Lessons from the mountain
3 years ago we climbed mount Sniezka as the final cornerstone of my WIm Hof Instructor course.
It was a unique experience. Intense, joyful. The last day of our retreat, and we would conquer the mountain. Some 30 freshly baked instructors. Our final walk up that path before going out and sharing this beautiful method with the world.
// But The Mountain had a lesson for us. //
Not all of us made it up the mountain. But all of us made it down. And all of us learned the most important lesson of the whole instructor training.
The first part of the hike was beautiful. Wide gently-sloped paths through snow-covered trees. Some degrees below zero, but nothing too serious. Everyone was fine stomping up that mountain in just shorts and boots.At one point the path reaches the tree line, and the wind started to hit us hard. No problem, we were in our focus, our inner fire was switched on. It started snowing. Beautiful!
The final part of the ascent leads over an exposed ridge. Half way up that ridge, the weather changed. The wind took up. The windchill decreased to -30 degrees C. And with it, the storm brought frozen rain. The rain covered everything. The stones, the rails that gave us support. The spikes under our boots started to fail. Our feet slipped on the stones, and our hands slipped on the frozen rails. And with the slipping feet our focus started to slip.
And focus is what keeps the inner fire going. When the focus goes, the cold creeps in. In our case, it didn’t creep, it was hammered into us by hale, frozen rain and wind gusts of 80 km/h. From there it was chaos. Some managed to get dressed. Others were shivering too much to even put a jacket on. Everyone was at their limit. Everyone started their descend back to the last shelter, the Yellow House at the beginning of the crest. It’s only thanks to good luck and individuals who helped some others back down to safety. I personally have half pushed, half pulled, half carried a severely hypothermic person down the crest. I was at the end of my own power when finally he was taken off me by a helper and carried the last few meters to the shelter.
So we didn’t make it up the mountain that day, and barely down. In the beginning, I was almost ashamed that I didn’t make it up. Now, 3 years later, I know that The Mountain taught us an important message that day:
// YOU NEVER CONQUER THE COLD. //
The cold is always stronger. It does not differentiate between a Wim Hof Instructor, a practitioner or any person in the world. Even Wim Hof himself had some close calls. The cold always wins.Nature always wins.
You can use the cold as a tool. It can make you stronger. But if you challenge it, it will win. Always.
Does that make the cold bad? Of course not. It’s like a weight. You wouldn’t walk around all day with a barbell with 100 pound on each side on your back. But if you build up to it, squatting it a few times in the gym will make you stronger. And after training, you need recovery and rest to give the muscles time to recover and grow.
And the cold works the same way. Use it a few times a week to train your body and mind. Respect it. Know your limits. And slowly, and steadily, build up, expand your limits.
The cold can make you happier, healthier, and stronger. Together with a healthy lifestyle, rest and recovery.
This is the lesson I have been teaching in my classes in the last 3 years to hundreds people from a dozen countries. And I hope I have made every single one a happier, stronger and healthier person.