“The only good reason to climb is to improve yourself.” – Yvon Chouinard

Over the past few hundred years, there’s been countless wise words shared by those who’ve shaped the sport.

From sport climbers to legendary alpinists, the following quotes have inspired many to push themselves at the crags and the mountains.

There are hundreds of memorable climbing quotes but these 45 stand out as some of the best.

“There are two kinds of climbers, those who climb because their heart sings when they’re in the mountains, and all the rest.” – Alex Lowe

“It goes, boys!” – Lynn Hill after the first free ascent of The Nose

“It goes boys!” – Lynn Hill

“Climbing here saved my life from the confines of materialistic illusion that we’re taught as children in school. The way I see it, there are two worlds: there’s the world where nothing is sacred except money, and the other world where everything is sacred.” – Ron Kauk

“Bolts are the murder of the impossible.” – Reinhold Messner

“Mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the cathedrals where I practice my religion.” – Anatoli Boukreev

“There are a dozen reasons for climbing, some bad, and I’ve used most of them myself. The worst are fame and money. Commonly people cite exploration or discovery, but that’s rarely relevant in today’s world. The only good reason to climb is to improve yourself.” – Yvon Chouinard

“The best part of climbing is when it all clicks and gravity ceases to exist.” – Chris Sharma

Chris Sharma on Joe Mama 5.15a Photo Ricardo Giancola

“When in doubt, run it out.” – Unknown

“Never did I explore life as intensively in its beautiness, as while hanging on two fingertips freely over the deep hollow.” – Wolfgang Güllich

“Getting to the summit is optional, getting down is mandatory.” – Ed Viesturs (from No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World’s 14 Highest Peaks)

“What advantages do we hope to gain (from climbing mountains)? Naturally, there is the pleasure we get from the climbing process itself and from our victories, but as well as the delights of exercise in a mountain environment, there is also the process, coming every time as a surprise, of self-discovery deepening a little further with every climb: who we are, how far we can go, what is our potential, where are the limits of our technique, our strength, our skill, our mountaineering sense: discoveries whose acceptance means that, if necessary, we may turn back and return another time, several times if need be-‘Tomorrow is a new day.’” – Gaston Rebuffat (from The Mont Blanc Massif: The Hundred Finest Routes)

“Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are nought without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste; look well to each step; and from the beginning think what may be the end.” – Edward Whymper (from Scrambles Amongst The Alps)

“I would say that the need to climb comes from that tough, lonely place of searching for your dignity. You know, that place – where we actually choose to confront our own weaknesses and fears, where we rebel against the terror of death – is really about dignity. That’s why alpinism is not just the act of ascending a mountain, but also inwardly of ascending above your self.” – Voytek Kurtyka

“It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun.” – Barry Blanchard

Barry Blanchard  Photo Andy Arts

“You never climb the same mountain twice, not even in memory. Memory rebuilds the mountain, changes the weather, retells the jokes, remakes all the moves.” – Lito Tejada-Flores

“In this short span between my fingertips and the smooth edge and these tense feet cramped to a crystal ledge, I hold the life of a man.” – Geoffrey Winthrop Young

“I don’t think I would become a climber if I were young man now. What is freedom to a bird if it is in the middle of a flock?” – John Gill

“One does not climb to attain enlightenment, rather one climbs because they are enlightened.” – Zen Master Futomaki

“When you ride your bike, you’re working your legs, but your mind is on a treadmill. When you play chess, your mind is clicking along, but your body is stagnating. Climbing brings it together in a beautiful, magical way. The adrenaline is flowing, and it’s flowing all the time.” – Pat Ament

“In climbing you are always faced with new problems in which you must perform using intuitive movements, and then later analyze them to figure out why they work, and then learn from them.” – Wolfgang Gullich

Wolfgang Gullich free soloing Separate Reality Photo Heinz Zak

“One can’t take a breath large enough to last a lifetime; one can’t eat a meal big enough so that one never needs to eat again. Similarly, I don’t think any climb can make you content never to climb again.” – Woodrow Wilson Sayre

“Stand at the base and look up at 3,000 feet of blankness. It just looks like there’s no way you can climb it. That’s what you seek as a climber. You want to find something that looks absurd and figure out how to do it.” – Tommy Caldwell

“The best climber in the world is the one having the most fun!” – Alex Lowe

“I’ve climbed with some of the best climbers in the world, more importantly, to me, they are some of the best people in the world. That’s another reason why I climb.” – Jim Wickwire

“To be a climber one has to accept that gratification is rarely immediate.” – Bernadette McDonald

“As I hammered in the last bolt and staggered over the rim, it was not at all clear to me who was the conqueror and who was the conquered. I do recall that El Cap seemed to be in much better condition than I was.” – Warren Harding

Warren Harding

“Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.” – David McCullough Jr.

“Mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” – Ed Viesturs (from No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World’s 14 Highest Peaks)

“Turn your brain off and send.” – Chris Sharma

“The rope connecting two men on a mountain is more than nylon protection; it is an organic thing that transmits subtle messages of intent and disposition from man to man; it is an extension of the tactile senses, a psychological bond, a wire along which currents of communication flow.” – Trevanian (from The Eiger Sanction)

“A man does not climb a mountain without bringing some of it away with him and leaving something of himself upon it.” – Sir Martin Conway

“We look up. For weeks, for months, that is all we have done. Look up. And there it is-the top of Everest. Only it is different now: so near, so close, only a little more than a thousand feet above us. It is no longer just a dream, a high dream in the sky, but a real and solid thing, a thing of rock and snow, that men can climb. We make ready. We will climb it. This time, with God’s help, we will climb on to the end.” – Tenzing Norgay

Tenzing Norgay on first ascent of Everest in 1953

“Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb.” – Greg Child

“Mountains have a way of dealing with overconfidence.” – Hermann Buhl

“In the mountains there are only two grades: You can either do it, or you can’t.” – Rusty Baille

“The bizarre trend in mountaineers is not the risk they take, but the large degree to which they value life. They are not crazy because they don’t dare, they’re crazy because they do. These people tend to enjoy life to the fullest, laugh the hardest, travel the most, and work the least.” – Lisa Morgan

“Some mountaineers are proud of having done all their climbs without bivouac. How much they have missed! And the same applies to those who enjoy only rock climbing, or only the ice climbs, only the ridges or faces. We should refuse none of the thousands and one joys that the mountains offer us at every turn. We should brush nothing aside, set no restrictions. We should experience hunger and thirst, be able to go fast, but also to go slowly and to contemplate.” – Gaston Rebuffat

Gaston Rebuffat

“The mountains have rules. they are harsh rules, but they are there, and if you keep to them you are safe. A mountain is not like men. A mountain is sincere. The weapons to conquer it exist inside you, inside your soul.” – Walter Bonatti

“I thought climbing the Devil’s Thumb would fix all that was wrong with my life. In the end, of course, it changed almost nothing. But I came to appreciate that mountains make poor receptacles for dreams.” – Jon Krakauer (from Into the Wild)

“Because it’s there.” – George Mallory

“I had great times leading at Devil’s Lake, where the ground was never too far away, and hard to miss if you should happen to fall to it.” – Andy Cairns

“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean… Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.” – John Muir

“In the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” – Jack Kerouac

“The simple fact is this: when you go to Alaska, you get your ass kicked.” – Mark Twight (from Kiss or Kill: Confessions of a Serial Climber)

“Mountains are not fair or unfair, they are just dangerous.” – Reinhold Messner

Reinhold Messner in 1981 Photo Artur Hajzer

Report error or omission

Related