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The Spirituality of Climbing Hills

Words by Charlotte Cadieux

Pics by Thomas Berkau

Steady my gaze. Focus on the present. If I look too far ahead there is no end in sight. Steady my breath. Don’t get ahead of myself. Don’t rush. I’ll get there when I get there.

I don’t know many cyclists who ride for the climbs. Truthfully I’m not sure I do either ... but when my soul is searching or my heart is sore, my medicine is to climb hills. The point for me is not to go fast, but to make it to the top with my breath intact. It’s easy to overexert and get winded if I let my ego or impatience take charge. On a good climb, I am constantly resetting. When it gets tough I repeat the mantra my dear friend and global bicycle tourist Megan Meo once said: “Go as slow as you need to and you’ll get there.” I’ve found this mantra applies to many areas of my life.

It’s been a while since I’ve climbed for hours on my bicycle. On commutes, I dread hills as much as I love them. Even if I route-plan to avoid them, climbs are inevitable in this town. After all, we are in the Piedmont (literally meaning foothills) and our city is built around two major waterways (Irwin and Little Sugar Creek) so no matter where I ride, there’s always a climb. There is the inevitable sweat and extra effort when all I want is to get to my destination. This also applies when I’m on foot. For that reason, I love that I have no choice but to climb and that I don’t get to decide whether or not they come, sort of like the challenges in life.

“Go as slow as you need to and you’ll get there.” I’ve found this mantra applies to many areas of my life.

Some days I am stronger than others. Some days I start weak and end strong or vice versa. Some days every hill feels terrible, others I turbo-charge each one. In that respect, climbing is a good internal compass for where my mind and body are at. I learn self-awareness and self-acceptance through the process.

Whether it is one step, or one pedal stroke, one difficult moment; it’s one at a time and the art is continually learning to synchronise my breath, my movement, and my mind.

Favorite climbs in CLT:


17th St,

Dunlavin to Bentley Pl,

12th St.

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