I Quit: When to Give Up

You're headed to the summit of a mountain you have set your sights on climbing, or you're only a few miles into a long backpacking trip. Everything seems to be against you, the weather is turning bad, your gear is not working like you felt it should, and you're beginning to wonder about your health. Do you keep pushing until you hurt yourself or do you quit and go home.

Wait did I just say "quit"? The word quit can be defined several ways however it can be define as "leave (a place), usually permanently." What bothers me about this specific definition is the use of the world permanently. If you have ever wanted something bad enough and to try to accomplish that goal and have to stop pursuing that goal for any number of reasons does not mean you are a quitter. That just simply means that you are postponing your pursuance of that goal.


Many of us who have set goals attempt to complete those goals but end up short never truly quit or give up. We find that this little voice deep within keeps calling us to try again. Sometimes it takes only a second try to conquer that goal while for many it may take several tries before the goal is reached.

As a global society we see goals as a start and a finish. What many of us forget is that the true story unfolds in that void between the first steps on the trail and reaching the summit. Even though your first attempt, second, third, or even tenth attempts are not successful you will still have come away with something learned each and every time. You may have ideas on how to lighten your pack or maybe you grew as a person or even learned something about yourself. Each failed attempt should not be looked at as a failure as long as you look at each one as a way to learn and grow in your hobby.


The choice to leave the trail or stop attempting the climb or even simply to just turn around and go home is not because we want to, but it's because we know deep down we have to. Conquering our summits, trails, and climbs have a infinite number of outside factors that can keep us from completing our goal. These factors such as weather, health, gear failures, and even mental and physical road blocks can cause you to turn back.

It is that strength that allows you to assess the situation and to know when to push forward or to turn back that sets apart the risk takers and the more patient goal conquerors. Once in a while taking a risk is worth it, but more often than not that risk can turn into a bad situation fast.

The mountains, trails, and rocks have been there for a very long time and they will continue to be there for us to conquer for years to come. If you head home with the spirit to conquer that mountain another day you're not quitting or giving up. It may take you years to get an opportunity to try again, but it will never stop calling you to try again.

posted by
Adam Nutting
Adam Nutting is a hiker and outdoor adventure lover who lives in Arizona. He shares his experiences, gear reviews and more on his blog: Hiking The Trail. You'll also find him chatting about the outdoors on Twitter. Team Sierra bloggers receive promotional consideration from Sierra Trading Post.
Join the Conversation