I once climbed 14,265 feet up in the air. But before you go thinking I’m some sort of Jack and the mountain was my beanstalk, let me add a side note: we started at 10,850 feet.
In this spirit of full disclosure, I might as well also admit that the driving motivation for the feat was the picture I’d get. In Colorado, where I lived for four years, hiking “14ers” was the thing to do — actually, any extreme sport that involved waking up pre-dawn and pushing your body to and beyond its breaking point was well-favored.
It. Was. Hard. Quite possibly one of the hardest things I’ve done to date. Moving so slow I could have sworn I went backward a few times, if it weren’t for friends making sure I breathed in and out and put one foot in front of the other, I’m not sure I would have made it.
The mountain on this particular journey (for some absurd reason I would later decide to throw myself up three more) was Mount Quandary: 14,265 feet of grueling beauty. A 6.75-mile trail took us practically straight up through all sorts of scenery. The start in the density of trees, so thick headlamps were needed regardless of time. Pines fallen in masses, victims of pine beetles, lay in heaps, but in their wake, light brought new life in the form of baby aspens.
As we rose in elevation, the trees thinned, until we reached a point where even they said enough is enough and refused to sprout any farther. Smallness set in: To be a tiny speck on a vast mountain scape puts things in perspective.
Despite harsh winds, a brief shower of sleet and lingering patches of snow (in August), through it all, we also encountered some of the most beautiful flowers I’ve seen; clusters of colorful buds alive and happy as ever.
Then the final push: up the talus field, over the boulders, past the man-made cairns, to the fateful tip TOP. We made it, to a view both breathtaking and -giving. And as though God were saying “well done,” the clouds parted and we got the picture we came for.
That, and so much more.
No matter the mountain you’re climbing today and the elements encountered along the way, find the flowers in their midst. It’s God’s reminder that he’s there, behind you in every step. Soon enough, you’ll make it to the top and be able to breathe deeply once again.