When the mountains call: Exploring mountaineering motivations through the lens of the calling theory

Galiakbarov Y., Mazbayev O., Mutaliyeva L., Filimonau V., SEZEREL H.



Although the motives of hard adventure tourists represent a well-established research object, the theoretical foundations which can explain why experienced mountaineers engage in regular ascents remain underexamined. This study proposes that the concept of calling can help understand mountaineering motivations and explores its role on a sample of highly experienced mountaineers in Kazakhstan (n = 17). The findings of interpretative phenomenological analysis demonstrate how mountaineers view climbing as a calling. The findings reveal pursuits of novelty, re-lived climbing experiences and self-actualization as the inner calls shaping the meaning and purpose in life for mountaineering tourists. The study shows that, despite their risks, regular ascents enable experienced mountaineers to reach mindfulness, thus enhancing personal well-being. Theoretically, the study aids in conceptualizing mountaineering as a calling in life. Practically, it suggests that mountaineering can aid in achieving mindfulness and, if practiced regularly, regular ascents can help (re-)build emotional resilience of hard adventure tourists. Management implications: The study demonstrates how experienced mountaineers consider regular ascents as their calling in life. This holds important implications for management and marketing of hard adventure tourism. More specifically, tourism managers and marketers should strive to appeal to experienced mountaineers by highlighting the novelty of climbing itineraries. They should also emphasize how regular ascents can aid mountaineering tourists to re-live their climbing experiences, achieve self-actualization, and reach mindfulness. The study shows that, for experienced hard adventure tourists, the opportunity to re-engage may represent a strong inner call and even determine the main purpose and meaning in their lives.