This sunny summer seems perfect for taking up The Sound of Music’s exhortation to climb every mountain, or at least the biggest three in the UK, and discover what comes from a physical challenge experienced, not merely observed.
I am no hillwalker, but having just managed Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon in under 24 hours (despite no training) I know that Rodgers and Hammerstein were right about following a dream.
The lesson of the achievement is a personal one, a piece of self-discovery irrelevant to anyone else. But in an age when every experience seems live streamed and shared for all to view, there is one relevance: with so much visible to watch, we risk forgetting to have experiences ourselves. In the end, these are what make up an individual life and offer it the opportunities, both good and bad. A downloaded sound or image of someone else’s cannot quite cut it.
If I had failed the challenge there would certainly have been disappointment, not something anyone seeks. But that would still have been vivid and personal. As it happens, I did it, and the experience feels like a strength acquired.
There were tender questions around the very idea that an unprepared body could hike itself up the highest peaks in the country in quick succession, that wondered whether the sinews of age were quite up to the task. Untrained (thanks to living in the flattest county in Britain) but unconcerned by such detail, or the generous amounts of friendly scepticism, I had gone to Fort William for the first peak, Ben Nevis, after booking an organised trip.
The team leader gave just one bit of advice to the 31, mainly women, walkers: dig deep. By the time each peak was finished, with the last coming after just a few hours sleep, only 15 of us were left.
The task turned out to require a mental commitment that far exceeded any physical preparation I could have made anyway, which was some consolation for not having done any. The team leader was right. Those of us who managed the three peak challenge (in 23 hours and 43 minutes later) were not the most physically fit, as it transpired. We were the most mentally focused.
It seems to me a win-win either way, taking on difficult physical tasks. They change how we feel about ourselves, how others see us, and improve the relationship with daily grind.
So, as the sun continues to shine and shine on this extraordinary summer, consider reaching for an outdoors physical test of the sort the British weather can often make it easier to leave to one side. The views from the top may never be better.