My Interview with
Conducted: October 29, 2019
Steven Gregory is my school counsellor at the Berlin Brandenburg International School. Here is his experience with mountaineering on his preperation for the Matterhorn with his expedition gourp from the British Moutaineering Council (BMC):
"From my perspective, mental preparation very much came last in my own prep, I knew little to nothing about positive psychology when I was 22 when I climbed the Matterhorn as part of the 9th World Scout Moot in Kandersteg in July 1992. For me, fitness, equipment, skills come before mental preparation. If you're not fit, if you don't know who to climb or know how to use your equipment to keep safe and keep your team safe, you shouldn't be climbing up peaks 1000 metres plus. You can't talk yourself into either being fit or know how to use equipment safely or have rope skills, it all requires time, patience and perseverance. The International Rover Scout Team made up of 14 nationals, with local Swiss Scout Guides climbed the easiest route up, taking the Hoernli ridge and we overnighted at the hut (Hörnli Ridge Website, HERE)."
"It was an amazing experience, that required many hours of preparation over many years to get the skill set that enabled us all to feel confident that we could manage the climb and the amount of time it took us. Staying at the Hörnli Hut certainly helped break up the climb and acclimatized us both on the way up and down, all in all, the whole expedition took about 12 hours of ascent/descent and including down time, the pre-expedition/team building in the Jura lasted a week, acclimatization and prep on the Zermatt Glacier, 3 days and the expedition lasted 2 days, so all in all, just under two weeks intensive work, although we each had to have 300 hours of climbing in our log books (40 days of quality hikes/climbs) and 16 days of winter (alpine conditions 1000m+) experience and a mountain first aid certificate."
Hörnli Ridge Website, CLICK HERE
What is a "Growth Mindset"
Carol Dweck and the Power of Yet
NOTE: Any Facts or Information mentioned about the growth mindset are from the TEDx Talk below
A psychological concept dubbed the "Growth Mindset" has become significantly more prevalent in this day and age. If you feel you already have enough knowledge about this topic, skip ahead HERE or scroll down to find out how this is beneficial towards your growth as a mountaineering.
In its simplist, a growth mindset is a state of mind that helps people adopt the idea that their basic skills and knowledge can be be developed through dedication and perservierance in the face of difficulty.
Image: Medium article, pusblished 25 March, 2016
Video From: TEDx Talks
Published: September 12, 2014
Carol Dweck is a researcher and professor of pyschology at the Universtiy of Standford who has done extensive research on the growth mindset we know today.
Dweck has done a myriad of research in the field of motivation and is considered a leading pioneer in this field. Watch the video on the left to give more context (she backs up her studies with data and facts).
In summary, Dweck's idea of the growth mindset is that people's brain capacity can grow through rewarding the process of learning (perserviering and dedicating time), in order for these people to adapt to become better problem solvers. Not only will you become better at approaching learning, but you will also learn to use patience rather than adopting a mindset of failure when not getting a reward (preventing self-doubt).
In practice, Dweck explains that when students fail at their exams, the students with the grade "not yet" instead of "fail", would feel better about themselves and strive for improvement. The grade "Not yet" essentially emphasizes that you are on a learning curve and on a path towards bettering yourself for the future. In contrast to this, when you earn the grade "fail", you are building self-doubt; telling yourself things like "I'm not good enough forr this" or "I'm not smart enough, I might as well give up" (a road to failure, keeping you stuck in the present and not the future).
Early in her career, Dweck was working with 10 year olds in an elementary school in Chicago. She would give them challenging math questions that were above their learning level to test them. Surprisingly enough, the children would react positively, saying things like: "I love a challenge" or "I was hoping this would be informative". The children that had a growth mindset understood that their abilities could be developed. However, some students would react negatively to the difficult questions; making them have a fixed mind-set; saying things like: "I'm failing" or "I can't do this". From their more fixed mindset perspectives, their intelligence had been up for judgement and they failed. "Instead of luxuriating in the power of yet, they were gripped in the tyranny of now", says Dweck. In a set of studies conducted, she found out that some students would either cheat the next test or find others that had a worse score than them to make them feel better about themselves; in both cases, they ran from difficulty. They would run from the error and they wouln't engage with it, whereas the students who had growth mindset would embrace their mistakes and learn from them.
Dweck even mentions that we can change student's mindsets by teaching them that whenever they push through their compfort zone (teaching them something new and difficult) that their neorons in their brain can form stronger connections and in turn make them smarter as individuals. As a result, the student's who were taught about the growth mindset would show a clear rebound in their grades.
Time Code of Video: 6:25 minutes
People who use the power of "yet" process their errors, engage deeply with them and ultimately, correct them. "Are we rasing kids for now, instead of yet? Do we really want are kids to strive for the next A+ and want them to look for constant validation?", asks Dweck. To solve this, Dweck suggests praising students and/or people wisely for process in regards to what efforts, perservierence, improvements and strategies they put in. In the end, this process of praise builds a generation of people who are both hardy and resilient. Giving people greater confidence gives them a path for the future which in turn builds greater persistance. In the end, the meaning of effort and difficulty were transformed from making them feel dumb and inept to making them feel smarter (once the neurons made stronger connections).
If you would like to learn more about Professor Dweck's work, consider checking out the links below consiting of interesting learning approaches that she implemented backed up through her studies too ; )
Scientific Evidence for Growth Mindset Research:
Interesting Blog on the nature of the Growth Mindset:
Another Interesting article about the use of the Growth Mindset:
Workshop Opportunities on how to teach the Growth Mindset:
Growth Mindset in Mountaineering
How it can be applied for self-betterment
Although scientifical data and studies are scant
(see credits page), mountaineering still has a number of mental health benefits apart from just building skills and knowledge. From my personal experiences and what I have researched, mountaineering has not only taught me teamwork and patience when cooperating with others during expeditions, but also how to perservere in the face of difficulty.
Dweck's work on the growth mindset is also reinforced here by professional mountaineers and mountaineering associations such as the Moutaineering Guidance, BMC, RMI Expeditions and The Trek.
The article published by The Trek on October 12, 2018 (written by Carol Copeland) titled "Moutaineering Mental Preperation: Getting your Mind Right", is by far one of the best representations of the mental health benefits of mountaineering through applying the growth mindset.
Mountaineering has a number of motivational benefits that teach life lesson, for instance:
An article from the BMC, posted on June 30, 2019, cited two different organizations (the mental health charity Mind and the University of Stirling) on the benefits of exercising or doing vigorous physical activity:
The mental health charity Mind’s chief executive, Paul Farmer, said to the BBC: "Exercising with others can have an even greater impact, as it provides an opportunity to strengthen social networks, talk through problems with others or simply laugh and enjoy a break from family and work. So ask a friend to join you."
University of Stirling: Study of 202 men and women sampled: “45% of patients diagnosed with major depression no longer met the criteria for depression after exercising three times a week in a supervised group setting (specifically walking/hillwalking). This is only very slightly less than the 47% of patients who no longer met the criteria for depression after taking anti-depressants.”
"Setting your intentions creates your reality" - This is the part where you ask yourself why you are doing this in the first place. When starting, you have to first of all set your intentions right and be able to create a realistic goal (one of humility and not that of overconfidence). Self-doubt will weigh you down and you have to be able to recover from failure in order to grow and learn from mistakes. In mountaineering, the planning phase is the most important part as it requires mindfulness (planning given the environment) and humility (setting a realistic goal for yourself).
"Positive mind-set: You can climb that mountain" - What's most important is to embrace the challenge. It's not gonna be easy, that's obvious. You're climbing a mountain for crying out loud. Once you embrace the challenge and get out of your compfort zone in a way that you enjoy the learning experience and the nature (the ultimate payoff), you will really begin to notice some changes. What's most important is to view the environment pragmatically and keep calm.
"Embrace the suck" - Adopting this viewpoint will also help you lower your self-doubt and hate for the sport when pain begins to build up. You're definately gonna feel highs and lows. What's important is that you recover properly using the power of "yet". Embrace the pain as this will pay off. The nature has a good view, and you will have earned it once you've descended off the mountain safely. Even if you don't end up climbing to the summit, you still tried and learned something new.
"Mindfulness, meditation, and mantras" - Be aware of where you are and never overstress. If you're scared, you shouldn't be mountain climbing. The sport is meant to get in touch with nature and persist in the face of difficulty.
"Visualization: The ability to see what you believe" - What could help is to envision you in your quite or safe space when your struggling. You will want to fight more in the face of difficulty and in the end, once you've made it down safely and are sleeping in your bed at home, you will feel like you've earned that good nights rest.
"Ascend, descend, transcend" - The expedition may not have gone perfectly, but that's fine. What's important is how you approached the climb through strategies and that you reward process, since being a good mountaineer doesn't come over night.
A paper written by people from the University of Stirling published a study on the British Mountaineering Council website in June of 2010 on the Ecnomic, Social, Psychological and Physical impact mountaineering has had on humans over the past century.
The study concluded that through mountaineering and other mountain related activites such as alpine hiking, rock climbing and hill-walking, that mountaineering has a number of mental benefits. The Mental health and Psychological development part of the of the paper mentions: Section 4.1 - MENTAL HEALTH AND PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL-BEING
Reduce depression and anxiety
Increase confidence and self-esteem
Improve cognitive functioning
Improve the overall quality of life
(Citing the British Journal of Sports Medicine and Routledge Press)
Section 6 - Conclusion (at the end of the study)
“The outdoor aspect of mountaineering activities and the ability to set and achieve goals can contribute to positive mental health and psychological wellbeing. For those with mental health issues or low confidence and self-esteem, the less demanding activities of rambling or low-level hill-walking may be more suited that the more demanding activities of mountaineering and rock climbing.”
Another interesting interview professional with climber for the North Face, Alex Johnson, claims that mountain climbing boosts your overall brain function (Huffington Post titled "How Climbing Does Your Mind -- And Body -- Good", by Abigail wise on December 6, 2017).
Alex Johnson explains: "I think the mental side of climbing is often overlooked. . .The movement in climbing up a route often demands body awareness and problem-solving. More often than not, the way to the top is not as direct as you might assume, and it takes laser focus to work through which holds to grab and where exactly to place your foot before shifting your body weight."
Copeland, Carol. “Mountaineering Mental Preparation: Getting Your Mind Right.” Thetrek., The Trek, 12 Oct. 2018, https://thetrek.co/mountaineering-mental-preparation-getting-mind-right/
Coalter, Prof. Fred, and Dr.Paul Dimeo. “THE BENEFITS OF MOUNTAINEERING AND MOUNTAINEERING RELATED ACTIVITIES: A REVIEW OF LITERATURE.” BmcNews, University of Stirling, June 2010, www.thebmc.co.uk/bmcNews/media/u_content/File/access_conservation/access_publications/Benefits%20of%20Mountaineering%20%20MCoS%20Report%20June%202010.pdf.
Davies, Cara. “Six Surprising Scientific Facts about Walking.” The BMC, 30 June 2014,
Wise, Abigail. “How Rock Climbing Does Your Mind -- And Body -- Good.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 6 Dec. 2017, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/health-benefits-rock-climbing_n_5708847?guccounter=1