As readers of a ski industry publication, I think we can universally agree that there is something inherently special about moving in the mountains– whether it be on skis, snowboard, bike, or foot. Disagreement, however, may start to occur when defining what exactly makes moving in the mountains so extraordinary. For some, that amazing feeling stems from overcoming challenges that the mountains present. For others, it’s the pure thrill of ascending and descending in these incredible landscapes through their preferred medium. And yet still, for others, moving in the mountains offers a chance to be present and appreciate the natural, awe-inspiring beauty that surrounds them. Ultimately, we all have our own reasons why we return, time and time again, to the mountains.
As of late, I’ve been covering a lot of F.K.T’s (Fastest Known Times) that have occurred this summer in the thru-hiking and trail running community. These F.K.T’s are incredible accomplishments of physical endurance and mental fortitude. Personally, I find these athletic feats inspiring; and furthermore, they serve as motivation when it comes to my own individual goals of moving efficiently through the mountains.
That being said, these recent F.K.Ts have drawn criticism from members of the community… and rightfully so. Drawing from these comments as a whole, the primary critique is that moving in the mountains should not always necessitate competition. I believe that these sentiments arise due to the concern that by celebrating one’s competitive achievements, the focus of the mountain experience shifts away from intrinsic experience and instead frames the mountains as a stage for athletes to flaunt their new F.K.T’s.
In the same vein, there are many who might quote the common idiom “it’s about the journey, not the destination”. The point being that when focused on finishing an objective in a set amount of time, one’s overall experience may be diminished because he or she is concentrated on the destination as opposed to simply relishing in the journey.
In response to these arguments, I would first like to say that they are valid. As someone who enjoys pushing themselves in the mountains, I admit that I ought to slow down from time to time. However, these arguments are not any more superior than arguments in favor of moving quickly in the mountains. There is a saying in the backpacking community which states “hike your own hike”. The idea behind this phrase is that every person who chooses to venture onto a trail or into the mountains does so for their own reasons. As such, it is not my place, nor yours, to judge the style in which one chooses to move through the mountains (unless you choose to do it in a way which is detrimental to the landscape).
Ultimately, I hope to convey that just because we glorify athletes who break speed records, it does not signify that their style of moving through the mountains is any better or any worse than someone who opts to take their time. Regardless of style or sport, we ought to celebrate the fact that we are fortunate enough to recreate in the mountains in the first place. So, whether you move slow or fast or somewhere in between, reserve judgment, appreciate your surroundings, and hike your own hike.