Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What I Learned While Climbing on Mt. Rainier


Here are some things I learned from my attempt to summit Mt. Rainier on August, 25, 2011.

First, Creation is still larger than its creatures. I live in a manufactured suburb where we sometimes live by the false assumption that we are in control of our environment and that we are bigger than the land upon which we live. Get out at the base of Mt. Rainier--after driving through the beautiful Mt. Rainier National Park--and you will soon realize how small you are. Get ON the mountain, and you are humbled by how small you really are and how big are the things of God. I am glad the Psalmists lived in Creation rather than in the urban sprawls we have made for ourselves.

Second, you are at your best in the footsteps of a guide. I know that some treasure the pioneering spirit of those who head out on uncharted paths, but most of us need a guide. The guides of RMI, Billy, Zeb, and Cody, trained, encouraged, and led us. They also made the trip safe and fun. Don't try something like this without the experience of someone who has gone before you.

Your spiritual journey follows the same rule. If you think you can face the wilderness of your spiritual trek alone, you will fall in the first crevasse you encounter. Get a mentor. Find a guide. Don't go it alone, or you will die.

Trail across Cowlitz Glacier
Another climber's view from D. Cleaver

Third, we all have our "freak out" points. I turned back after completing the climb on Disappointment Cleaver. We left Camp Muir about 1:00 a.m. (10,500), and it took us a little over two hours to make the top of D. Cleaver. (12,500)

The rock face of D. Cleaver
I was in shape to make the climb and summit, but climbing on loose rocks in crampons in the dark at a pretty good pace set my psyche on edge. Check out some of the pictures, and you'll get an idea of what I am talking about. I was the only one of 18 climbers to turn back at that point, so it is doable, and hundreds make it every year. I'm a flat-lander, and my first shot at mountaineering took me to the edge of my comfort zone.

One of my best friends posted on my facebook page, that I must have learned the old Indian proverb, "Wise is good...dead is bad." I was never in danger physically, but you have to have the mental edge to stay safe, and I had lost that edge. I prefer wisdom over death right now.

Fourth, sunrises are brightest when you are where you know you should be. I went on this climb to be with a friend and experience something I never had before. I had surely done that! So, when the sun rose behind Little Tahoma Peak that morning on my way down I basked in God's glorious beginnings of a new day and thanked God for the beauty and majesty of His Creation. I had gone as far as my mind let me, and I was headed down to all else God had called me to do. (Thanks to Cody Doolan, who got me down to Camp Muir safely.)


Finally, whether you finish the climb or not, rejoice with those who do. My friend and the one whose idea it was to make this climb, Jim Craig, made the summit. Here he is hoisting the colors of Legacy Cyclists, our cycling group launched out of Legacy Church. This climb was on his bucket list, and he climbed to the summit (14,410) without faltering. We trained together, traveled together, and climbed together. I am honored to have been part of his accomplishment.

From what I understand of Scripture, that is the stance we are to take with all those who climb the mountain of life. Life is not so much about what we do as it is what we share in what others do.

I'll try mountaineering again, but probably not on Mt. Rainier. I'm glad I gave it a try. I'm happier to be back home doing what God called me to do.


3 comments:

Doug Miller said...

Gene,

Thanks for your insight and words of wisdom. I am privileged to have you as a guide in my life.

Doug

Russel Head said...

Risks
To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk being called sentimental.
To reach out to another is to risk involvement.
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self.
To place your ideas, your dreams before the crowd is to risk being called naive.
To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
To hope is to risk despair, and to try is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken because the greastest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The person who risks nothing does nothing, has nothing, and becomes nothing.
He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live.
Chained by his certitudes, he is a slave, he's forfeited his freedom.
Only the person who risks is truly free.


- Leo F. Buscalia

faithrunner said...

Doug, glad to be on the mountain with you! Russ, great reminder of the value of taking the risk. I am different for it, and I know that to be a follower of Jesus requires risking our status quo every day. Thanks for sharing those risks with me.