Mont Blanc Guides Blog

“I Know I Can Do It” & “I Never Give Up”: Boardroom Talk Doesn’t Work On Mountains.

I would make a terrible life coach. Though encouraging people is a big part of my job, I must admit “Apprentice -style” sound bites like this make me feel a  bit queasy. Determination on it’s own isn’t worth much if it doesn’t translate into action, and if you turn up to climb Mont Blanc armed only with assertions, a very demotivating experience will very soon be heading your way. The reason determined people summit mountains is because their motivation gets them out training beforehand, not because they grit their teeth harder than everyone else on the day. Indeed, excessive teeth gritting could even be the reason you don’t end up getting to the top.

When reality comes crashing in on groundless self belief it often leads to a rapid descent into disillusion and disappointment, in other words the exact opposite of what we are trying to achieve. Some people even end up having a mini psychological collapse on the mountain, becoming so uncommunicative and despondent that they can be quite hard to manage; they have put themselves under so much pressure to make the summit that as soon as things get hard a “does not compute” message arrives in the brain and everything seems to shut down. Willpower alone will no more get you up Mont Blanc than it will let you run a marathon in two and a half hours.


No You Can’t.


It’s true you will be much more likely to do well on one of our weeks if you can stay positive throughout, but that will be much harder to achieve if you start by putting yourself under massive pressure to succeed, pretending to know you’re going to summit when you obviously don’t. Turn your determination into hard work beforehand and get out there and get as fit as you can; by the time you turn up in Chamonix it’s either going to be in your legs to get up Mont Blanc or it isn’t, so you might as well just relax, do your best and enjoy the experience.

I realise that’s easy to say when I’m not the one who just invested considerable time and over two thousand euros on the trip, but nevertheless it remains the best advice I can give you. Not getting to the top every time is an intrinsic part of mountaineering but you’ll get a lot higher if you can relax about it, and if it helps, you’ll probably never fail on anything like as many mountains as I have.


John Taylor
John has been climbing in the Mont Blanc region for over 25 years and became an IFMGA Mountain Guide in 2002. He has been the owner / Head Guide at Mont Blanc Guides Ltd. since 2004.