I think part of the draw of the mountains, for me at least, is the journey. It's a spiritual journey. One that connects your body with this wild creation, your soul with the wind of the Spirit and reveals that sorrow and suffering are a real and important part of our experience here on earth. Granted, the suffering experienced in the wild is manufactured in a way - I choose to put myself in that environment; where real adversity is thrust upon us unwillingly. But nonetheless, there's something about sorrow that I just can't get enough of. None of these were conscious thoughts when I signed up for a climb of Mt Rainier, of course. But upon reflection I'm beginning to realize that melancholy is a vital aspect of true joy; and I seek it out in the mountains.
The months leading up to Rainier were some of the craziest, balls-to-the-wall, buckle-up-we're-in-for-a-bumpy-ride months I've had yet. After climbing Kilimanjaro, I found myself dreaming about climbing Denali (just the highest peak in North America at a casual 20,000ft, ndb). It started out innocent enough at first, then I started taking small leaps of faith to make it happen. I took a Denali Prep class on Rainier which kicked my ass, I started meeting weekly with a trainer who helped me get into shape, I grew to love putting the time in at the gym and outside. I started to realize the desk job I had was holding me back, so I quit. I quit my job to climb Rainier, ya'll. Literally my last day at my graphic design job of 4 years was the day before I jumped on a plane to Seattle. Hello reckless abandon.
So I expected Rainier to be hard. But I'd been training hard and felt pretty unstoppable. Over the next four days I would learn that I still had a lot to learn before attempting Denali. Like, a whole lot. It's been 6 months, so the memory has gone rose-colored, but I remember being grumpy and miserable most of the time. I tried to be happy... every once in a while I would remember that I wanted to be here and I should look around and enjoy it. But then I would just get distracted by being angry at myself for wanting this. The climb was more of a mental challenge than a physical one (lol but definitely don't underestimate the shape you have to be in for this mountain; Kilimanjaro is a breeze in comparison).
I think what I'm trying to communicate is that in the journey of life, the lows are as important as the highs. God doesn't withhold suffering and if you walk with a heart of gratitude and trust, the suffering can be the blessing.
Oh, and the next time I climb Rainier I'm going to come prepared to actually enjoy it!