An eminent professor of biology has often attempted to convince me that the mental and physical strain of sixteen hours’ mountaineering is too great for a woman’s constitution. I certainly do not agree with him. The strain on a woman who is physically fit is not so heavy as he thinks it is, and is not to be compared to the nervous and mental tension which has to be endured by a trained hospital nurse who tends a difficult case for sixteen hours. I have tried both, and I know that the exercise, the invigorating air, and the healthy excitement of a big climb outweigh the nervous and physical strain. A few hours’ sleep and the latter are forgotten, while the effects of the former are in evidence in a sense of physical fitness which I never experienced until I took up mountaineering.
With nursing, which I undertook for love of the profession, as I did mountaineering, the cases were reversed. Unable to finish my training I came out of hospital a wreck, simply because the mental strain on a sensitive, highly strung nature had been too great. Many times since then I ave nursed friends and relations, and I know nothing in mountaineering so trying as being solely responsible for a delirious patient, whose very life may depend on your ability to persuade him to do the thing he does not wish to; that kind of strain, unduly prolonged and attended by want of proper sleep, air, and exercise, ends in a breakdown. Mountaineering, on the contrary, daily increases one’s strength and vigour.
Do what you will, modern life demands stress and strain; the biologist may regret it, but the time has passed when the great majority of women could, even if they would, lead the life of an animated jelly-fish. To live at all means to grow, and growth, mental, moral or physical, is not attained by floating with the current, but by fighting against it. The men and women who develop physically, mentally, and morally, are surely worth more to teh race than those that attain maturity at twenty-one, and at that advanced age settle all life’s problems, and then live in bovine placidity to a green old age.
Thank you to M-H, for first telling me about Freda du Faur.