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Four Keys to Climbing a Fourteener

I climbed my first 14,000-foot mountain peak this past weekend, San Luis Peak just outside Creede, CO (a "Class 1" walk up in difficulty talk) but the perfect first for me. It was a marvelous experience in every way, and upon reflection I see at least four things I know made it what it was. 

Preparation: You don't wake up on a Monday and decide on Saturday you will climb a 14er, or, any ultra-endurance experience. The group I made the climb with had been planning the trip for almost a year. My personal preparation is ongoing, but about three months out, I ramped up my stair-stepping, weight lifting, and running/riding to get both my lungs and legs ready. I was prepared when I made the ascent. That did not lessen the difficulty, but all that sweat and pain before the hike made it enjoyable, not just survivable. Not everyone in the group was as prepared. All but one made the ascent, but it was not fun for everyone. I'll let them tell their stories.

Persistence: Anything good in life requires persistence. From marriage to marathons, success means putting one foot in front of the other until you are at the finish line. It's not glamorous or giddy-fun all the time, (that's what movies and marketing tell you) but steady persistence gets you where you want to go. The photo to the left shows the last few hundred yards to the summit. It was tedious, painful, and came down to one step at a time, looking only at the rocks in front of  you. But look what we will see when we finish! Life is like that...

Partners: I am not a solo hiker. I don't think anyone should be. Partners not only encourage you, they protect you. The group I made the trip with are part of a group of men I have met with for over six years on Thursday mornings at a nearby Starbucks. These guys are more than weekend warriors. We share the tough, hard, seedy parts of our lives along with the joys and victories. This adventure to the mountains was a side trip on the journey of life we share together every week.

Faith: Faith is the foundation for anything significant in life. On a purely physical level, you have to trust people you have never met. Map makers, bloggers, trainers, and people who have made similar trips are your only source of information--until you have walked every step yourself. You have to trust those who have been there in order to make your trip. You have to trust friends you know will not leave you and who will find you if you get lost. Trusting yourself alone will end in disaster.

On a spiritual level, I trusted God for my safety--if I didn't do anything stupid--and that my choice to attempt this would somehow honor Him and allow me to know Him in deeper ways. God did all that and more. I made it safely up and back. I saw the panoramic beauty of His majesty (Psalm 8, 19, and 23 mean more now); and, I had hours of prayer and conversation in Creation to know His heart, those of my brothers in Christ, and my own. Like my friendships with these guys, my relationship with God deepened after spending time on His turf, not the artificial world I live in every day.

What's next? 1) See these guys on Thursday, and 2) summit Mt. Rainier in less that thirty days!

You can see more picture from some of the guys facebook pages, Jack Boychuck, Jim Craig, and Mark Smith.