Mountain Quotes

Adventure is a sign of incompetence.
Vilhjalmar Stefansson.

I have refrained from giving any narrow escapes unheard of sufferings or awfull perils we encountered, partly because we didn't experience any, but principally because there is enough of [such] Globe trotter literature knocking about already.
From the journals of Charlie Douglas, who spent 40 years at the end of the 1800s exploring and mapping the valleys and mountains of the South Island of New Zealand, often alone but for his dog.

Mikaru [literally "white eyes," or Westeners] are much like cattle. They are happy wandering about aimlessly all day long, they are constantly getting sick, and you have to lead them by the nose over difficult terrain or they'll fall off the trail. But if you feed them well, they'll produce a lot of rich milk for you.
Sherpani in Namche Bazar.

But to snuff it without knowing who you are and what you are capable of; I can't think of anything sadder than that.
Mo Anthoine

The real point of mountain climbing, as of most hard sports, is that it voluntarily tests the human spirit against the fiercest odds, not that it achieves anything more substantial-or even wins the contest, for that matter.

He who thinks of Himachal, though he should not behold him is greater than he who performs all worship in Kashi. And he who thinks of Himachal shall have pardon for all sins, and all things that in dying think of his snows are freed from sin. In a hundred ages of the gods I could not tell thee of the glories of Himachal where Siva lived and where the Ganges fall from the foot of Vishnu like the slender thread of the lotus flower.
Hindu text.

Men say that this [Nepal] is the point midway between heaven and earth.
Hsuon Tsang---800AD.

These mountains of Asia, in their very vastness and remoteness, imprint themselves on the soul of the man who once sets foot on them, because they touch him at every human level.

Except that the climber climbs the mountain not just to get to the top. He would try to climb it even if he knew he could never get there. He climbs it simply because he can have the solitary peace and contentment of knowing constantly that only his solitary nerve, will and courage stand between him and destruction.
William Faulkner (The Mansion).

There is an intense but simple thrill in setting off in the morning on a mountain trail, knowing that everything you need is on your back. It is confidence in having left the inessentials behind and of entering a world of natural beauty that has not been violated, where money has no value, and possessions are a deadweight. The person with the fewest possessions is the freest. Thoreau was right.

I don't want to be the best climber; I want to be the oldest climber.
Anonymous guide.

When asked what a good climber is, Whillans would say: A good one is a live one.

Convinced of his failure, Coleridge returns to his loveless home nearby, and retreats into illness and opium addiction, metaphysics and mountain climbing... Coleridge's passion for climbing hills and scaling mountain peaks seems to have some deep imaginative correspondence with his metaphysical inquiries... The panoramic view from a peak ... often brings moments of intense vision. Moreover the urge to climb out of civilization, to get above and beyond, may suggest a sort of intellectual claustrophobia, a longing to free himself not merely from the restraints of domesticity, but from a narrow English culture. He climbed, as it were, to see across the whole of Europe.

To those who prefer voluntary and sustained action to passive ease and monotonous comfort and whom nature has endowed with the necessary capacity, solo mountaineering affords an inexhaustible source of the keenest and purest joys in life.
Lammer, quoted in Hiebeler, Combats pour l'Eiger.

To compose the Iliad, [Homer] moved higher up the mountain-side, nearer to the eternal snows and to the very homes of the Muses and the other gods. From there he had a different and a clearer view of the same landscape. Some of the mists dissolved, the sun beat pitilessly on the snow, and a number of new things, many of them very terrible and lovely came into sight. Homer himself became, if possible, even more human. He had climbed high; he had forced and solved some of the ultimate enigmas; he could afford to smile both at the ant-like activities of men and the more awe-inspiring pageant of the gods.

Where the glacier meets the sky, the land ceases to be earthly, and the earth becomes one with the heavens; no sorrows live there any more, and therefore joy is not necessary; beauty alone reigns...
Halldor Laxness, World Light, p.453.