“And the group from Wisconsin will be climbing Mt. Zion!” The cheers filled me with excitement and eagerness. Although I had heard shocking stories about being 6,000 feet up, I didn’t let them get to me. I was determined, confident, and fearless.
But on day one, my hips were chafing from the 60-pound backpack, my feet were blistering from the never-worn hiking boots, and – with my stubborn attitude never wanting to show defeat – my thoughts were driving me ballistic. Cemented into my mind was a no-quitting, impossible-is-not-a-word attitude. But I realized that this trip would test my attitude in every way possible.
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“And for lunch, we will each be getting four crackers, a piece of cheese, and a piece of sausage.”
I had waited all day for this? Nine hours of climbing for four crackers? And warm cheese from the bottom of a backpack? I tried to open my mind to being satisfied with so little. After devouring the food, I realized that this was my reality for the next seven days. I had to be satisfied with what I was given. There was no choice but to feel energized.
This realization hit me hard. I was one day in with seven ahead of me. All the comforts of home had been stripped away. Meals were not created to satisfy my taste buds, but to fill me with enough calories to continue the climb. Directions were not loose rules I was encouraged to follow, but strict guidelines to save my life. The heights I faced had no seatbelts to keep me strapped in, and were life-threatening dangers. This new reality was hard, but there was no turning back. I had to deal with what lay ahead of me.
Sitting in snow with the air no more than 20 degrees made huddling one of the best parts of the trip. Going through this unimaginable journey with these 14 people made the nights bearable.
Climbing 6,000 feet taught me a quality I will be forever grateful for – strength. I found the strength to get up every morning, the strength to have a positive attitude about the climb, and the strength to let down my walls. I realized that it’s okay to be pushed beyond what I thought I could do.
I learned that expressing weakness is not a defeat, but rather a gain. I learned to trust myself and the others climbing with me. This could have been taught in no better place than above the clouds.
Coming back from this trip, I felt determined, confident, and fearless. But each of these qualities took on a new meaning after my summit. My stubborn attitude and refusal to be weak changed to more openness and ability to let my walls down. Mt. Zion – and each one of its 6,000 feet – changed me in a way nothing else could have.