Earlier this month I climbed my first 14er (a mountain over 14,000 ft in elevation), Mt. Princeton.
It was the hardest physical and mental challenge I’ve ever experienced and finished. My Ironman distance race last year was as difficult mentally and physically, but–as I shared here–I was physically unable to finish that race.
Thankfully, I successfully climbed Mt. Princeton and learned some important lessons about life, faith, and leadership in the process.
This will be brief, but let me share what I saw from 14,197 ft.
1) Partnership is powerful. I climbed with my friend Mark Kells from Colorado Springs. I would not have finished the climb without his wisdom, his constant encouragement, his experience, his strength, and his faith. About 500 ft from the summit I started to deal with some altitude sickness. Both Mark and I considered heading down, but–because of his experience and careful guidance–we decided to keep climbing and everything was fine.
2) Pack lightly and bring the right equipment. It was my first climb and I completely over-packed. I carried so much unnecessary weight. We do the same things on our spiritual journey–carrying baggage that only serves to slow us down. That being said, I did bring the right equipment I would need to reach the summit: good boots, wool socks, a first aid kit, layers of clothing, gloves, hat, etc.
3) Proper nourishment is essential to finish the climb. Thankfully, Mark had prepared me and I had all of the nutritional supplements I needed to get to the top without physically failing. Proper spiritual nourishment is essential on our journey with the Lord too.
4) It’s important to stop every once in a while and look back at where you’ve been. Mark told me to not look up when I stopped for rest. He told me that wise climbers look down at where they’ve been. He says it keeps you from getting overwhelmed by the “what ifs” and psyching yourself out. His teaching reminded me of God’s instructions to the Israelites about remembering what God had done for them in the past.
5) If you want to get to the top you have to follow the markers and stay on the trail. Every year the harsh winter storms and avalanches destroy key parts of the path to the top requiring climbers to reestablish the trail and lay new markers at the beginning of each new climbing season. These markers are simple piles of stones yet they are crucially important. Climbers would get lost or go off course if not for those markers. Leaving the trail, or losing the trail, can have horrible consequences. We would be lost if not for Jesus–the way, the truth, and the life.
6) When you fall, you have to get back up. I fell at least a dozen times as I tried to navigate the miles of boulder fields, but I knew that I had to get up or I would endanger myself or Mark. We will fall on our spiritual journey too, but we must “fix our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1-3) and keep climbing.
7) Remember that it’s been climbed by someone before. There were so many times on the climb when I had to remind myself that the mountain could be climbed. It may not seem like a profound thought to you flat-landers, but–on that mountain–knowing that I wasn’t the first person to make this climb was an empowering realization. It they could do it, I knew I could too. This also reminds me of another verse from Hebrews 12:1. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses….” Many faithful saints have already gone where we are going. They made it and we can too.
8 ) Enjoy the journey. Yes, the climb was incredibly difficult but it was also incredibly rewarding because we paused along the way to cherish God’s handiwork, admire our own accomplishments, interact with other climbers, celebrate at the top, encourage other climbers, and reflect on the challenges of the day as we walked the level trail close to the end. I can’t wait until the next climbing season because I’m going to climb Long’s Peak (another 14er) with some guys from my small group. Why? Because I enjoyed the journey so much and I can’t wait to experience all that mountain has to offer with some of my closest Christian friends. And, yes, I’m enjoying my journey with Jesus too. Are you enjoying the journey? I hope so because the climb is amazing and the view from the top is out of this world!