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This drawing is both a reflection and an achievement. By the time I finished it, I realised the face of the climber looks like my younger (and beloved) father’s. But that’s another story.

Climbing to the top of the mountain, figuratively speaking or not, physically climbing to the summit, our personal pyramid of goals or simply the objective to become the best person we know we can be, all this can be synthesize in the picture of a mountaineer, contemplating his feat, sitting atop of the peak he’s just ascended.

George Mallory once compared climbing to being an art, thus in his statement linking the climber to being an artist. In his writings about climbing, it describes it as a symphony. Surely, in his days of discoveries and challenges, with gear retrospectively dubbed as “inadequate” by modern mountaineers ( a statement which I am not sure to  agreeing with), climbing “unconquered” mountains set in unchartered territories  was a much more dangerous adventure than it is now

Now, who said mountains have to be conquered?

They were there before us and will be long after we’re gone. It’s just another belliquose term to describe a feat of courage, effort, motivation and pushing one’s limits. And it does not reflect properly the tremendous journey it can be. The very word implies a warlike confrontation of some sort, with a winner and a loser, or someone asserting their power over something.

Mountains are not conquered.

But we are,  by the intoxicating adrenaline rush, the empowerment of achieving an arduous task, the supreme boost of esteem attached to victory over difficuty and over ourselves. Afterwards comes the joy of being rewarded by an impressive view and a deep sense of completion.

On the other hand, fear can be conquered ; shyness, jealousy, envy, greediness, suffering have to be conquered too. Because those emotions or feelings never vanish entirely, do they? They lurk in a dark corner of the soul, muzzled for a time, feeding on one’s insecurities. We can conquer them, and yet have to remain watchful of their taking over our heart and sensibility. It’s a never ending task.

So, let’s just climb mountains, and conquer our fragile selves.

Alpiniste FV

Sommet 1963- copyright Florence Vitel 2017