Besides the whole breathing-through-your-nose thing, I found there was one other strategy for pacing myself along our trek through the Himalayas. One of the best tips I can give to fellow unprepared, out-of-shape trekkers is to let your mind create a playlist each day for your hike. Some days the song will be the same, other days it will change several times within the hour.
You would think it would get repetitive, but the fact is not only did it give me something to focus on instead of the nagging voice inside my head telling me I wasn’t cut out for this, but the steady beat of these songs propelled my legs forward and ushered me forward one step and one beat at a time.
“Cups” by Anna Kendrick: This song was for a good day with less uphill. I practically skipped along singing this song both in my head and occasionally out loud (it meant we weren’t going uphill anymore,so of course I was singing at the top of my lungs!) And even though it doesn’t have many verses, “Cups” is so upbeat and travel-themed it was a perfect motivator along the trek.
“Misty Mountain Cold” from The Hobbit: Maybe because we watched The Hobbit the night before I left for Nepal, maybe because the mountains were literally misty in Nepal, or maybe just because I wished I had the stamina and endurance of a hobbit myself, this song popped into my head every time I looked up a daunting series of rocks to scale. The low tones and ominous foreboding quality of the song certainly characterized the heart-sinking feeling you get when your legs realize they have to climb up that thing you are craning your neck to see the top of. And while it was usually a bad sign if this song was on repeat in my head, it did the trick for pacing myself uphill.
“Danny Boy”: Who knows where in the crevices of my mind this one came from (probably from all those afternoons of watching Celtic Thunder on PBS with my sister), but Danny Boy was a pretty popular song all of a sudden. Like Misty Mountains, it proved to be very useful for the slow, determined stride of an uphill pass. Also in the moments I thought I would die along the trail the content seemed appropriate.
“Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” by Elton John: This one was really just to get me through the weekend. There aren’t really any days, weeks or months when you’re trekking, but it made me feel better to celebrate the weekend and this song kept me upbeat (relatively) for our Saturday and Sunday passes.
“Meet the Flintstones”: I literally have no explanation for this one. I have seen probably two episodes of The Flintstones in my entire life so I have no idea how the theme song found me on a mountain top the Himalayas, but find me it did and leave my head it would not. Just goes to show you, your mental playlist is not your personal iTunes account, you have considerably less control over what will play next–like listening to a friend’s iPod on shuffle when you’re too polite to skip to the next song. You just roll with the mental punches.
What’s on your mental mountain playlist?
It is excellent fun imagining those songs along the mountain ridges. The cool thing is using your own brain as the playback unit. This allows the surrounding earth sounds to blend with your internal track. I was on a hike on a New Hampshire mountain in college and someone pulled out a harmonica and we all sang as we climbed; another way to have this experience.
If we had a harmonica that would have been a great alternative! I wondered at some points though if I even had enough breath to sing while I hiked, you’d have to be pretty skilled to play harmonica and hike too. I’m impressed.