Images of mountains are to be found aplenty throughout the sacred texts of the Abrahamic religions. It was on Mount Sinai that Moses was handed the Ten Commandments, having remained for forty days and forty nights – a seminal event in the shared histories of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Jesus himself gave us the Sermon from the Mount, and the Lord’s Prayer, as well as telling us – according to Matthew – that we could actually move mountains if our faith was only strong enough.
By contrast the common saying about Mohammed having to go to the mountain as it would not come to him has no origins in the Qur’an, but can be traced back only as far the seventeenth century English philosopher Francis Bacon. Nevertheless, according to Islamic belief it was on the mountain of Jabal al-Nour that the Holy Prophet received his first revelation.
Mountains also feature prominently in literature, in film, in art and in popular music. River Deep Mountain High, Rocky Mountain High, the Sound of Music’s invocation to Climb Every Mountain and references to the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Trail of the Lonesome Pine are a few amongst many.
Of course climbing mountains is all about challenge, and the human spirit does like a challenge. People have risked, and indeed lost their lives attempting to be the first to climb a particular mountain, or to scale a mountain using a particular face. The name Sir Edmund Hillary is one that will be known to any serious student of modern history.
Naturally not every attempt at climbing a mountain is undertaken with the intention of breaking a record or doing something that has never been done before. Climbing is a pastime undertaken by millions of people around the world and the requirements of the task vary enormously. Some involve little more than a leisurely stroll up a path before enjoying a well deserved cup of tea at the café that does a brisk trade at the summit. Others involve an altogether more arduous struggle, and climbing equipment to suit.