Mountains that Build Us

By Shauna Watts


Mountains make great metaphors for life. Need a life lesson in perseverance? Patience? Just keep hikin’! Need a boost in self-confidence? Check out how far you pushed yourself! Need a new view to change your perspective? There’s a mountain for that.

My personal favorite is the metaphor for believing in yourself enough to take on a mountain. I’ve put that metaphor into practice before.

We set out at the wretched hour of four o’clock in the morning on the Mount Whitney trail head. Our headlamps lit up the switchbacks zigzagging through the woods. When the sun finally rose, peaceful, untainted nature surrounded us. Hiking was easy . . .

. . . until it wasn’t. Most of the trail is above the treeline. That means lots and lots of rocks. And no offense to rocks, but they are utterly uninspiring. Without a motivating landscape, I had only one reason to keep walking up and up, and that was to reach the summit. Purely, simply, to reach the top.

But first, I had to tackle 97 intimidating switchbacks.Mountains

One foot in front of the other. That’s how you hike. That’s also how you get through life’s trials—just one foot in front of the other, one itty bitty piece at a time. Mountain metaphor!

I felt like I was stuck on those switchbacks forever. But at last, I’d climbed them all. Sitting among the dust and rock, I gazed at the valley below, thrilled with what I had just done. In your face, switchbacks.

Then I turned around. More rocks, more mountain to conquer. I wasn’t done yet.

During the last stretch to the summit, you can’t see the top until you’re right there, so you don’t feel any closer as you walk. Each step grows heavier and heavier from tired muscles and thinning air. All I could do was push, push, push. Step by step.

And finally, after hiking eleven miles and gaining 6,100 feet, I reached the summit of Mount Whitney! I was giddy with pure joy. I did it, I did it! Over and over. I did it! Some of the most powerful words to ever cross my mind.

We celebrated by eating lunch, taking pictures, and feeding the marmots. It was shocking to see how high we were. For a brief time, we saw the world as the mighty mountain did.

I had believed in myself enough to reach the top. And there on that summit, my belief transformed into a strength that I will always have when future mountains rise in my path. That’s the beauty of mountains—though they suck to climb, and there are no shortcuts to the top, they help us grow.

Then came the descent.


Hiking down is great because gravity is on your side, and each step brings you closer to your bed—buuuut it still hurts, just in a different way than going up.


I didn’t have hiking sticks (bad idea) and by the last few miles, my feet were killing me and my knees were hurting, badly. To the point where I had to stop constantly to sit down and fight back tears.

But gosh flippin’ dangabob, I’d made it to the top and I wasn’t about to taste bitter defeat so close to the bottom. I pushed through the pain. Finally, we arrived at our camp around eight o’clock at night—16 hours and 22 miles after we first hit the trail.

Even though the pain persisted for weeks (I had injured both IT bands on the way down), the same thought went through my mind over and over: I did it. I will always be able to say it, and it will give me strength whenever I’m faced with new trials to overcome.

Each mountain we ascend leaves us stronger than before. We must never let go of that strength, nor forget what we did to gain it. So whenever you hear a mountain metaphor, remember the true power is not in the mountain—it’s in yourself.


Author Bio: Shauna Watts

I graduated in English Literature and dream of becoming an author of YA fantasy someday. Right now I stay home with my three little ones, which leaves me filling the roles of housemaid, teacher, chef, playmate, therapist, and everything in between. I’m either mothering with love or hiding from my children while I down a few Peanut M&Ms.

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