“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity” – John Muir
“So why do you do it?” is the one question thousands of mountaineers have had to answer at some point in their lives. I honestly don’t mind this question, and I love it because it gives me a chance to blab about all the cool trails I’ve done.
There is another variation of this question, though, which I hate: “why do you torture yourself?”. To which I always try to politely reply: “I love it! No torture here”. I understand that this comes from a place of misunderstanding, especially from people of color who view hiking as a “white people’s hobby” and not necessarily a sport.
While this question is intrusive, it is not illegitimate. The discourse from which it arises certainly isn’t. White cisgender heterosexual males have always been the poster kids for hiking and the outdoors. Just look at any Hi-Tec advert or a First Ascent poster!
Any sporting element of mountaineering is inundated with white male athletes and it is not difficult to guess why; extreme sports are expensive to commit to, and the flow of wealth in South Africa mainly follows racial privileges. Hence, more white males (and females) can afford adventures that the majority of the population (POC) cannot.
So I guess I understand the underlying question I’m actually being asked: “what are you, the daughter of a black working-class woman, doing chasing peaks in foreign lands?”. I’d charge my fist into the air and cry “FREEDOM!”, but it’s really simple, reaching the summit of every mountain I climb is like coming home and I don’t know if I want to put a price on that. Jokes! I’m stubborn and I like things.