Why Do Hikers Take Naked Summit Photos? [Not Safe For Work]

Yes, there is National Hike Naked Day and yes, there is a TV show called “Naked and Afraid” about being naked in the wilderness, but I can promise you that hikers take naked summit photos even when its not National Hike Naked Day and they are not auditioning for “Naked and Afraid.”

To other people, it may seem strange, but hikers often shed their clothes at the summits of mountains in the wilderness.  Why are they doing it?  Why would anyone want to get naked atop sharp rocks, slippery snow, or in stinging winds, sweltering sunlight, or freezing cold?  For hikers who participate in this common act it may seem so natural and so obvious they wouldn’t even think to or know how to explain it.  In hopes of shedding some light on the thinking that goes on behind this common act, here are five of the reasons why I take naked summit photos.

Vulnerability

Humanity has learned to barricade itself against nature.  We have sewn clothing to wear, built houses to live in within cities that shield us from the wilderness.  When I leave home to go into nature, I am abandoning this shield and interacting with our world as just one small, rather insignificant, piece of the whole.

Though far too often wilderness gets characterized as being scary or even evil, I still find the outdoors humbling.  I do not believe that every bear is after me nor that a lightning bolt will seek me out, but I am fully aware that nature can take my life with a wrong step on a rocky scree field or a dangerous river crossing.  In the backcountry, I am proud to be without humanity’s shield.  I shed my final layer, embracing my vulnerability and stand naked atop a mountain surrounded by wild expanse.  It is just me.

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On the summit of Old Snowy, looking out toward Mt. Rainier.

Celebration

When I reach the top of a mountain, I know that it is my body that got me there.  Sure, my gear protected me from the elements and my experience kept me safe, but it was my body that pushed through its barriers, struggling through aches, trying to catch its breath, kicking rocks, and eventually arriving sweaty and proud on the summit.

My body has gone through times where I was so injured I couldn’t walk, let alone get to the top of a mountain.  I am struck by how much goes into each one of my steps — the air filling my lungs, the blood fueling my muscles, and my muscle contracting to make coordinated movements. Reaching the summit, I let out a sigh and catch my breath.  It seems only right to celebrate my body.

Everyone Else Is Doing It

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Oh deer, you are naked!

When you look at a bear, a woodpecker, or marmot, they are not sporting the latest in outdoor technical gear.  They are roaming around the woods naked.  For them their body is what allows them to live and survive.  It lets them eat and go to the bathroom and it lets them move and sleep.  There are no socially constructed stigmas surrounding animals being naked in the wilderness.

Hikers’ relationships to their bodies in many ways become like that of the animals.  A hiker will often confess they have spent an entire afternoon thinking about food or waiting to find a great place to take a poop.  We also depend on our bodies to carry us forward since that has become our primary goal.

In the wilderness it seems perfectly natural to me to be naked amid my surroundings.  We are animals just like the squirrel, the butterfly, and the mountain lion.  In joining them, we are paying some sort of  homage the wilderness.

Make a Statement

If only the world were a little more like Thomas the Tank Engine shouting mantras of, “I think I can!  I think I can!”  I have found there are times when people are instead telling me not to go, dismissing me, and shutting me down.  To get to the summit, I have to be able to push past these comments and not let them create too much self-doubt.

When I successfully move past these doubts, I want to show the world I have succeeded and I want to have a reminder for myself that I have reached the summit and I can do it again.  Seeing yourself, your whole naked self, on top of your accomplishment is a powerful reminder that you, whoever you are, with your body can do this.

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For those who doubted us, told us we couldn’t, and worried disproportionately because of our gender, here we are — three women at the top of Forester Pass in 2017

 

It’s Liberating

I love the feeling of the warm sun touching my entire body, the wind stinging me enough to heighten my senses.  Being naked gives me the feeling of ultimate freedom.  It means I have reached some level of self-acceptance and I am interacting with my environment in the fullest way possible.

The rocks poke my feet, a fly lands on my shoulder, and I truly feel one with the natural world society tries to escape from.  I can move without restrictions.  I am free.

 

Also, It’s Fun, and a Little Crazy and Rebellious

These reasons may not be what drives everyone, but they are my reasons.  Maybe now you are considering a naked summit on your next mountain or maybe you already do them and will spend an extra moment to really think about what drives you to do it before you strip down.

 

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Comments 3

  • Kevin : Feb 26th

    Women feel free to hike naked or take naked pics as often as you like. Guys please keep your clothes on.

    Reply
  • Scott : Feb 26th

    Nice article. However, the stated reasons apply outside of mountain summits. Why limit oneself?

    Reply
  • Dan : Feb 26th

    To bolster their Instagram accounts, would be my guess. Seems the default pic for many hiking Instagram accounts; overlooking vista, back to the camera, arms up in the air, shirt off, butt out. I guess a nice vista with a clothed hiker and a smile, doesn’t generate enough likes anymore. The Yukon solution would be to buy them a flannel shirt and a husky, warmth and attention, everyone’s happy.

    Reply

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