Cognitive State

TWO WAYS TO CLIMB A MOUNTAIN

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You can set an exact date a couple of weeks in advance, study route maps, wake up in the middle of the night, drive for a couple of hours, haul a ton of gear to the wall, miss perfect photo opportunities, freeze your ass off at the belay station, get super scared on the crux and then, after finally reaching the summit, get the hell out of there as soon as possible because of all the wind and fog.

Either that, or you wake up around noon, pack some water and a camera, head over to the nearest mountain range and just start walking without a specific destination in mind. You encounter herds of wild animals and no people at all and you feel pleasantly alone and weirdly infinite.

There are two ways to climb a mountain. I like both of them.

I had always thought that the presence of one would gradually devalue the other, but lately I’ve discovered that they’re just two different sides of one beautiful coin. I had thought that the more demanding climbs would make me appreciate the easier ones less and that the serenity of casual hikes would make me hate the stress of a difficult climb, but I eventually realized that, just like in life, there needs to be some variety.

Those nervous moments above sheer drops make the slow, zen-like movements of an impulsive afternoon hike all that sweeter, just as the peacefulness of the latter potentiates the adrenaline rush of climbing. I’m definitely not a natural when it comes to vertical movement. I used to be afraid of heights, I am lazy as hell, I have the upper body strength of a 5-year-old and I get sunburnt in a matter of minutes. Nevertheless, I found something special up there. A portal that leads out of my physical and mental comfort zones straight into a state of pure, unadulterated bliss.

Stay cool, mountains, I love you.

These photographs were taken during a V+/IV climb on Mala Rinka and during a lazy afternoon hike to the top of Bovški Gamsovec.

Photography and words by Jaka Bulc.

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