early in the morning on a mountaineering expedition. They climbed the technical face of Jagged Mountain with four fixed lines up a snow couloir, one fixed line traversing through rock and snow, a 4th class scramble, and a final fixed line up rock to the summit. As the clouds began to build, they knew it was time to retreat. The Instructors lowered students, sent them through the traverse fixed line again, and then lowered them four more rope lengths through rock and snow. At this point, the students glissaded as a team down the lower section of the couloir while singing the theme song to mission impossible.
Mountaineering is often a seemingly impossible mission that requires tactical skill, exposure to heights and the elements, and mental stamina. On course, teams of students travel together in steep and technical terrain. In these conditions, you are often tested mentally and physically as you are pushed out of your comfort zones. For some students, the exposure to height may challenge them. For others, traveling on a rope team with a group of individuals will be the challenge. Mountaineering quickly forces you out of your comfort zone, which is beneficial for both you and those around you. Although this challenge at times seems nearly impossible, overcoming it will provide you with the joy that encouraged those students and many more to sing as they glissaded down the snow. With greater challenges and responsibilities come greater rewards.
Mountaineering reminds you that you can accomplish tasks that you never knew were possible before course if you are dedicated to learning new skills and facing new challenges.
Superman Got Nothing On Me (Well, Us)
On another mountaineering expedition in the Rockies, an Outward Bound crew had been plagued by bad weather and they were planning on climbing a couloir the next morning up Mt. Hope. The name felt fitting for this crew as they rallied their spirits despite many rainy days. As the team started climbing the couloir, they found more snow than they’d expected and ended up traveling up 10 fixed lines instead of the anticipated four. The snow warmed up throughout the day and students had to trust the ropes and each other if they slipped. Reflecting on the day, one student said, “Hope had never worked for me like it did that day on the climb.”
On the climb, staff and students sang “I’m only one call away, I’ll be there to save the day, Superman got nothing on me, I’m only one call away.” Mountaineering poses physical and technical challenges through committing objectives. With these challenges comes incredible teamwork. When you’re dependent on your rope team for your safety, you’ll learn quickly what is important to you in relationships, how you develop trust with others and how to communicate effectively. You’ll understand how to trust the systems that are placed specifically to keep you safe. Those systems rely heavily on the people in the crew and their ability to support one another in intense situations.
Mountaineering offers you the chance to support one another through physical systems, such as rope teams, and mental systems such as trust and mutual encouragement.
Heading back into camp, weary to the bone, sun kissed, laughing and grateful, one of my favorite things to do is to run the last few yards slow motion while singing the Final Countdown. I have been lucky to have many students join me in this ritual after an empowering day in the mountains. There is something rewarding about coming into camp and using that last bit of strength and laughter to denote the accomplishments of the day.
In their song, Europe asks, “We’re leaving ground, will things ever be the same again?” I can say with nearly 100% certainty that this song was not about mountaineering. But, I do think that it’s about going on an adventure knowing that they often always lead to change. Change can feel simultaneously intimidating and exciting, just like the sport of mountaineering. After course you will be the same person, but you will likely learn or realize things about yourself that you didn’t know before. With these new insights, you may never be the same again.
Mountaineering reminds us to be grateful for our bodies, which allow us to travel in remote areas and realize our full potential through the process.
Choose Your Tune And Your Course
This final step is up to you. Perhaps you’re more inspired by something simpler or newer than the ones I’ve proposed. Perhaps the final countdown is the song you need to encourage you to sign up for a month-long course. It’s up to you.
I hope you remember that the important thing is to inspire yourself to take the first step towards learning more about challenge, unique skills, and all the possibilities that a mountaineering course can offer.
About the Author
Annie Holmes is an Instructor at the Colorado Outward Bound School who enjoys eating chocolate after a long day in the backcountry, walking for extensive amounts of time carrying a heavy pack and going on adventures with dogs. She has a degree in Psychology from UNC-Chapel Hill and enjoys talking about how our brains work and why we decide to do what we do. She also likes climbing up rocks and then rappelling down them directly afterwards and confusing her family by randomly going to places without cell phone service.
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