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Staying Fit: Conquering mountains

The outdoors provide challenges that can literally keep you on your toes

  • Image Credit: ©Gulf News reader: Fhelie M. Hernandez
  • Image Credit: ©Gulf News reader: Fhelie M. Hernandez

There are plenty of activities we can engage in to stay fit. We think mostly of doing it indoors, inside the gym, but as we’ve tackled in previous editions of Staying Fit, the outdoors provide other challenges. Some are extreme that require you to literally stay on your toes.

A few weeks ago, I participated at the inaugural Wadi Ghalilah Vertical Run (WGVR) in Ras Al Khaimah. It’s a race up and down rugged terrain where you scale a peak elevation of 1,400 metres, almost double the height of UAE’s tallest structure, The Burj Khalifa, which towers at 828 meters. There is a cutoff time of five hours to reach the last checkpoint at the top of the mountain and you have two hours to descend, leaving you with seven hours to safely make your way back to base camp where it starts and finishes.

For WGVR race director and veteran mountaineer, Arwin Gonzales Sta. Clara, mentality and physicality should go together to conquer mountains.

“It takes the right attitude with an equally right amount of physical preparation. Patience and determination are required as it may take you hours to achieve such feat. Equally, the body has to be prepared to accept the pounding that mountains have to offer. It may break you in the beginning, but it will build you up in the long run,” he says.

It’s a truly huge undertaking (pardon the pun), but when the mountains call, extreme adventure enthusiasts such as brand buying coordinator Ernesto Jay Sales III come running on its trails. Sales, who’s done the Wadi Bih 72km run in the mountains of Oman in five degree weather, complements Sta. Clara’s views.

“Trail running [on mountains] is a lot more challenging than on road… In every sport we do, it all requires self-discipline. We need to focus, and believe in ourselves. Never underestimate the mountain, so train hard for it and be ready with everything you need, because when you’re trail running you’re also in survival mode… But the experience and the view, you don’t have or see it every day. Those make me enjoy and love exploring more… Expanding my playground through nature and living life at its fullest,” Sales says.

There’s no denying that the path is perilous and your footing is always uneven. They say it’s a run with light bouldering, but I sincerely beg to differ. It’s practically the other way around. There is zero running around large, sharp rocks on treacherous ground. Literally, every move you do is a calculated risk. And you cannot make a single misstep when you’re on a rocky mountain, or else it’s a steep drop to certain demise.

That is why I have so much respect for those who dare. There is great risk-taking on mountains, but its rewards are greater and it echoes throughout people’s lives.

“Just like what the WGVR showed, it gave the participants another perspective as to what it feels to be back in nature. This experience provides people with an understanding [of] how it feels to disconnect from the usual norms of everyday life and reconnect to what used to be... before modern industrialisation and urbanisation came into the picture. Being in the mountains gave me initiative [on] how to tackle my daily life. Considering the rigours of mountaineering, you gain insights how to approach every step. Overall, conquering mountains made me realise that the world is vast and as such, we are but tenants here on Earth. That what the Earth gives, it will take at a given time. Before that happens, I see to it that I don’t waste time asking ‘what if’ and ‘what will be’, instead, I plan and make things happen,” Sta. Clara says.

The above statements are moving and it’s something experienced mountaineers can testify to. Sometimes we have to take on the biggest things to appreciate the little ones. Mountaineering in general is an endeavour worth doing at some point because in the words of the great Sir Edmund Hillary: “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves”.