The only thing guiding us was the light of the moon. Ben had forgotten his headlamp, and mine was fading fast. We had started our 2-mile hike (and 2,000-foot elevation gain) up Mt. Agassiz at 12 a.m., hoping to reach its summit by sunrise. Without a map, our only guide was our memory of the route we’d looked at and marked on paper the previous day.
It worked. As unbelievable as it felt, we made it to the summit at 4:30 a.m. I’ll never forget that moment, coming over the ridge at nearly 14,000 feet up, overlooking one of the most impressive mountain ranges in the Sierra—the Palisades. Because of the full moon, we could see the entire range, along with its glacier, under the night sky. The view gave me the chills. I was experiencing too many emotions to count: fear, joy, excitement—you name it, I felt it. My awe over the view was quickly tempered by the harsh weather.
The extreme wind made the temperature practically 0 degrees Fahrenheit. I hopped into a cleft in a rock to shelter myself from the cold and/or from getting blown off the summit. I was losing control of my body, shaking so badly that I began to wonder if I would survive. Thoughts of hypothermia invaded my mind. My fingers were so cold that when I touched my face it felt as if someone else was touching me. It’s a bizarre state to be in. Scary, too.
Every mountaineer knows—every person knows—that there are risks when climbing mountains. It’s not a virtual game with an option to hit a reset button. The consequences are real.
Yet, even though I know this, I still have an undeniable desire to seek the adventure. Like there’s something inherently good about it. I wonder if perhaps we were created for this very purpose. Not necessarily to be mountaineers, but rather to seek our Maker through what we’ve been given. Just as a musician uses sound to create music, or a writer uses language to convey a message, it gets us back to a foundational level of thinking about how and why everything came to be.
I wonder if perhaps we were created for this very purpose. Not necessarily to be mountaineers, but rather to seek our Maker through what we’ve been given.
In the end, we made it safely down the mountain. My body, like always, went through its stages of warming up. It started with a tingle, got extremely painful, and eventually went back to a simple tingling sensation. There’s nothing quite like the high that adventure brings—but coming back down and knowing you’re safe is just as exciting a feeling.