Sup mountaineers! Did you know that yesterday was International Mountain Day? In 2003, the United Nations designated 12/11 as International Mountain Day. A day meant to encourage the international community to organize events at all levels in order to highlight the importance of sustainable mountain development. Of course, with all the crazy going on this month, we missed it. We missed national letter writing day too, but I’ll fill you in on that another day. Anyway, this year’s theme is Mountain Cultures: Celebrating diversity and strengthening identity. From hiking the Blue Mountains in Jamaica, to climbing Mt. Agung under the stars, to trekking the Annapurna Circuit, I’ve experienced enough mountain magic to be hook. Mountain spaces are sacred, enchanting and come with an immense feeling of satisfying insignificance like I’ve never experienced elsewhere.
If you’ve ever wandered high up into the mountains, you will have noticed that remote mountain villages are home to ancient cultures and traditions. These traditional lifestyles are largely determined and linked to sustaining a living in harsh and remote mountain landscapes. Isolation helped to create and maintain immense diversity between villages and allowed these cultures to stay intact. Of course, as decades pass, mountain populations experience change and culture loss through migration and urbanization.
Whenever I experience remote mountain life, I’m captivated by the use of land, for farming, raising animals and capturing fresh water. Mountain people are so in tune with their unique environment and how to properly respect it while gaining what they need to prosper. Mountain people’s deep respect and attachment to the land quite often has religious ties. Mountains have commonly been revered as the home of deities throughout history because of their fresh water sources and their seemingly close proximity to the sun. It’s no coincidence that you often see crosses, pilgrimage sites and places of worship high on mountain tops.
Obviously I’m quite conscious of my place while visiting mountains. I’m always a guest, a traveler, an ambassador of society at large and therefore I take my role very seriously. As much as possible, I strive to find community-based tourism that I can support. Tourism that will help maintain the culture, not parade it around and inevitably degrade it. I also distribute my dollars broadly to local people. Spending a little bit here and there, not a bunch in one place. Lastly, I ensure everything I hike in with also comes back out and of course I respect the ecosystem by not wandering off trail. As a visitor to these spaces, I have a big responsibility in ensuring these ancient cultures continue for future generations to experience. Hiking into mountain villages is like stepping back in time. It’s absolutely breathtaking and there’s no way I can aptly describe it, but maybe these images from the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal will help a bit.
I’m planning a trip to Nepal for October & November of 2017. Want to join me on a trek?