Truly, I am on the verge of falling, and my pain is always with me.
I will confess my iniquity and be sorry for my sin. Psalm 38
Oh, how well I know! I can sympathize with any or all of those I bring down from the mountain.
After 8 or 9 hours of carrying a 35-40 pound pack (WHY did I bring that heavy camp “backpacker’s” chair!?!) in the hot sun – that’s when the accidents begin. You’re tired. It’s hot. You’re almost out of water. You don’t know how much farther (I’m never good at guesstimating distance – how far I’ve gone, how far to the shelter). One more wrong step and the ankle goes awry. “I am on the verge of falling.” Heck no. I’ve fallen three times in the past half hour. Aren’t we there yet?
There is the T-Shirt that says, “The journey is the destination.” Mine reads, “The sleeping bag is the destination!”
And eventually the Chaplain is called. “Next available transport,” is radioed to that Camp’s Director. Patient’s Initials, Trek Number, Vital Signs, What has been the intake and ‘discharge of fluids and solids’? The running joke is that the response from Health Lodge is “Half-strength Gatorade, 2 Ibruprofin, and call us in the morning.” And yet, that is often all that is needed. Easy the pain, hydrate with minimal electrolytes and go to bed.
How often do I hear, “I just wasn’t ready. I thought I had prepped enough.” Though often they hadn’t done enough backpacking back home at 600 feet above sea-level. And here we begin at Base Camp, the base of the mountains, at 6,000 feet! The mountains you will be climbing are 9, 10, 12 thousand feet above sea level, and the air is ‘rarified’ even at Base Camp. Breathing is not easy.
“My sins are ever before me.” With each step.
I hate to end a reflection on a sour note. But sometimes reality needs to be presented and addressed. This is a High Adventure A strenuous experience. It pushes the boundaries of endurance for youth and adults alike. And sadly, not all realize that until it is too late and they are stuck on the mountain a ‘fer piece’ away from anything.
The Good News is that there are Chaplains and others who are at the ready to rescue as we can. Our first concern is the safety of the participant. The second is to try to keep them on the trek. Because no matter how difficult it may be, thisis a life-changing and maturing growth experience. (At some point, I may tell you of watching a youth over 8 days grow from a frightened youth to a mature adult in his experience here. It was truly splendid to witness, and an honor to be a part of. But that’s another story.)
I do ask you for the next month to consider in prayer these young women and men, and the older women and men who trek these mountains. I especially wish you to remember our members of Troop/Crew One who will be arriving at the end of next week. I am so looking forward to welcoming them here to this phenomenal place. And to follow them around in my air-conditioned Suburban! I’ll be ready to pick any of them up as they fall along the way-side! (Only kidding, I pray!)