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10 Riddles to Work Your Mind as You Work Your Body on the Trail

The Nature of the Humble Riddle

By: LJ Nielsen + Save to a List

It was a challengingly, frosty morning in the Nepal Himalaya. One of those mornings on the trail where you’re simply focusing on putting one foot in front of the other and using every last ounce of your strength to stay warm. The usual breathtaking scenery offered no solace, courtesy of the low-hanging fog, and the melodic sounds of high altitude were replaced by boots slushing through thick, heavy snow. The next rest stop seemed uncharacteristically far away; nobody was in the mood for talking and the thought of a warm dry fireplace refused to budge from your mind. In the distance, a shadowy figure began to appear. As I approached, it materialized into the form of one of my companions. Seeing that trodden look in my eyes, he sensed that I must have needed to take my mind off the drudgery.

“What goes up and never comes down?” He smiled.

I stopped, paused, and then looked at him blankly.

“What goes up and never comes down?” He repeated, before explaining simply, “it’s a riddle.”

He patted me on the back, and sent me forwards into the fog. Suddenly, I couldn’t hear the rhythmic sound of boots anymore, the cold chill of the Himalayan wind had seemingly evaporated. My focus had turned to one simple question.

“What goes up and never comes down?”

And thus is the power of the humble riddle; the ability to drive humankind to solve the unknown, to scope places that were previously unexplored, to draw the mind into another place of existence. Riddles form an important element of the outdoor experience, so in honor of this fact, here are a few noodle-scratchers that work just as well on that chilly, early-morning hike as they do whilst relaxing in front of the roasting camp fire (answers below).    


  1. What has cities, but no people, has forests, but no trees, and seas, but no fish?

  2. What always runs, but never walks, often murmurs but never talks, has a bed but never sleeps, has a mouth but doesn’t eat?

  3. A precious stone, clear as a diamond, seek it out when the sun’s near the horizon. You can walk on water due to it’s power, try to keep it, it’ll be gone in an hour.

  4. Feed me and I get stronger, but give a me a drink and I’ll die. What am I?

  5. Two puppies were born to the same mother, on the same day, at the same time, in the same month and year, but they were not twins. How could this be so?

  6. I touch your face, I’m in your words, I’m a lack of space and beloved by birds. What am I?

  7. I can only live where there is light, but if light shines upon me, I will die. What am I?

  8. What occurs once in every minute, twice in every moment, yet never in a thousand years?

  9. A person was 15 years old in 1990, but in 1995 he was 10 years old. How?

  10. What is black when you find it, red when you use it, and grey when it’s thrown away



  1. A Map

  2. A River

  3. Ice

  4. A fire

  5. They had another sibling born at the same time, they were triplets (or quadruplets, poor mum)  .

  6. Air

  7. A Shadow

  8. The letter M

  9. The person was born in 2005 BC, therefore he was 10 years old in 1995 BC and 15 in 1990 BC.

  10. Coal (Remember to dispose of it sustainably, though)


And as for “what goes up and never comes down?” – weeks later, on a warm summer night at home in South Australia, as far from the snowy peaks of the Himalayas as one could get, I woke with beads of sweat dripping from my forehead and shouted “My age!” With the anguish finally over, I fell calmly back to sleep, with only pleasant memories of the Himalayan trek. The reminders of the painful, repetitive mornings were no more - all thanks to one simple riddle.     

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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