How Challenging Yourself on a Mountain Can Increase Your Confidence

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When you embark on a mountain challenge, what happens on the mountain, doesn’t stay there. It gives you the confidence to attempt challenges in other areas of your life.

Mountain Adventures in Chamonix
Getting ready to do some bouldering on Mount Blanc and put our X ALP gear to the test.

How Do You Define a Mountain Challenge?

A mountain challenge doesn’t have to mean climbing Mount Everest. It doesn’t have to be an extreme challenge. What’s important is that it’s meaningful to you.

For years I mainly did mainly day hikes like Turtle Mountain in the Canadian Rockies and in the German Alps. Then last year, the mountain challenge I posed to myself was to complete my first long-distance trek – the Tour du Mont Blanc. It’s a 160km, 8000 m elevation gain that I completed in 8 days. Although if you want to do the complete circuit I’d highly recommend doing it in 10 days as we offer for both our guided and self-guided TMB tours.

I absolutely loved it. But in all honesty, there were also times  I hated it. That usually happened on the second uphill of the day after we had already been hiking for 6+ hours. But I kept telling myself. You’ve got this. You’re stronger than you think.

Upon reflection, it gave me the courage and stamina to move my business in ways that I hadn’t considered. To take chances, I wouldn’t have been confident enough to have taken have before.

In my case, after seeing how difficult and time consuming it was to organize the TMB by yourself, it inspired me to open a hiking tour company. The TMB became the first tour that I offered. It remains one of my favourite all-time tours. In part because it changed my life.

Hiking on Mount Blanc to test out X ALP gear.
Hiking on Mount Blanc to test out X ALP gear.

My Day of Two Mountain Challenges

When I returned to Mont Blanc in Chamonix, France, I achieved, not one, but two mountain challenges while testing out Salomon’s new X ALP line in one day.

And I was doing it on THE mountain, to which of course I’m referring to Mont Blanc.  It’s gorgeous any time of year, but it’s absolutely breathtaking in fall!

Hiking on Mount Blanc is great anytime of year, but exceptionally beautiful in fall.
Hiking on Mount Blanc is great any time of year, but exceptionally beautiful in fall.

We started with some bouldering.  I’ve done quite a bit of bouldering before. I  LOVE the challenge of trying to figure out the most effective way of moving up the mountain with the least possible effort.

Bouldering on Mount Blanc.
Bouldering on Mount Blanc.

Then it was time for my first of the day, ROCKCLIMBING!!!!  I’ve done via ferratas and indoor rock climbing, but have never tried rock climbing outdoors despite always wanting to.

I was feeling really sick and nauseous. No doubt in large part to the fact that  I was having the surgery the next day. But I wasn’t going to miss my chance to try something I’ve wanted to do for a really long time.  And you know what?  Nothing takes your mind off being sick, like being hyper-focused on achieving a mountain challenge.

All that mattered was where to place my hands and feet. I tuned out the rest of the world as I slowly inched myself up the climbing route. And you know what, not only did I enjoy it, I LOVED IT.

Climbing requires such intense concentration.  You have to be in the moment. That’s something I could apply to other areas of my life. I truly believe you can accomplish more meaningful work and more effectively when you just try to do one thing at a time. When I get tempted to multi-task, I think back to this rock climbing and how the only way I could do it was to focus.

 

Rock climbing for the first time and on the epic mountain of Mont Blanc.
Me rock climbing for the first time and on Mount Blanc of all places! The shoes were great for edging – no slipping even on wet rocks!

But my mountain challenge wasn’t finished yet.  My second first of the day was…trying crampons and an ice axe!  Our guide demonstrated how to ascend a steep snowy slope, and even more comically descend. The trip is to walk like a duck he instructed.  It looks funny, but it works!

Taking time to stop walking like a duck to capture my first time using crampons and an ice axe.
Taking time to stop walking like a duck to capture my first time using crampons and an ice axe, while showing off the  X ALP line from head to toe.

At the end of the day, I was both physically and mentally exhausted. I flew back to Munich that night just in time to have surgery the next afternoon. I was worried about the surgery but much less anxious than I had been before.

Laurel doing a via ferrata (Klettersteig) near Chamonix
Me doing a via ferrata (Klettersteig) near Chamonix. Photo by Chris Sunnen from @last_adventurer

I had a new sense of confidence and kept telling myself You’re stronger than you think. You’ll get through this. And I did. Just two short weeks later I was back in the mountains. Not doing anything extreme, but still, I was back challenging myself as I regained my strength.

That day on Mont Blanc remains one of my favourite days of mountain challenges. Although it was far from the last.

And the Challenges Continue

I had no idea at the time, but the TMB trek would change my life. It also inspired me to complete at least one long-distance trek a year and continually find new ways to challenge myself. I’ve since trekked the Dolomites in Italy and from Dana to Petra in Jordan. Each tour has its challenges –  both physical and mental.

 Hiking Mount Etna is also on my bucket list. There’s nothing like hiking the highest volcanic mountain in  Europe to inspire confidence! 

And there is usually a low point during any mountain challenge where I question my sanity. But each time I find myself getting stronger and stronger. Both physically and mentally. And gaining confidence.

After the Dolomites trek, my newfound confidence gave me the courage to broach an awkward topic with a friend about something that had been bothering me for two years! It was uncomfortable but we got through it. We’re still friends to this day.

After the Jordan trek, I realized that I was stronger than I thought was and needed to challenge myself more. That included stepping up my regular exercise routine to add HIIT (high-intensity interval training). That gave me more endurance to do longer via ferratas and hikes with more elevation. As you’ve probably guessed, further increased my confidence.

And the via ferratas have led me to take an indoor rock climbing course this winter so that come summer, I can do even more challenging via ferratas. It’s a win-win circle. The more you challenge yourself, the more your confidence grows, giving you the confidence to try even harder challenges and so on.

Mountain challenges invigorate me.  I want to learn.  I want to find new ways of challenging myself. Both on and off the mountain!

 

When you challenge yourself on a mountain, it gives you the confidence to attempt challenges in other areas of your life.

Note:  Special thank you to Salomon for introducing me to rock climbing, and using crampons and an ice axe.  As always all opinions expressed are my own.