For years, I’ve pictured myself standing on the summit Mt. Baker, a beautiful glacier mountain peak in Washington state. I see it daily, and every time I catch a glimpse of the summit I think, “I want to stand on the top of that mountain!”
This past month, I did it! I reached the summit of Mt. Baker.
But guess what? If I had realized some of the overwhelming challenges and the extent I was stretched to my limits, I may have reconsidered. However, I didn’t reconsider and off we went.
Our team of four starts hike day with our alarm sounding at 1 a.m. We begin the climb from base camp at 2:30 a.m.: yes in the dark. The early start is to allow us to climb when the snow is firm. Our only light source is our individual headlamps. This limited vision is very, let’s just say: unsettling. I’m in the lead position on the rope connecting our group of four. With limited vision, the danger of falling into a crevasse dominates my mind. Numerous small crevasse lines cross our path. Will the snow hold? If not, will my team be able to master a crevasse rescue? This hope is most intense in the places where no one has gone before me. I’m so glad we are roped in together. Along with the subtle crevasse lines there are great open crevasses along the way that appear like the mouths of massive, hungry snow monsters, waiting for a snack! Yet, the thought of the summit and adventure outweigh my fear.
I am inspired onward by the lights of other climbers off in the distance, further up the mountain. My thought, “They made it, we can too!” Behind me on the rope is my friend who has been up the mountain before. Each word he speaks giving direction and guidance is so reassuring and comforting. After six hours, ascending our 5000 foot change in elevation, we reach the summit! The summit I have long wished to stand upon is under the soles of my feet. My exhaustion is mitigated by a sweet moment of satisfaction. We are above the clouds, where the tops of other mountains look like islands in a vast sea. Thrilling!
However, the journey isn’t over. Our descent to base camp is now complicated by soft snow which makes the trek down even more demanding. How can this be?! We now face the increased risk not only of slipping into a crevasse but also of avalanche! I must focus: one step at a time. With significant relief, we finally reach base-camp. After a short rest, we pack up and make our way to the trail-head. Just about every ounce of strength is gone as we trudge into the parking lot at 5:30 p.m.
In hindsight, summit-ting Mt. Baker was far more challenging than I ever expected. If I had really understood the difficulty, I may not have signed on… BUT I did it! No longer will I look at Baker’s peak and wonder what it would be like to stand there. I now have personal knowledge! With my understanding of the rugged journey, I have great respect for those who have gone before me. I may also have some advice (along with my respect) for those who will follow after, to stand on the summit of Mt. Baker! I’m so glad I didn’t know the challenges ahead.
Roped in for Marriage
Many things in life are like my summit climb, marriage for example. We say “I do” with little idea of the challenges, dangers, joys, or thrills that await us further ahead. We may read books but we have “no clue” about the real challenges of marriage. Just like my Mt. Baker climb, others who have succeeded before us can offer advice, comfort and direction: “They made it, so we can!” Having others (friends & family) “roped in” to mentor and encourage really helps. There are both the sweet moments and the moments that require every ounce of tenacity and strength we can muster, but then there will be the wonderful moment we can say, “I did it! We did it!” These moments grow through the exhaustion and the challenge, yet the accomplishment means we conquered a ‘mountain’. I have great respect for those that face the challenges and with a willful commitment keep moving onward, one step at a time. Clearly, marriage is a journey filled with the unknown, and perhaps that is a blessing.