Two nagging questions that you face while preparing to climb a mountain like Mt. Kili are: “Why am I paying big bucks and investing all that time to inflict pain on myself by climbing this mountain?” and “Am I going to make it?” Couched in these questions are the the seminal questions we all ask whenever we are faced with an opportunity or challenge that will require risk yet great reward on the other side.What I have found is that the journey of climbing a mountain is a metaphor for life. That is why mountain climbing is such a great rite of passage experience for parents and kids.
- GO SLOW TO GO FAST: On the first few days of the trek our sons were blazing the trail ahead of us grey-beards at a torrid pace. I kept saying to the lads, “This mountain will teach you to go slow to go fast!”, but to no avail. That is until the last night when we made the last push to the summit. Altitude and -15 C temps became the great equalizer. The two young studs were no longer out there leading the pack. At one point we thought the youngest member of our expedition wouldn’t make it to the top. Where as earlier in the trek he had boundless energy, he was now in agony, swaying and staggering under the affects of altitude sickness with every breath laboured. Yet slowly, at what seemed like a snail’s pace, we all made it to the summit…with guess who at the front 🙂 IN WHAT AREAS OF YOUR LIFE DO YOU NEED TO SLOW DOWN? WHERE IS THE TEMPTATION IN YOUR LIFE TO TAKE SHORT CUTS THAT WILL COST YOU IN THE LONG RUN?
- BOTH THE JOURNEY AND THE DESTINATION ARE IMPORTANT:
The axiom often quoted these days says, “It’s all about the journey, not the destination.” Though I appreciate the idea that we need to take time on the trek of life to enjoy the landscape, vegetation and each other’s company, which we did, I can’t imagine climbing Mt. Kili with no intention of reaching the top. Having and reaching one’s goals are important. Yes, sometimes the task or the mission can be so all consuming that relationships suffer, and we miss out on living fully in the moment. Yet somehow on the mountain, we learned how to live in the tension of enjoying every minute of every day, and yet pushing each other on and pressing through to reach our end goal. We had some belly aching laughs as watched how many times we had to pee on the mountain because of all the fluids we were drinking. As we huddled in our tents at night under the clear, star-studded African skies, we treasured the rich conversations we shared about the mysteries of a woman, our fears, and our hopes and dreams for the future. Just as rewarding, though, was the profound sense of accomplishment and exhiliration we all felt at making it to
the top of Mt. Kili. Imparting to our sons the life lessons of setting a goal, of doing the planning and preparation to attain the goal, and then working hard to achieve that goal was worth every penny. On top of that the personal pride we felt as dads at seeing our boys reach their goal, alongside the simple pleasure of being and bonding with our boys made the journey and destination worth it. ARE YOU ENJOYING THE SIMPLE PLEASURES OF YOUR JOURNEY? WHERE DO YOU NEED TO SET SOME GOALS TO FULFILL YOUR DREAM?
- IT TAKES A TEAM TO LIVE THE DREAM: We were blown away at how many porters and guides we were assigned to climb the mountain: 14, including two guides and two cooks. At first we thought this was overkill. Yet when we were trudging up the mountain gasping for air as we watched these incredible porters whiz by us wearing flimsy tennis shoes, carrying 50-70 pounds of gear sometimes on their heads or necks, we realized we may not have made it without them. What a gift to do this climb with my son Jon, my brother Steve, and his son Ben! They were just the right team to share this experience. WHO ARE SOME FRIENDS OR FAMILY THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO PURSUE A DREAM WITH?
- OVERCOMING OBSTACLES IS PART OF PURSUING ANY DREAM WORTH REACHING FOR: One of the most poignant memories of our climb occurred on the final night of the summit ascent. We started the climb up to the top at 12am. Right away we noticed that Ben, my brother’s son, was struggling with the effects of altitude sickness. He was having a hard time breathing, which was
compounded by a slight case of asthma he had been diagnosed with in the last year. He kept saying that he was sleepy and every step forward took all the strength he could muster. I was so impressed watching my brother Steve walking behind Ben speaking words of encouragement and at times literally pushing Ben up the mountain. At one point my brother, concerned for Ben’s wellbeing, asked the guide whether they should turn back. The affable guide turned and said, “No, Ben is a strong young man and he can make it.” Ben was able to overcome and we all made it to the top at 6am, albeit with our water bottles almost frozen solid and our toes and fingers feeling a little numb from frost bite. We were rewarded with a glorious sunrise on the way down. WHAT SEEMINGLY INSURMOUNTABLE OBSTACLE IN YOUR LIFE DO YOU NEED THE COURAGE TO OVERCOME?
5. CELEBRATE YOUR VICTORIES : It is hard to put into words the euphoria you feel when you get to the top of a mountain. Perhaps it is simply the lack of oxygen that makes you feel a little giddy, but I think it is that sense of fulfillment, joy, and feeling truly alive, even though bone weary, cold, and feeling the aches and pains in parts of your body that you never paid much attention to. We were truly elated and proud of our boys and their accomplishment. WHAT SMALL OR BIG ACCOMPLISHMENT IN YOUR LIFE OR THE LIVES OF THOSE AROUND YOU DO YOU NEED TO CHOOSE TO CELEBRATE? CELEBRATING BUILDS CONFIDENCE IN PEOPLE TO RISK AND FACE FAILURE.
6. CHEER ON THE NEXT GENERATION: As I get older I realize that my role is to be a cheerleader for the next generation, encouraging them to dream big and go for it. Hopefully I will get to tag along. As was evident on most of this trek up Mt. Kili, our two sons had far more energy, vigour, and faster recovery rates than us dads. We were constantly being passed by them on the trail. Rather than trying to compete with them, we encouraged them to lead us on up the mountain. The next generation needs us to coach them, create space for them to explore, risk, and yes sometimes fail, and most importantly to be their best cheerleaders and champion their dreams. WHO IS A YOUNG PERSON IN YOUR LIFE THAT LOOKS TO YOU FOR MENTORING? CHEER THEM ON, AND WHEN THEY ASK, PASS ON YOUR LIFE WISDOM.
7. SQUATTY POTTIES KEEP YOU HUMBLE AND HUMAN: Have you ever tried to squat over an open hole on the side of a mountain in the dark to do your business? What I learned is that you have to be pretty good in geometry and have strong quads to be successful in your mission. From first hand experience, if you position yourself to0 far forward or to0 far back, you will surely miss the target! Besides that, squatty potties are not the place to catch up on your reading, as after a minute or two of crouching, your thighs start burning and cramp up…and yes, make sure you bring toilet paper with you as there is no guarantee that it will be provided, and if you have no toilet paper you find yourself in a very awkward position 🙂 WHAT IS KEEPING YOU HUMBLE AND HUMAN THESE DAYS?
If you like you can take a look at the youtube movie of our climb below.