George Mallory was asked this question in 1924 and gave the most obvious answer:
“Because it’s there”.
George Mallory (1886 –1924) was a Himalayan climber who famously perished on Mount Everest in 1924.
“The first question you will ask and which I must try to answer is this, ‘what is the use of climbing Mount Everest ?’ and my answer at once must be, ‘It is no use’. There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behaviour of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron. We shall not find a single foot of earth that can be planted with crops to raise food. It’s no use. So, if you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to live. That is what life means and what life is for.”
The only known image of George Mallory climbing in the Alps on the Aiguille Verte of Mont Blanc, 1909, by Geoffrey Winthrop-Young
“One comes to bless the absolute bareness, feeling that here is a pure
beauty of form, a kind of ultimate harmony.”
“Goodnight and great love to you. We see the same stars.”
George Mallory, from a letter to his wife Ruth during the 1921 Everest Reconnaissance Expedition