Why I’m so happy

I was a fairly incongruous sight it must be said, wearing running shorts when everybody else was in ski pants, but it was more the wide smile on my face that caused the lady in the cafe to ask “why are you so happy this morning?”

It wasn’t merely the prospect of a warm latte on a cold morning that had me smiling (though that helped my mood it must be said); no, it was the prospect of a run high into the snow-laden mountains that had me fizzing. Last winter, while training for the High Five-0 Challenge in the hills around Wanaka, this was the norm for most weekends. Usually twice a weekend in fact. But it felt like an age since I’d set off into the hills with my micro-spikes and lots of layers to do battle with the elements. The prospect of a return to these high, deserted and achingly beautiful landscapes was the reason for my smile and my happy demeanour.


My target was Mt. Alpha, a peak I’ve scaled many times and usually, via the route I was taking today, no more than a 2.5 hour ascent. But today was different. I’d underestimated just how much snow was up there following the recent dumps and the going was slow. Very slow. Calf-deep, then knee-deep, then thigh-deep snow eventually slowing my progress to a crawl and for the first time on this mountain, some 1500m shy of the summit, I pulled the plug and turned around early.


I should have taken snowshoes I realised – that would have been fun as well as smart. But none of it really mattered. I was merely after a dose of fresh air, a good climb and some mountain solitude, and I got all of that. That’s the beauty of running (or in this case trudging) in the mountains – no matter what happens they always give something of themselves for those who are prepared to give something of themselves to be there, in amongst it all.


I returned to my car some 5 hours after setting off. I was tired but even happier than I’d been earlier in the day. It wasn’t a huge adventure, nothing was really ‘achieved’ as such, but my soul felt lighter and my outlook was brighter. That’s what mountains do for me. That’s why they are so good for my mental wellbeing.