“It goes, boys!”: And Other Great Climbing Quotes

·5 min read

This article originally appeared on Climbing

Mountain-climbing quotes. Hate them for their cliches or love ’em for their inspiration, climbing quotes are a central part of our sport’s history. Climbing quotes capture a moment in time, like Reinhold Messner’s era-defining essay “The Murder of the Impossible”; they remind us of where we’ve come from (Anatoli Boukreev’s "Mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the cathedrals where I practice my religion" instantly comes to mind); and they encourage us to face the risks that are so common in alpinism.

While these 30 quotes about climbing mountains only scratch the surface of climbing lore and legend, we hope you’ll enjoy them as you prepare for your next trip to the hills.

Climbing Quotes

  • "You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen." --Rene Daumal

  • "Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb." --Greg Child

  • "It don't gotta be fun to be fun." --Carl Tobin

  • "Climbing and soloing aren’t worth dying for, but they are worth risking dying for." --Todd Skinner

  • "Great things are done when men and mountains meet; This is not done by jostling in the street." --William Blake

  • "Without mountains, we might find ourselves relieved that we can avoid the pain of the ascent, but we will forever miss the thrill of the summit. And in such a terribly scandalous trade-off, it is the absence of pain that becomes the thief of life." --Craig D. Lounsbrough

  • "The mountains are calling and I must go." --John Muir

  • "The summit is what drives us, but the climb itself is what matters." --Conrad Anker

  • "There are two kinds of climbers: those who climb because their heart sings when they're in the mountains, and all the rest." --Alex Lowe

  • "Mountains have a way of dealing with overconfidence." --Hermann Buhl

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  • "Because in the end, you won't remember the time you spent working in an office or mowing the lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain." --Jack Kerouac

  • "Getting to the top of any given mountain was considered much less important than how one got there: prestige was earned by tackling the most unforgiving routes with minimal equipment, in the boldest style imaginable." --Jon Krakauer

  • "Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity." --John Muir

  • "You never climb the same mountain twice, not even in memory. Memory rebuilds the mountain, changes the weather, retells the jokes, remakes all the moves." --Lito Tejada-Flores

  • "Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are nought without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste; look well to each step; and from the beginning think what may be the end." --Edward Whymper

  • "As a professional climber, that's the question you always get: Why, why, why? It's an ineffable thing; you can't describe it."--Jimmy Chin

Man ice climbs up mountain face.
The late David Lama mixed climbing in Austria. (Photo: Red Bull Content Pool)
  • "Mountains are not fair or unfair, they are just dangerous." --Reinhold Messner

  • "As I hammered in the last bolt and staggered over the rim, it was not at all clear to me who was the conqueror and who was the conquered. I do recall that El Cap seemed to be in much better condition than I was." --Warren Harding

  • "Mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the cathedrals where I practice my religion." --Anatoli Boukreev

  • "It goes, boys!" --Lynn Hill

  • "Bolts are the murder of the impossible." --Reinhold Messner

  • "Better we raise our skill than lower the climb." --Royal Robbins

  • "I thought climbing the Devil’s Thumb would fix all that was wrong with my life. In the end, of course, it changed almost nothing. But I came to appreciate that mountains make poor receptacles for dreams." --Jon Krakauer

  • "Dangers easily managed are not true dangers," --Hermann Buhl

[Read: Guided by Hermann Buhl’s famous “truisms,” a young John Long gets into a ropeless jam high on Tahquitz Rock.]

  • "I’ve done a lot of thinking about fear. For me the crucial question is not how to climb without fear--that’s impossible--but how to deal with it when it creeps into your nerve endings."--Alex Honnold

  • "Climbing is an artistic, creative thing; it’s about being spontaneous, traveling, seeing the world, hanging out. It’s a balance of setting goals while enjoying the process, being ambitious without being too competitive." --Chris Sharma

  • "When in doubt, run it out." --Unknown

  • "I feel a hint of pity for those who don't get to experience the crisp air and excitement of mountain climbing. Are they ever really awake?"--Tommy Caldwell

  • "Without a rope there is no fear because to fall is unthinkable." --Catherine Destivelle

  • "We should be less afraid to be afraid." --Emily Harrington

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