Is Rush the main motivator why people keep challenging themselves to climb more difficult mountains and pay guides to get them there?

Written by Aurimas Drungilas

June 16, 2015

People are motivated by wide range of factors. But why do people want to climb mountains with the help of guides? According to Buckley (2011), the main motivational factors can be narrowed down to one feeling - rush. It is worth mentioning that a lot of people assume that risk is the main motivator. And, indeed, a lot of literature regarding mountaineering in the past has focused on risk. However, more recent findings suggest that this might not be true. People want to be safe (do not want to get injured), but also experience the ‘danger’ of climbing mountains (a.k.a. the feeling of rush).

The feeling of rush is not clearly defined by academics. However, it could be argued to be a combination of thrill and flow (right combination of challenge and skill). More specifically, the hormonal aspect could be associated with elevated adrenaline levels whilst at the same time keeping calm and composed in dangerous situations (a.k.a. flow experience). Whilst this definition is not exact, it is as close people who have experienced rush could define it. Arguably, if you have experienced rush, then you would be able to pin point it from this definition.

According to Buckley (2011), rush can be experienced by either non-climbers or highly experienced climbers. It is highly addictive. This, according to him, is the main reason why people go to such lengths, like traveling to distant locations to climb highly dangerous mountains, just to experience (sometimes only briefly) the feeling of rush.

Furthermore, the more experienced and skilled the climber becomes, the more the feeling becomes dependant on conditions and location. These locations can depend on season, weather, newest discoveries, and more. Through time, locations gradually become commonplace as more and more mountaineers conquer them. As the locations of challenge change over times, this, therefore has become a major reason why people pay commercial providers to take them to these sites. Commercial providers have the knowledge and experience about these locations that could be crucial for someone climbing a location for the first time.

Finally, the feeling of rush that hard mountaineers often chase for is not guaranteed. A lot of variables depend on it (e.g. skill, challenge, location, weather, etc.). Therefore, individuals could not always climb mountains for the feeling of rush, it could also involve developing skills to take on bigger challenges (which could ultimately provide that feeling). It should also be noted, that not all individuals are motivated by rush, however for those who are, other motivational factors might pale in significance. Do you think you are motivated to challenge yourself physically by the prospect of experiencing rush?


Buckley, R. (2011) Rush as a key motivation in skilled adventure tourism: Resolving the risk recreation paradox. Tourism Management. 33 (4), 961–970.

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