Support our Nation today - please donate here
News

Welsh researchers discover reasons why people climbs mountains – and it’s not just ‘because they’re there’

09 Dec 2022 2 minute read
A man on a mountain

Mallory’s classic reply, ‘because it’s there’ when asked why he wanted to climb Everest, belies the truth behind the psychological benefits that some high-risk climbers, researchers have said.

Academics at Bangor University used the pandemic as an opportunity to study how not being able to go alpine-standard mountaineering or traditional climbing affected devotees of those sports.

Dr Marley Willegers and Prof Tim Woodman at the University’s Institute for the Psychology of Elite Performance showed that the value of these experiences for mental health was great, but it was not sustained for long periods of time.

“Typically in our society, risk-taking is seen as a negative and something that should be pushed aside,” Marley Willegers said.

“But people who take part in certain high-risk sports are not ‘sensation-seeking’ and don’t crave the adrenaline rush. There’s something else taking place.

“People who feel that they have little control over their daily lives, who feel like a ‘pawn’, can be drawn to high-risk sports where they are able to exercise control over strong emotions, such as fear, and take actions that dictate whether they succeed or die.”

‘Emotional difficulty’

Dr Marley Willegers added that for mountaineers and climbers, the benefits of this emotional control in high-risk situations were transferred back into daily life.

“It follows therefore, that the longer these individuals spend away from their activity, the more difficult they find it to exercise control over their emotions in society,” he said.

“This is borne out by our findings which showed that, when compared to low-risk sporting participants, only mountaineers and traditional climbers experience an increased difficulty managing their emotions and sense of control over their lives in the time after participation.

“In other words, the emotional difficulty mountaineers and traditional climbers experience in domestic society pulls them back to the high-risk climbing domain to once again feel a sense of control.”


Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

8 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Argol fawr!
Argol fawr!
1 month ago

Noope! After reading that codswallop, Mallory’s explanation seems more scientific. Next Bangor uni research grant application… Why did the chicken cross the road.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

Interesting, I will ask my bro (serious climber in his day) when he gets back from driving over the Pyrenees to Portugal and back (valid reason). My guess is Bangor are on to something…

Argol fawr!
Argol fawr!
1 month ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

The Pyrenees don’t reach to Portugal. I’ve rode over them, the passes anyhow.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago
Reply to  Argol fawr!

I know, so does he that’s why he is driving through Spain too…

There is a lovely old book by Dornford Yates called ‘The Stolen March’, it is set in a hidden fantasy part of the Pyrenees, you have just reminded me of it…

Cynan again
Cynan again
1 month ago

It’s the sense of freedom. Actual freedom from the oppression of everyday life. It’s exhilarating. Which is why queuing to take a photo on the top of a mountain with a fkn cafe and a train station does not appeal in the slightest.
Bangor have got it right here

Last edited 1 month ago by Cynan again
Jim
Jim
1 month ago

As the saying goes; “coming down is the hardest part”…….both literally and metaphorically ? Probably as much to do with the human natural instinct for ‘play’, even as adults.

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim

I wonder if the issue of a lack of ‘control’ in so many people’s lives might also account for why so many people have taken up dog ownership? That perhaps gives them and entity to control making up for the deficit?

Jim
Jim
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter Cuthbert

Possibly for some and of course companionship for others. The reality is people take part in any activity not directly related to day to day survival (play) for a multitude of reasons I guess. Perhaps more of a question for a psychologist to comment on. This research was of course based on alpine-standard mountaineers and the study appears to conclude there is something special about them compared to everyone else. Not sure I am totally convinced.

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.