Is Mountaineering Fun?

Is Mountaineering Fun?

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Satire is a narrow brush that can paint a broad streak of ambiguity. Recently


adventure journal poll is mountaineering fun
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Satire is a narrow brush that can paint a broad streak of ambiguity. Recently in AJ’s Charting Adventure series, in which we have fun and often poke fun at ourselves and the sports we love so much, we published a graph displaying the fun-to-risk-of-injury ratio for various pursuits, and in it we said that mountaineering wasn’t very fun at all. In fact, we said it was the second-least-fun activity on the chart, with only shoveling snow being less appetizing.

Now, Charting Adventure is in no way scientific and it should be read lightly and with a sense of humor at the ready, but in this particular case it set off a firestorm of criticism that 1) mountaineering was indeed fun and 2) that we had no idea what we were talking about because we were most likely urban office dwellers who’d never even seen a mountain. To the second point, untrue. All of us here at AJ know the sharp end of the rope from the front point of a crampon, and we have collectively spent a tremendous amount of time in cold, windy, and steep places.

But to the first point, what of it? Mountaineering is one of the outdoor world’s most dangerous sports, and it takes place in the extremely volatile environment of the high peaks, where weather and temperature and conditions can change in the blink of an eye. It is almost never easy and usually requires tremendous physical effort and often comes with the bonus prize of extended periods of suffering. It’s gratifying and addictive, but is it fun? Is it only fun in the happy glow of looking back with short-term memory loss? Or is it the kind of fun that isn’t fun, of which there are plenty in outdoor adventure?

As I see it, there are two essential fulcrums to the question — the nature of mountaineering, and the definition of fun. No doubt you have opinions on the matter, so let’s hear them.



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This week, one poll participant will receive a Smith Optics Ridgeway sunglasses. We’ll pick the winner via random number generator (and announce it here) — all you have to do to enter is vote and leave a comment so we have your email to contact you. Must have a U.S. or Canadian address. Contest ends Sunday, August 11, at midnight PST.

Congratulations to Matt Lyall, who wins this week’s giveaway!


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Steve Casimiro is the editor of Adventure Journal.
Showing 77 comments
  • Nicole Morgenthau
    Reply

    Fun- no. Rewarding- yes. I think the two can easily be confused- kid of like love & lust.

    • Matt
      Reply

      agree

  • Andrew
    Reply

    The physical, psychological, and emotional stress of mountaineering are the opposite of the kind of fun you have at a day at your local crag/creek/break – with beer at the end.

  • Adam
    Reply

    Of course.

  • Tridentata
    Reply

    Trolls like mountaineering, right?

  • billin'
    Reply

    After you’re done, its pretty fun and unforgettable. Cragging days blend together and are more forgettable. I like it all, but one needs a few singular experiences in their lives, and mountaineering can provide that.

  • Mark
    Reply

    Challenge? Yes
    Fun? Not so much

  • Ranger
    Reply

    Not exactly fun until its done

  • Alex Gauthier
    Reply

    Type 1 Fun- “Oh my gosh this sure is a blast!”

    Type 2 Fun- “Oh man, you should have seen how much we suffered. That was a GREAT climb!”

    Type 3 Fun- “I’m never doing that again. Ever.”

    Yes, mountaineering is fun!

  • kyle
    Reply

    the accomplishment

  • Ashely Gamboa
    Reply

    “Woohooo!” and “Holy sh*t, that was close.”

  • jacob
    Reply

    It’s certainly Type 2 fun, but fun nonetheless.

  • jake
    Reply

    whats not fun about backpacking with heavy gear?

  • Dave
    Reply

    The second part of the question – how to define fun – reminded me of the classic “Three Types of Fun” http://www.dirtbagdiaries.com/fun_divided_by_three

  • Andy
    Reply

    It’s fun in the type two or three sense.

  • Matt
    Reply

    suffering by choice is always fun

  • Chris Foley
    Reply

    Grueling and difficult yes, fun at times, challenging and awesome….absolutely. I would trade my time on the mountains for anything.

  • Cody
    Reply

    Running and scrambling up peaks in in the summer is fun.

    Real winter mountaineering is something, and it is generally a good something, but it is not fun.

    I subscribe to only one type of fun. Something is fun or it is not. If it is not fun, it may still be entirely worth doing for many other reasons, but it is not fun.

  • ben
    Reply

    No doubt, it’s fun.

  • Jason Judge
    Reply

    Fun, yes. Then again, isn’t mountaineering a synonym of fun?

  • Ian
    Reply

    Yup.

  • Bradley
    Reply

    aka’d as the joy of positive suffering

  • Eric
    Reply

    Stupid fun! Had a revelation on this topic over the weekend while trail running at 12,000 feet.

  • af
    Reply

    fun in the anticipation of the accomplishment

  • Nik
    Reply

    If it was fun more people would do it.

  • Sam
    Reply

    Mr. Twain comes through again: “I’m glad I did it, partly because it was worth it, but mostly because I shall never have to do it again.”

  • Kathleen Rock
    Reply

    Don’t over think it. Fun is intuitive. So, yes of course it’s fun.

  • Ari
    Reply

    For sure Type 2 or Type 3 fun.

  • Robin Anderson
    Reply

    It’s fun, in a short term memory kind of way! (:

  • brad
    Reply

    For the reasons you listed, I cannot imagine calling mountaineering fun. Mountaineering is rewarding and humbling, but not very fun. Thanks for posting this follow up and hopefully some people will chill their anger over the original post.

  • Patrick
    Reply

    FUN, indeed.

  • oliver
    Reply

    It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun.

  • Kyle Alhart
    Reply

    Its a type of fun that only a true outdoorsman can enjoy

  • alex
    Reply

    Not a kind of fun I routinely seek.

  • D
    Reply

    In the review mirror. Thinking back on trip is always the best.

  • RW
    Reply

    No. It’s a lot of good things, but not fun.

  • Marshall T
    Reply

    Enlightening and rewarding, but rarely fun. However, I find that I have more fun in the rest of my life after suffering in the mountains for a few days.

  • Robi
    Reply

    Yes it is fun. No need to suffer to call it mountaineering.

  • matt
    Reply

    I think of the fun scale like aid climbing.

    1 Fun: totally awesome all the time anytime (A1)
    2 Fun: totally awesome only afterwards (A2)
    3 Fun: never fun (A3)
    4 Fun: generally results in severe physical and/or emotional trauma (A4)
    5 Fun: death (A5)
    6 Fun: theoretical, kinda like A6 climbing

  • Matt
    Reply

    It might hurt, and not everyone would consider it fun, but for those that love it, its endless fun!

  • Kevin
    Reply

    When everything goes as planned… yes, very fun!

  • Jon
    Reply

    You just have to comfortable with being uncomfortable. But well worth the journey.

  • Conor L.
    Reply

    Fun, yes.

  • chris
    Reply

    Yes, fun … definitely I have my most blissful moments when I pause and take in where I am, but even head down and post holing through two feet of snow, it’s still fun

  • Murph
    Reply

    No way would I ever claim to have done any mountaineering, just basic hiking and backpacking, so maybe my opinion doesn’t count much.
    I was hiking a CO fourteener with a bud, and we hit a point very close to the top where we had no idea how to continue. There was a bit more exposure than we had been used to, so we just sat on a ledge and contemplated.
    Finally, my bud says “This isn’t fun anymore”, and we headed back down.

    Anyways, I say mountaineering is no fun.

  • Greg Foweraker
    Reply

    One needs to view mountaineering on the continuum of the fun scale as defined by messrs kruk and kennedy

    1 -its’ light and fluffy -hells yeah its fun
    2-well its’ fun in retrospect but not fully fun in the moment
    3-not so fun at the time or looking back -but damm didn’t it build character?

  • Timbo
    Reply

    Heck yes! Heading up to Rainier again in a couple weeks. So psyched!

  • Sinjin Eberle
    Reply

    Absolutely fun…especially when you consider the whole process – it is exhilarating. The planning, the logistics, the suffering, the danger, the view, the physical exhaustion, the photos, the stories, the friendships.

  • mal
    Reply

    Depends on the challenge but bigger pursuits are not fun and your a liar to say otherwise, especially true with ski touring, trust me if you had the choice you would go with the heli drop off but budget is usually a big decision factor. In the case of ski touring the fun and reward is the descent but i can’t see any fun aspects in just hiking 2000m+ mountains for no reason.

  • Kevin
    Reply

    I do not think “fun” means what you think it means.

  • James Roh
    Reply

    Only when there’s a board or pair of skis on your back

  • Tina
    Reply

    Type II, sometimes type III, but always type 1 in the retelling :)

  • Brian
    Reply

    Any time spent doing anything in the mountains is fun!

  • Steven
    Reply

    Done with skill and grace? Sure. I can only dream…

  • Dan Robinson
    Reply

    Climbing into the sky, always fun!!

  • Bob D.
    Reply

    It’s got to be a lot more fun the freakin Crossfit.

  • rick
    Reply

    it is till it isnt

  • Tim
    Reply

    More fun than sitting at a desk staring at a computer…. even if you get your knee scraped.

  • patrick sheehy
    Reply

    Anything is fun if you’ve go the right attitude

  • DF
    Reply

    The stories afterwards always make the trip sound better than it was!

  • Chris
    Reply

    I argue that mountaineering CAN be type 1 fun. I literally just got home last night from a three-day climb of Mt Baker. Definitely mountaineering, but breaking the 7400′ climb from the trailhead into a low camp, a high camp, and a summit and out day made it super-manageable, and – dare I say it – FUN. We laughed and joked and had a good time the entire way. Of course, we could have packed the entire route into one day and certainly have Type 2 fun. Actually, I think doing Mt Baker in anything less than 3 days is Type 2 fun.

    So its not the objective that necessarily makes mountaineering Type 1 or Type 2 fun, its the style in which its done. Take the “I’m on a vacation/taking a day off” approach and its Type 1 fun. Go for the “I’ll need a vacation/take a day off afterwards” and that’s Type 2.

  • Matt
    Reply

    Heck yeah! In a sick sufferfest sort of way. :)

  • fridgidwaddle
    Reply

    High altitude mountaineering is not fun. Being above 8000 meter’s is a sufferfest. But a sufferfest many return to.

    Doing something because it is noble, because it is hard, because it pushes our boundaries usually isn’t “fun”. Medical school is not fun, the CPA test is not fun, but they are worthwhile pursuits.

  • Greg
    Reply

    Yeah, I agree with a type 2 fun rating.

  • Sean
    Reply

    Its kind of like a rainy camping trip. Not fun while you do it, but you feel so accomplished after,

    Builds character

  • kole
    Reply

    I think as difficult as it is there are times where it is truely fun ie exploring hidden, newfound locations

  • mike
    Reply

    Mountaineering is fun in retrospect.

    Sometimes you’ll be on a sweet route that feels comfortable and you’ll be having fun. Other times, you’ll be scared $hitless wondering “why am I doing this?”. Either way, a bad day in the mountains is better than a good day at work.

  • Kelly Williams
    Reply

    Challenging, fun and rewarding

  • Donald
    Reply

    Entirely depends on what you consider fun I suppose.

  • Patrick
    Reply

    Mountaineering is a fine and pleasant misery.

  • JC
    Reply

    Mountaineering is like parenting – always rewarding, sometimes fun, generally exhausting. Or maybe like unrequited love?

    “To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer; not to love is to suffer; to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be happy one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness.” – Woody Allen

  • Deer Hunter
    Reply

    It is fun for suitable personalities.
    The Persons who get higher doses of adrenaline from within their own systems while they are on mountains, are most suitable to label Mountaineering a “Fun”.

  • reinoud sluiters
    Reply

    Fun indeed, if fun is all the stuff that makes life worth living

  • Igor M
    Reply

    yes :)

  • Susie
    Reply

    Not fun, but challenging.

  • Ted
    Reply

    Yes… it is fun but so much more. It is a metaphor. It is a symbol. It is cerebral, physical, existential, and religious… It is a journey within and a journey without.

  • Alex
    Reply

    Type 2 fun mixed with moments of type 1

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