Have you ever noticed how many songs there are about mountains? A quick google search shows 58 songs with the word Mountain in the title. Mountains are a common symbol of conquering the hard and difficult things in life, and rightly so. The lessons I learned from Mt. Sherman can be paralleled to life.
Along the Colorado Rocky Mountain Range, there are 54 fourteeners — Mountains that are 14,000 feet in elevation or more. To many, the quest of climbing all 54 becomes an item on their bucket list, but for our family, it was simply a goal to climb one together. Several years ago we chose Mt. Sherman. At 14.035, it stands as one of the easier fourteeners in Colorado; but really, is there an easy fourteener?
Learning from Sherman
We began our journey early, just as the sun was peaking over the first ridge of the skyline. Immediately I was struck by how difficult it was to breathe. At high elevations, the oxygen is surprisingly less than at home, and with each step, I felt as if the wind was just being pushed out and not back into my lungs. What was in actuality a 5.25-mile hike, felt much more like running a marathon in which I had not trained. It took me 3 hours to summit and 1 1/2 to get down.
Our older three were way ahead on the trail the whole time. Even our dog impressed the other groups of climbers as he pushed full steam ahead to the top. My husband, being the great man that he is, stayed back with our youngest and me as we slowly plodded up the trail.
I had a few things working against me that made the trek a little harder than it would have been for most. I have an odd chest pain that is triggered when my heart rate goes up for an extended period of time (healthy heart, just weird and painful anomaly), and then I also have an extremely paralyzing fear of heights. Despite the chest pains and one moment of frozen anxiety, I made it!!
As we hiked along, my husband and I discussed some parallels or lessons of climbing a mountain and life. I’ve come to think of these lessons as “What we learned from Sherman.”
While hiking or doing any type of exercise it is essential to keep hydrated and eat the right kind of nutrition — things that will fuel your body and give you the energy to keep going. Sometimes, or maybe a lot of the time, I didn’t feel like eating or drinking, and that is usually the time that it is most important. There is a kind of time-lapse between when my brain thinks my body needs something and when my body knows it needs something.
Hydrating and eating when I don’t feel like it keeps my body from plummeting in energy. Waiting until I feel like it creates a real setback in my progress. When my body hits that wall there is nothing to do but wait for the food and water to do their thing.
In life, it is essential for my spiritual progress to study the scriptures and pray — especially when I don’t feel like it. The scriptures and prayer are the hydration and nutrition my soul needs to keep going. Climbing a mountain, sometimes referred to as life, is more like a marathon than a quick sprint. Giving our soul the essentials helps us remain balanced through the easier and more difficult stretches of the journey.
Attitude is Everything
As we trotted up the trail, the protests of our youngest became loud and more profound. While her complaints were valid — yes, it was hard and yes, it was long — they did not motivate us to try harder, but made us consider turning around. Along the way, I saw a small flower that was growing in between two large rocks. Despite the lack of good soil and poor conditions, the flower was determined to grow. The difficult circumstances did not seem to deter it.
Just like the obstacles the growing flower faced, life has a continuous stream of difficulties to maneuver through. Dwelling on those adversities by either complaining or criticizing keeps us from going anywhere. Much like a flat tire — a bad attitude can keep us from reaching our destination until we change it. Choosing to see the good, to find the positive makes all the difference as we press forward up the steep path ahead.
A great attitude becomes a great mood, which becomes a great day, which becomes a great year, which becomes a great life.” —Unknown
Sometimes people give up. They turn around and go back when they are often so close to the end. As friends and family, we encourage and prod others along; but ultimately the choice is ours. In The Book of Mormon, a prophet named Lehi had a vision of a tree that bore the most delicious fruit. In his vision he wanted nothing more than for his family to come and partake of this fruit; the tree and fruit are symbolic of the love of God and the Atonement of His Son Jesus Christ. As much as Lehi wanted his family to come to the tree and partake of the fruit, he could not force them.
There are various reasons that some give up in life — the extremes being mentally or medically based. As an observer we can encourage, prod, and even beg our friends and family to keep going; but we cannot force anyone to climb their own mountain or partake of the fruit of the tree of life. The one thing we can do is be determined to keep ourselves going. When it is hard, look for help. We are not meant to climb this mountain alone. Satan would have us believe otherwise, but giving up is letting him win. Be determined…Keep going!
Stay On the Trail
Years ago we came up with the family motto of “Stay on the Trail.” Being a fairly active family that did a lot of exploring in the outdoors we saw a fair number of signs that warned about going off the path or voiced the importance of staying on the trail.
When we heard about a father and son who had wandered off the trail and found themselves lost in the wilderness we saw how the parallel could be an effective family motto. We have used this motto often, and have the words painted above the exit of our front door as a reminder to always stay on the trail when we leave the safety of our home.
That day as we climbed Mount Sherman the value of our motto was even more apparent. The sheer drop-offs, the scree fields, and the vastness of the open space itself all shouted at the importance of staying on the marked trail. When we veer off the path we endanger ourselves, risk getting lost, and can even miss the purpose of the journey… The breathtaking views at the end make it all worth it!
The Quest of a Lifetime
Mountaineering is a popular sport for many, and the quest of trying to climb any number or certain difficulties of mountains can be the pursuit of some of the pros. Our simple family goal represented our own quest, and the accomplishment felt oh so good! Upon reaching the top of our summit we could see for miles. Our ability to understand the vastness of what we had accomplished was greatly increased.
The process of gathering spiritual light is the quest of a lifetime.” — Dieter F. Uchtdorf
As the sun first peeked over the skyline it offered a bright light to our journey, but nothing compared to what we could see from the top. Life is full of opportunities to seek after and pursue the things that matter the most to us. Sometimes our focus or priorities don’t become clear until we reach the summit, and by then it might be too late. Sometimes the climb itself seems almost more than we can bear. Remembering what past lessons have taught us can often give us the lift we need to keep going. Any number of those mountain songs can’t be entirely wrong…It is all about the climb.