In August of 2016, when I was fifty-five and out of shape from an injury-laden decade that had kept me from any significant exercise, I was determined to climb Granite Peak in Montana. But it was more than a purposed choice. It was a fire. I had to climb that beast. Conquering it was a metaphor for conquering the gauntlet of life that had knocked me down and bloodied me countless times and was obviously determined to keep me from attaining my life goals (all of them spiritual, by the way).
By the first hint of morning gray my two climbing partners and I were heading up the trail from Lone Elk Lake at a rapid pace. We were determined to be at the base of Granite Peak by 10 a.m.—seven rugged miles away. We hiked up the rough trail to the Sky Top drainage, then boulder hopped our way four miles up the Sky Top drainage to the steep slope just below the peak. We took a brief break— Granite Peak looming over us like a defiant giant. Then we pushed our way up the steep incline, boulder hopping and traversing snow fields much of the way, to the shoulder, which we followed to Granite Peak.
At the base of the peak we met a couple coming back down. They had decided not to do the SW Ramp route that we were pursuing because it was steeper and more dangerous than they had been led to believe. We continued, fighting our way up steep slide rock, then a stretch of steep scrambling and climbing, then another stretch of slide rock, then a stretch of steep climbing, until we finally reached the base of the ramp. At this point one of the men in our party decided he had had enough. He decided to start hiking back down while the two of us went up. He would wait for us in the upper reaches of the Sky Top drainage.
The SW Ramp was a steep notch, with lots of slide rock, lots of scrambling, and some climbing. Most of it was nerve-racking. There were two fixed ropes—one for a steep wall and one for a dangerously icy section with few good handholds. At the top of the ramp the steepness eased up, but we still faced a lot of scrambling and climbing—a couple of the moves seemed harder than anything on the ramp except the fixed-rope moves. When we finally got to the top of the peak around noon, I was too exhausted to walk over to the guest register. I slumped into a weary pile and asked my partner to sign my name.
On the climb back down the ramp I was too exhausted to try to walk down several steep rock faces. I just slid down on my backside. After we were off the mountain, we stumbled down the steep slope that drops into Sky Top drainage and continued to press our way toward Upper Skytop Lake. Just above the lake we walked into the camp of the couple we had met earlier and talked to them for a few minutes. Then we turned and continued on our way. I was so tired that I was dragging the trekking pole that my climbing partner had loaned me. It was too much work to try and use it. A half mile later we caught up with the friend that had turned back at the ramp.
Just over five miles later we dragged ourselves back into camp, utterly exhausted. I took my boots off, crawled into my tent, and lay myself down for a nap. An hour later I got up and changed my clothes. To my horror I discovered that the entire backside of my wool pants had been rubbed away. I was face to face with a hole the size of a basketball. I groaned with embarassment. That meant that when we had walked away from the couple we had talked to, I had shown them a good shot of my longjohns through my britches—a display not too far removed from saggy pants and ugly underwear.
The moral of the story is that we need to be careful when we get tired. When we get tired as believers—tired of the race, tired of the good fight of faith—we take short cuts and make unwise decisions that cause us to display ourselves in ways which we will later be embarassed about. We may let our tongue cut loose and expose thoughts that should have never seen the light of day. We may get tired and give in to a temptation that we should flee.
Galations 6:9, “Weary not in doing right” (my translation). Isaiah 40:31, “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
“Eyes wide open, brain engaged, heart on fire.”
Lee W. Brainard