There comes a point in these expeditions in which a transition occurs from vacation to adventure. This takes place the first night on the trail when the daily comforts that westerners have grown accustomed to are stripped away. Tent camping is exciting. Using a headlamp to navigate the darkness is a novelty. Stepping the first foot onto the dusty path of the mountain’s base is invigorating.

This stage lasts approximately 48 hours. For those of us who aren’t mountaineers, it then takes the form of pure challenge, and it just happened last night to our group of 40.

In comes the filthy fingernails and grimy skin, the overheated afternoons and see-your-breath nights. The cramped legs from our improvised bathroom positions. We peel our bodies off our tent floors in the morning, giving ourselves a pep talk that we can do this one more day, partly for inspiration, partly as an excuse to stay in the coziness of our sleeping bags just a few more moments. For those with aged bodies or knee and hip replacements or past and present cancer treatments of all kinds, the aches and pains become harder to ignore. We’ve gone from telling ourselves back home that we can climb this damn mountain to telling ourselves we can get through today to repeating words of encouragement in our minds with every other step.

This is not to say the fun has ended or the beauty has disappeared or the magic has vanished. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. We need these things more than ever to combat the struggle. Not only has any hint of luxury been removed from the equation, the climb in elevation and the daily grind make any guards we have up evaporate into the thin air. We become beings at our most basic level. Wander. Find food. Seek shelter. Care for one another.

The laughter in the tent community at night grows and grows. The songs being sung are that much more meaningful. Any joke or helping hand, even if mustered up from some small space inside us, goes a longer distance than ever before.

We as people do our best to push on, but we are only human. The universe never fails us. Just as we wearily round that corner, we hear another bird’s tune or discover a new plant species or learn where the lava used to flow beneath our feet. As we reluctantly step outside at 3 a.m. to empty our bladders, we look up to witness an unfamiliar set of southern hemisphere stars shooting across the sky. When we wake with sleepy eyes we unzip our tent to see the sun burn away the fog and rise over Kilimanjaro.

As far as the magic goes, that is when both human and universe exist in perfect harmony.

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15 Responses to “Shifting Gears”

  1. Linda Hoskins

    Feels like I am right there with you Brian–thanks for capturing the moment again:)!

    Prayers still coming to all for safety, strength, and courage.


  2. Valerie White

    Sounds incredible and amazing. Everyone back home is praying for everyone with you. Keep the beautiful writings coming Brian. Thank you.

    And hi to Nina Philipp…my sister. Love you more !!!

  3. Leslie Shollenbarger

    Wow! That Is so beautifully written! Makes me imagine things for Mom in a whole new light. I can not wait to have her home to hear her stories.

  4. Jayne Maxey

    Brian!!! What a great message, as always!! You have a gift!!! I also feel like I am there with you!!!! And I am, in spirit!!! Hugs to all of you!!!

  5. Karen Grootveld

    Thank you for sharing the journey with us at home. It helps me to know how to pray for everyone. Joshua 1:9 Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

  6. Vernon Delpesce

    Thanks for sharing the adventure with the rest of us. All of you are in our prayers back home.

  7. Mary & Mark Purtle

    We are inspired by all of you and will keep you in our prayers for a safe and successful climb.

  8. Laura Mikota

    I have a young daughter at home so we listen to Hannah Montana at our house. 🙂 She has a song titled “The Climb” that I think so represents the surviors climb to recovery and the spiritual, emotional, and phyiscal climb you are all on now. I’ve copied a few of the versus:

    I can almost see it,
    The dream I’m dreamin’
    But there’s a voice inside my head sayin’
    You’ll never reach it

    Every step I’m taking
    Every move I make feels
    Lost with no direction
    My faith is shaking

    But I gotta keep tryin’
    Gotta keep my head held high
    There’s always gonna be another mountain
    I’m always gonna wanna make it move
    Always gonna be a up-hill battle
    Sometimes were gonna have to lose
    Ain’t about how fast I get there
    Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
    It’s the climb

    The struggles I’m facing
    The chances I’m taking
    Sometimes it might knock me down
    But, No, I’m not breaking
    I may not know it
    But these are the moments that
    I’m gonna remember Most, yeah
    Just gotta keep goin’

    And, I, I got to be Strong
    Just Keep pushing, oh
    ‘Cause there’s always gonna be another mountain
    Were always gonna wanna make it move
    Always gonna be a up-hill battle
    Sometimes were gonna have to lose
    Ain’t about how fast I get there
    Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
    It’s The Climb

  9. Tracy Sandbothe

    I am so excited for all of you. Your comments remind me of something I heard from a very wise man several years ago. “An adventure is a difficult time handled with a sense of humor.” Enjoy your adventure!

  10. Susan Mixdorf

    You write beautifully! While I wish I could climb with you all, I’m not sure I could handle the hardship of the camping part. If only they had hotels going up the mountain!

    Please post more pictures…they help us live vicariously through you!

  11. Theresa Britt

    I am so very proud of all of you!!! Keep up the good work. I am keep you all in my prayers…praying that God’s keeps you in his loving care, and continues to be in your presence, offering His strength and courage and safey. I love you all. HUGS!!! Theresa

  12. Sheri Postma

    Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us! What an incredible adventure of body, mind, and spirit!

  13. Linda Sandberg

    I found out about this journey from Madelyn Benson – Dave’s aunt. Wow – are we proud of this family member – even though we have never met him! We can only guess at the many difficulties and tolls this journey has on All of you – especially those of you who are cancer survivors! You are TRULY amazing! We remember the many difficulties, my sister, Vicki endured during her cancer journey. You are inspirational to us all….we pray for your continued, safe journey. God bless you all!

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