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The point of inner morality - psychology of climbing

Mountain climbing from the point of inner morality.

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I want to dedicate this text to my friend Alexey Bolotov, a person close to me in spirit, with whom we began to discuss issues of the psychology of mountaineering which I used in the text below. We didn't finish our discussing. Alexey died while trying to climb Mount Everest. Respectable death for the honest man.


The rain covers the porthole of the plane with slanting streams of water, through the glass were vaguely visible the contours of the neighboring planes standing in line waiting for takeoff. Moscow traffic jams have reached the airports, and we were standing in line for take-off at the tail of a long line of planes. Our flight to Novosibirsk has already been delayed for at least an hour and a half... Ahead - four hours of forced idleness, so I thought that it is on the way to Novosibirsk that I will have a great opportunity to return to the topic that was born this summer in the Caucasus in philosophical dialogues about universal values and the meaning of mountaineering.

Peak Bzhedukh in the Caucasus

At the very beginning of this essay, I want to clarify that I will use here the term mountaineering in a rather broad sense - in this context, it is not a sport, not a competition, not an extreme and not a romance of camping life. Here, the word mountaineering means actually climbing the peaks, staying in the mountains – doing any kind of physical activity – hiking, trekking or climbing in the mountains.

On the top of Kurmychi, Elbrus region, North Caucasus

It is important that a person put himself in an environment that is unusual for him, faces the need to endure hardships and overcome obstacles that are not characteristic of the ordinary, everyday life.

Climbing Mont Blanc, France

He does all this not for the sake of obvious everyday necessity, but to achieve an abstract, ephemeral, self-set goal. The processes involved in this lesson affect not only the physical mechanisms of a person, but also affect his moral and psychological attitudes. A person who got into the mountains for the first time experiences stress that globally affects all parts of his body.

Endless panoramas of Altai from the top of Belukha

The question of the existence of a certain psychological mechanism that pulls a person to the mountains, we began to discuss this summer with one of my friends. Working as mountain guides, we first climbed Mount Elbrus - the highest peak of our continent. From there I took the theory, which had already taken shape in general terms, to Bezengi region, to Mount Dykh Tau. Dykh Tau is the second highest peak in Europe, a five-thousander, the legendary and one of the most difficult peak of the Caucasus.

Climbing Dykh Tau, Caucasus

On Dykh Tau, we worked in tandem with a famous climber from St. Petersburg. Since the question was of interest to both of us, the idea of the Point of Inner Morality found its development - in our free time on the route, we talked about the moral and psychological aspects of mountaineering trying to understand the motivation and internal aspects of this activity, which is making it something more than a sport or active recreation.

Climbing Mont Blanc, Alps, Italy

How mountaineering of today is different from the mountaineering of the past? What is the legacy left to us from the great achievements of previous generations of alpine climbers? What can we now easily discard as unnecessary relics of the past? These vestiges will go with the previous generation of climbers and never come back. But something imperceptibly elusive should not be lost, without that the meaning of mountain climbing will be lost in general, it will turn into the fun for scumbags and lovers of spoiling the nature...

In the high camp of Dykh Tau

Mountaineering is changing. This process is inevitable, like any development, like growing up. It depends on us what we will save and leave to ourselves as the basis of mountain climbing from the experience accumulated over a couple of centuries.

Climbing Kilimanjaro, Africa

I am still haunted by the thought of what really motivated these climbers of the past: G.Kokkin - in the Caucasus, all the most difficult mountains were climbed by this person long before progress intervened in the issues of safety and comfort of climbing.

The summit of Mount Ushba, a classic of technical mountaineering

The Italian climber Carrel was a phenomenally strong mountaineer and mountain guide who shocked all the Europe climbing community in the 19th century with his daring ascents in the Alps. He died of exhaustion on the rocky slope after an extremely difficult ascent of the Matterhorn.

On top of the Matterhorn, Switzerland

In the 20th century, a series of mountaineering ascents, which can hardly be called otherwise than heroism, were continued by the legendary Soviet climbers Abalakov, Myshlyaev, Khergiani.... I can list further, but I am not writing an anthology of the history of mountaineering. I am trying to lay out my thoughts on what seems to me the most elusive, but also the most valuable thing in mountaineering. What made these people similar to the ancient titans in terms of their fortitude and willpower. Because without these qualities, it was impossible to perform those climbs that glorified them.

Memorial on the Matterhorn, where Carrel died

If now we don’t sort it out and save these qualities, they will be covered by a wave of recreational mountaineering, empty shells for entertainment consumers. This product sells well, so there is a risk in the flow of consumers to lose what makes us individuals, what ennobles and disinfects the mind, what makes us Humans.

Mount Donguz Orun at sunrise

The discussion on this subject led us to the theory of the Point of Inner Morality. For the sake of brevity, in the future, when repeating this term, I will simply write the PIM, I hope you will not forget what it means. So, what is PIM and how is it related to the vertical progress of our body.

Climbing in the Monte Rosa massif in Switzerland

Theoretically, within each of us there is some mechanism for determining and recognizing good and evil. This innate quality is inherent in every rational being. Maybe it is the conscience, or maybe it is the soul, no one has defined and named the part of our body responsible for the accuracy of these concepts. So let it be PIM in our case - it sounds scientific.

Alpine landscape, Italy

Suppose that everyone has this PIM, but no one understands how to use that property. What happens to PIM in our difficult, and frankly speaking, not very positive everyday life? The flow of information that we pass through every day leaves a black residue, the constant need to separate good from evil is lost in the continuous fuss and struggle for existence.

Climbing Alpamayo, Peru

And our PIM gets covered with this everyday sludge, loses its mobility - why should we have extra trouble and anxiety. We forget about this ability, gradually losing it along with our interest in life, conscience, the ability to enjoy simple natural things. By the way, from here, perhaps, get its origin such vices as alcoholism and drug addiction - a person reflexively tries to escape, free himself from this dirty swamp. But gets into a swamp even worse.

Climbing Elbrus from the East

For a modern person, its constant presence in a society dictates peculiar conditions of behavior. Meanness, heartlessness and general paranoia have covered us with a wave, the political situation only exacerbates the processes that lead to the loss of these simple qualities that are inherent in people by nature. Each of us has a mechanism that is conditionally responsible for recognizing good and evil, not only in personal interests, but also in the relation to others, in the relation to society.

Dawn in Armenia

However, the use of this mechanism in the current conditions is not always possible due to the peculiarities of the reality that we have created for ourselves. If you are kind to the others, you will not survive, - that is a simple everyday rule, the law of the jungle. What if we imagine a different reality? For example, one in which we really need each other, where the success, security and life of each of us fully depends on the support and help of the others?

Climbing in the Elbrus region, North Caucasus

For example, imagine that this abstract reality does not have that lack of space that makes us, at best, mindless robots in our everyday life?! What will happen then? I have noticed more than once what happens to the people in the mountains, how these people change, open up and purify themselves. Why so? This is where the PIM theory begins. From the forced social antibiosis, comes out the very inner quality responsible for the commission of actions. The internal balance is lost, which is not really balance, but simply the stiffness of feelings, the dulling of emotions.

Camp in the mountains – Cordellera Huayhuash , Peru

In the unusual conditions, a person begins to do things that are not characteristic of him in his everyday life. Sometimes he surprises himself with these actions. What is the result of this going out from the anabiosis, imbalance of feelings? Everyone has his own way. Someone will find meanness in himself, someone vice versa.

Reflection of the Matterhorn in the lake at sunrise, Italy

Someone will unexpectedly appreciate the disinterested help of an outsider, someone will leave a friend in trouble. The qualitative assessment of the act is not important, the very fact of its commission is important. Something inside gets out of balance, gets loosened. And in this hesitation, a person feels discomfort. This is a chance to change, this is an incentive and a criterion for correctness.

Camp 4800, climbing Dykh Tau

Mountaineering is quite a philosophical occupation. The goal that people set for themselves has no practical value. This is an abstract goal that a person sets for himself not in order to get something practically useful in return. This is the activation of processes associated with internal concentration on the success, on solving practical problems related to the achievement of an abstract goal.

Climbing Breithorn, Switzerland

This is an opportunity to discover in ourselves those qualities that we very rarely or never use in our everyday life. This is what is PIM - the center of our consciousness of our own individuality, exceptional value for this world and originality. This is the intersection of our personal interests with the interests of the society, this is the point of balance between meanness and nobility.

Classical view of Mount Belukha in Altai

Mountain climbing does not make good people out of bad ones, it does not turn scoundrels into noble knights. But this activity can reveal qualities in us that are very difficult to discover when running or playing tennis, swimming or travelling car. And it's not about what is better or worse - in any occupation there are positive qualities.

Climbing to the summit of Mount Belukha, Altai

But I think, at least for myself, I answered to the question of why people go to the mountains, what draws them there again, even if they didn’t like it for the first time. The movement of the Inner Morality Point, even the very fact of its discovery for any person, is a process that elevates them above the ordinary state, enriching internally. And reflexively, a person seeks to relive this experience again, to supplement in something, to correct something.

Autumn colors of Mount Shkhelda, North Caucasus

For clarity, let's try to draw several scenarios according to which events can develop in the life of a person who got to the mountains for the first time.

For example, out of curiosity or in pursuit of new emotions, a person takes a step towards the unknown, but attractive world of mountain peaks. Why would he do it?

Camp at the base of Mount Liskamm, Switzerland

It is unlikely that at this stage a person realizes the seriousness of such a step. Just a thirst for adventure, romance, something new. Then comes disappointment. It turns out that everything in the mountains is not like in the movies or in the photographs. It turns out that there you have to carry a heavy backpack, get wet in the rain, eat who knows what from a suspicious package, and suffer from a lack of basic living conditions.

Climbing Alpamayo, Peru

And the person says to himself - nooooo!, you won’t lure me here again, for any mountains I don’t go no more! He patiently waits for the end of the trip, returns home, distributes unnecessary equipment to his friends and absolutely does not suspect that he is already infected. He is infected with a disease that in six months will make him the review photos from the summer season, remember the gloomy rainy mountains and, strangely, but with incomprehensible nostalgia, restore in the memory the little things that for some reason remained there.

The summit of Kamen volcano, Kamchatka

And, from a certain distance in time, he already sees better that it was crowded and cold in the tent, but somehow comfortable in its own way, that the backpack, of course, was heavy, but what happiness it was to throw it off at the end of the day in the camp... And so in everything. And then this person catches himself thinking that his friends are going to the mountains again next season... and you can ask for the equipment back, because the guys will understand.

Climbing the Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru

Or in another way. Everything was fine both with the weather and with the backpack – it just did not have to be carried, because it was riding a donkey on his own. And the food was tolerable - the cook conjured up something new every day, the people could even eat not squatting in a cramped tent, but in a spacious kitchen tent, sitting comfortably on a folding, but still an armchair. But all this was somehow wrong, a vague disturbing feeling rose from within the consciousness and created discomfort in this world of cold radiant altitude.

The summit tower of Cerro Torre - Patagonia

The world of mountains was depressing with its majesty. “It was certainly a good experience, but you can’t lure me into the mountains anymore,” the man thought. This man will never get to the mountains again, however, in a difficult moment, it was from memory of the mountain that the strength came, which he lacks at a difficult moment. At that very moment, some doubts and hesitations suddenly disappeared, and the person was surprised to discover in himself the ability to see things from an unusual angle ....

Three towers of Peak MPR in the Caucasus, Elbrus region

And sometimes everything is much simpler in general - an uncomplicated scenario, when a person who finds himself in the right company getting a new hobby - like mountaineering is cool! A fun, active and unconventional holiday or vacation will give you impressions for the year ahead, and there will be no doubt that in the next season there will be again an adventure in the mountains.

Climbing Mount Fitzroy, Patagonia

The realization that something more serious has happened than just a cool walk will come if something unsettling happens. And if everything goes easy and smoothly, there may not be any strange sensations... But anyway, sooner or later, the mountains will make you think and raise the question – why are you here?

Climbing in the Mongolian Altai

These considerations are needed in order to try to get closer to the idea that, regardless of the development of further events, the mountains give a person something that can further change both this person and his subsequent life.

Sunrise on Mount Elbrus, view from the Ushba plateau

And no matter what peak we climb, regardless of the level of complexity and motivation for climbing, all the same, the main, deepest and most important process that occurs in the human mind is the removal from the usual stable state of the mechanism that we conditionally called the Inner Morality Point.

The summit ridge of Northern Ushba, Caucasus

And it is due to this mechanism that the very thin invisible connection is created, by which a person becomes attached to the mountains and, unconsciously changing himself internally, becomes dependent on those experiences and emotions once experienced.

Sunrise panorama, Alps, France

To summarize, since the plane has already successfully landed. I do not agree with Russian bard Vladimir Vysotsky - "Pull the guy into the mountains, take a risk... and if something goes wrong – send him away.."... There are neither good people nor bad. There is a set of personalities. With all our multitude, each of us is unique, in this uniqueness lies the great secret of the world. And climbing to the summit, overcoming difficulties, sometimes even risking our lives, we get the opportunity to experience, to feel this uniqueness, to feel our own value for this world and our harmony with it.

Climbing the summit of Mount Belukha, Altai

So I would determine the most important thing that needs to be highlighted in this issue. What in mountaineering, with all its history, we must most carefully preserve and protect from turning into active recreation or competitive sports.

Granite bastions of Patagonia, climbing Mount Fitzroy

This summer, at the background of snow-capped mountain peaks and a shining ultramarine sky, in the expanses of alpine meadows, where every step knocks crystal dew drops from flowers onto the path, we made an attempt to answer the eternal question - why are we here, what pulls a person to the mountains and how to explain this almost drug-addicted dependence on the regular travel to the summits.

Climbing the summit of Mount Ushba, Caucasus

An old and rhetorical question, but I think that we managed to formulate a theory that explains the mechanics of this attachment quite coherently ... The theory received a tricky name - the Point of Inner Morality, but if you read to the end - I want to believe that you understand about what I was talking.


The author of the text and photos - Alexey Trubachev


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AlexClimb Rule #1 - Safety First

From the very beginning of our activity, here nearly 16 years, the first Principle of work of School of mountaineering and rock-climbing of MCS AlexClimb is the Safety Priority. On the basis of this Principle all process of training is based, all programs and rounds are developed and carried out only within this main principle. We consider that at professional approach to development of programs, at personal discipline and correctly put motivation - occupations by mountaineering and rock-climbing are COMPLETELY safe. And from the return - all troubles and accidents in our sport come from nonprofessionalism, from ignorance or neglect by elementary standards of safety, from irrational motivation, from revaluation of own forces and opportunities. All these prerequisites we COMPLETELY EXCLUDE in our work - ours Rock-climbing, Ice climbing and Mountaineering are based on one Principle - the Safety Priority. In rock-climbing, mountaineering and ice climbing, the Priority of Safety of MCS AlexClimb-is your personal security and comfort irrespective of, than we are engaged - we train muscles and we work technology of the movement in the sports hall and on the rock climbing wall, we make the way through snowstorm to top or we relax on golden sand of the Caribbean beach after hot day of trainings on rocks. The Safety priority - the main credo of School of mountaineering and rock-climbing of MCS AlexClimb.

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Closely interacting with Nature, working with the active programs in mountains, woods, lakes and rivers, we perfectly understand the importance of carefull and respectfull bahavior towards the Nature, for its resources. From the very beginning of our outdoor-activity we adopted rules of  Leave No Trace technique - the standard of behavior of the person accepted in all the civilized world in relation to environment and especially - to the wild nature. After all on the relation of people to the nature near which they exist, itself can draw dalekoidushchy conclusions on the relation of these people to... Where and as we didn't travel - we don't reserve any garbage, we try to reduce whenever possible our influence on environment to a minimum. We clear earlier zagryazyonny tourist parking of the left garbage, we take out and we take out to utilization places that to us other people left there. We consider that only thus, at personal individual consciousness of each citizen, each tourist, climber or autotraveller, we will be able to keep the nature surrounding us in its state, natural, suitable for life, - in it pledge of the healthy future for ourselves and our children.

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The position of AlexClimb Mountain and rockclimbing School regarding healthy lifestyle is quite clear - we consider that only sober consciousness is capable to fill sincere emotions,  to sympathize, to enjoy life in all its variety. Bright various enjoyable life is possible only on condition of keeping the absolute sobriety and purity of consciousness. Any way of obscuring our perception of reality is intended to do harm to our consciousness and bring harm to our physical health, to replace the true values by false ones, to destroy us physically - to turn us into flabby, weak, senseless, gray herd with empty hazy eyes. We don't force anybody to our point of view, everyone has a God's gift of making his own choice and to destroy himself if that is what he wants... But in AlexCilimb Mountain Climbing School we accept quite certain and very simple set of rules: neither alcohol, nor drugs.