Quote of the week – February week #4: The spirit of the mountains

“One should not seek for a mere scrambling ground among the mountains, but rather for their spirit.”

– Extract from an article in the Journal of the Mountain Club of South Africa, 1934 –

A noble thought, though esoteric and a bit dogmatic. Seek whatever you want in the mountains, as long as you carry your trash out and respect nature as well as other mountain-users. When hiking Table Mountain – or climbing, for that matter – I do not seek the spirit of the mountains (mountain-inspired grandeur, peace and solitude deitified); it usually finds me – sometimes rather forcibly on the side of a cliff; other times wafting over me as in a breeze as I take in the landscape from a rocky outcrop. Seek the mountains for the mere purpose of getting a view, if that is what makes you happy, but be open to subtler impressions the mountain is eager to impart. Some have an innate sensibility for the moods and vibrations emanating from landscapes, whether it be mountains, jungles, deserts or shorelines (I’ve met someone with a penchant for swamps – fetid and pestilential marshes – and I’m sure he seeks his swamps not merely as a wallowing ground, but rather for their spirit).

As a Table Mountain guide, I’ve met people with all  manner of motives for hiking up Table Mountain and they all enjoyed the experience, a few only retrospectively. So it matters little what your motive is for wanting to hike Table Mountain; the important part is that you’ve taken up the challenge and chose to broaden your horizons and depth of experience.

As an afterthought, I find it quite ironic that the above quote was used in a time when a name like Pimple Peak was given to one of the most beautiful peaks on Table Mountain, and when mountaineers often wrote of a climb as an ‘assault’ (on the mountain, or the defenses of the mountain, one would suppose).

(c) www.hiketablemountain.co.za