Go beyond your own limits. Why the Experience of Trekking or Climbing a Mountain Changes People’s Lives

“One day a friend called me on the phone and said, ‘we are going to climb the Lanín, do you want to join me?’ I asked him how long he had to confirm and he clarified that he was expecting an answer the same day. ‘Okay, I’ll go’ I replied, I remember looking at myself, I was in my pajamas in mid-July and said “I’m going to do something meaningful with my life”, says Sofía Betti, a 26-year-old amateur mountaineer, who climbed Lanín for the first time in 2019. For six months she trained almost every day, not only physically but also mentally with a clear goal: to reach the top . “When I finally reached the top, I felt immense joy, My cheeks hurt from so much happiness. I had succeeded: I did not believe it”Betty explains.

Both professionals and amateurs who take up the challenge of connecting with the mountains agree that it is a transformative experience.

Hiking or trekking presents those who take risks with innumerable challenges, perhaps directly proportional to factors such as the difficulty of the terrain, the weather and the physical preparation of each. “A lot of sun and we forgot the sunscreen. Mosquitoes, horseflies and we didn’t bring repellent. Steep path and we came with sneakers instead of boots. Night in a tent, cold and windy, and the sleeping bag they lent us is for the summer days,” explains Pedro Serrano Espelta, an amateur climber. He affirms that “The more we venture and the more we are in contact with nature, the more unexpected situations will arise.”

But the circle is always virtuous: Serrano Espelta says that once in the mountains, when you are cold, hot or stiff, he realizes that mental strength and perseverance are almost the only things that allow him to move forward or to “find the taste”. to something that might otherwise be torture. “Every difficulty we overcome will build our self-esteem, our confidence, our ability to take on challenges that seemed impossible before. This will then be transferable to real life, work, school, family or any situation that is unknown to us.

Mountain guide Pablo Piccone’s first feat was to climb Cerro Tres Marías in San Juan; he was less than ten years old and that’s how his passion was born. From then on, Piccone knew he wanted to spend his life near the mountain. He lived and studied in Buenos Aires but was certain that that when he had the chance to live alone, he wanted to do it near the mountains. That is why, after graduating as a physical education teacher, he decided to go and live in San Martín de los Andes where he works as a guide, close to what makes him happy and who, he says, transformed his life.

But what is the magic of mountain adversity? Although experiences vary by individual, there are those who set a personal goal of reaching the top, those who love the journey and don’t care about reaching the top, and those who find their passion in mountaineering. . However, they all agree that in some way embarking on this adventure has helped them learn something positive about life.

We will trust each other more and set more ambitious goals. Over time we will remember with nostalgia the ascents or walks in the mountains, and we will ask for more. Only this time we will surely be looking for something different, more stimulating. We may train more, we may pay more attention to food, equipment and people with whom we will go. We will see new places and experience different sensations. We will dare to do more, not only in the mountains, but also in our lives,” says Serrano Espelta, who tries to instill his passion in everyone he loves.

Marcos Serrano Espelta inherited his passion for the mountains from his father PedroPeter Serrano

“Mountaineering is a way of life. At some point it ceases to be a hobby and begins to be a need to relate to the primitive and hostile environment. It’s a need that awakens, to get out of everyday life, to do something different. You feel that you need to detach yourself from society to some degree or interact in another environment. And better if it happens with people who have the same ‘crazy’”, explains Jony Espinosa, trekking guide and photographer of mountain expeditions.

Francisco Bassani, climber and professional photographer agrees. The man who has been climbing for more than 40 years says that in the mountain challenge he feels respect for the environment, for nature, for animals. For him, climbing is synonymous with feeling free and at the same time the only limit that exists is the feeling of not being wrong.

Having this contact suggests a certain transformation in the lives of people who dare to go to the mountains. It’s hard, it’s difficult, it requires training, desire and perseverance. For the most part, those who dare to climb highlight learnings that they then apply to their daily lives.

Overcoming fears that arise in experiences is part of learning
Overcoming fears that arise in experiences is part of learningJony Espinosa

Fears appear before reaching the goal of the adventure and especially attack beginners; no one said climbing a mountain would be an easy challenge.

“Fear is something we have to face, but when you face it on the mountain, you realize that a lot of those things that you fear in your daily life don’t make sense. Fear is the key element and when you overcome it, that’s when you grow,” says Espinosa.

Experience also connects. Serrano Espelta maintains that there were times when he had to climb the mountain with people who, at some point, got stuck and were afraid of him. In these cases, note that the important thing is to help the other, this characterizes the group spirit. “In the mountains you can’t be selfish and come back, you have to try to keep going and challenge those fears”To add.

Beginners are the most exposed to the fear of “not being able to”. “It’s normal that they don’t dare to continue and it’s good that it happens to them because they live the experience with intensity. Being in charge of security and the group when there are people who are afraid, I try to motivate them to come out of this state and understand that there is no reason to be afraid. I explain that professionals are there to help them and that if there was a greater risk, we would not subject them to that“says Pablo Piccone.

Espinosa, also a mountaineering professional, agrees with this last statement, saying that when people manage to overcome their fears, they relax and start seeing the mountain with different eyes. “I love it when that happens because it means you as a guide are doing your job well,” he adds.

Mountaineering Experience in Cordón del Plata

This is the most desired goal, the end of the road. But contrary to the collective imagination, reaching the summit is not everyone’s goal and according to mountain guides, in many cases the conditions are not right to continue climbing.

Piccone, which has more than 140 peaks, says mountaineering “doesn’t go to Disney”, it’s adventure tourism. “It is not guaranteed to reach the top because sometimes the storm does not allow it, the only thing you know for sure is that you’re going to have an intense experience”. Also add that really the summit is something more symbolic than physical. “If you really think about it, the top is a piece of rock. What makes it meaningful is everything the person had to go through to get there, everything it cost. And when he finally arrives, very intense emotions are triggered: tears, happiness, nostalgia, laughter,” he says.

Serrano Espelta and Bassani have ‘summited’ many times, but having those experiences doesn’t define them but rather the path they took to get there. In fact, today is not a priority when planning a getaway. They both agree that The entire previous route serves to reflect, admire the landscape and connect with nature, in short: “to return to the innate link of man with the earth”.

Apart from the physical preparation that must be done, it is important to prepare psychologically
Apart from the physical preparation that must be done, it is important to prepare psychologicallyJony Espinosa

The preliminary training for mountaineering is essentially physical, but we must not forget that psychological preparation is essential. Regarding the latter, specialists recommend: meditate, get used to not being connected to technology for so long, do breathing exercises and prepare for adventure.

Regarding physical preparation, Piccone divides it into four essential parts:

In short, those who dare to experience it claim that “the mountain changes you”: it leaves lessons and helps you grow inside, whether the person who tries it becomes a fan or not. That is to say, even if it is an experience, it is already valuable. “The mountain is completely transformed, as long as we allow ourselves to be transformed by it”, concludes Betti.

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