Lessons From Climbing A 14'er

hiking mountains need

 You need more than a pair of jeans and a long sleeve shirt to climb a fourteener.

From a young age growing up in the mountains of Colorado, I have always felt part mountain goat. I have always loved climbing everything from trees to boulders to the roofs of buildings I probably shouldn't be on top of. And I have never once injured myself! It came easy to me. 

Fast forward to high school and I found myself with a desire to achieve the physical greatness and thrill I enjoyed as a kid and use it to overcome my addiction to video games. So, I started running. Sprinting really. With little to no endurance to last even 10 minutes. So I stopped. 

As I grew into my twenties, this mentality of quick, thrilling physical conquest stuck with me. I despised anything that took more than 15 minutes of sustained effort, sticking to what was comfortable and easy. Then one day, on a family vacation, the stars aligned and I had a perfect opportunity to hike a 14,000 mountain (affectionately called fourteeners by Coloradoans) on a family vacation to Buena Vista. I had never hiked one before, but I had hiked a handful of times, I was relatively physically fit, so I figured I'd give it a try. 

On the eve of our summit, my caring (and slightly anxious) wife asked if I was ready to go the next morning. "Of course!" I replied, "I brought my jeans and a long sleeve shirt." Her stunned glare was my first clue I might be wildly unprepared for the feat I was about to undertake. As if on cue, my brother-in-law peaked his head into our room to confirm our 3:30am wake up call. "Dan," wife my quickly asked, "Do you have an extra coat Brayden can borrow? He didn't bring one." His stunned glare was the second clue I had slightly miscalculated my preparations. 

Setting my pride aside, I accepted the necessary wares and clothing needed to accomplish our task, and after a short night sleep, we began our trek. Feeling a twinge of shame for being so ignorant, one consistent though kept popping into my head: Am I worthy to summit this mountain?

The trail wasn't too difficult, but the conditions made me immensely grateful for the forethought of my fellow trekkers. Around 9:30am, we had nearly reached the summit. Wind started blowing so hard, our only respite was to hunker against a west facing wall. They wanted to turn around. I could see the summit. And in that moment, I was reminded of that boy that wouldn't blink an eye at climbing a boulder or tree to feel the thrill of the quick conquest. I encouraged them that all we needed to do was just get to the next rock, and the next, and the next. At that point the path to the summit was clear to me and one by one, we pushed through the fear. The view at the top was breath stealing. 

My ability and desire to conquer the immediate gave us the final stamina and courage to reach the top, but I never would have conquered the previous thousands of feet without the preparations and forethought of my family. It could be a story of how I learned to finally stop being a blockhead and just be better at preparing (something I admit I need to continually grow in), but I believe God used this experience to teach me a deeper lesson. Might it be that we need to position ourselves in a place of need of others. I needed their experience and foresight to reach the summit, but in turn, they also needed me to push them to finish.

So I wonder, how much of life do we miss out on and how much blessing to we withhold from others by avoiding "needing" others? Are we short cutting the blessing by convincing ourselves that our weaknesses are meant to be overcome so we can summit alone? Or are they present to push us into the presence of others to reach the summit together?

 

Brayden Lans 
Restoration Project Advocate

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