The mountains make us humble: what I learned on a 3-day hike

Living our busy everyday life in a highly developed and technological world we often fail to appreciate the little things in life. Spending time in nature can help us disconnect and reconnect. Last summer I spend three days hiking up and down Germany’s highest mountain: the Zugspitze. With two friends and a backpack I almost made it to the top at 2,962 m (9,718 ft). The climb was fun but what really sticks are the lessons in humbleness and a renewed look at things we often take for granted. Here is what I learned:

mountains and humbleness
mountains and humbleness

There are no trash cans in the mountains

“Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photographs.” This quote is the condensed version of The Leave No Trace Seven Principles and trash is one of the topics covered. Living a rather environmentally friendly life, reducing waste is always on my mind. But it really becomes your focus when there is no possibility to get rid of it in days.

The mountain hut we stayed in for our first night lies at 1370 metres above sea level. Everything they need (or don’t need anymore) has to be delivered via helicopter. Every gram counts and that’s why they ask you to take your trash with you. There we went, up the mountain with all these banana peals and muesli bar wrappings on our backs.

helicopter and mountain hut
helicopter and mountain hut

Hot showers aren’t for free

Did you ever count the minutes when taking a hot shower? You might start doing that, when the coin you just bought gives you exactly 3 minutes and you want your hair to be clean before time runs up. And that’s the luxury option. There might be no hot water, or no shower at all. But guess what? Three minutes of hot water are more than enough!

Greet everyone you meet

In the mountains it’s a common thing to greet everyone you meet. This is not my favourite thing to do but the emptier the hiking path gets, the more naturally it will come to you. And it makes a lot of sense when you realize where it comes from. Maybe you’re the last one who remembers the elderly couple that’s gone missing? Giving hints of where to search in case of an accident is also the reason why you write down your name and your destination for the day at every hut. There are no strangers in the mountains and you probably recognize the tiny human crossing the snow field behind you because you talked to them on the last break.

hiking through snow fields
hiking through snow fields

Don’t rely on your weather app

Don’t rely on your smart phone for the weather forecast. (Or anything else). There might be no internet connection or even phone reception. Above all, the weather in the mountains can change pretty fast. And if you’re not a pro in reading the signs it could get difficult. The best advice is to talk to locals or the people living and working in the mountain huts. They most likely have first hand information on the conditions from people walking in the opposite direction. Just talk to them! Or learn to read the clouds.

Climbing up a mountain is a challenge but we shouldn’t take unnecessary risks or overstimate ourselves. That’s were the almost in the introduction comes from.

It’s over before you know…

Slowly but gradually you make it to the top and the view compensates for all the sweat. When you choose to climb a mountain that has a cable car going up beware of the culture shock you might suffer when you arrive. Make sure to stop along the way and enjoy the tranquillity while it lasts.

crowds at Sonnalpin
crowds at Sonnalpin (2600 m)

What makes climbing mountains special for you? What did it teach you?

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