I did not summit Mount Rainier and yet this was perhaps the most gratifying climb I have experienced.

The route from High Camp to Summit

The route from High Camp to Summit

We began our summit bid from high camp at 1 A.M.  Traversing a glacier by the light of my headlamp and a much brighter full moon I repeatedly sang the words to my favorite Matt Redman worship song:

The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes.

After ascending through boulders, volcanic scree and spectacular ice formations I finally arrived at the top of Disappointment Cleaver.  I could clearly see the summit.  But I was fatigued.  The previous two days of carrying a 45 pound pack up 7000 vertical feet had taken its toll.

As our ten minute rest break in whipping, frigid winds came to a close I realized that if I pushed to the top there was a good chance that I would not make it safely back down.  With a myriad of crevasses to cross (some traversed by aluminum ladders) and 60 mile per hour summit winds, Rainier is not a mountain to be taken lightly.

I thought to myself, “What in the world am I doing? I have a wife and children at home–beautiful Julie, Tabitha who is beginning her freshman year of high school while I am on the mountain and Elijah who would start kindergarten that very day. This is not worth the risk.” I began the descent.

Me and Steve on our way to Camp Muir

Me and Steve on our way to Camp Muir

In summary, my good friend, Steve Porter, made it to the top–he is a rock star.  My long time climbing companion, Tom Patton, made it to High Camp–I am enormously proud of his accomplishment.

Tom Patton in our tent at High Camp

Tom Patton in our tent at High Camp

My new friend, Corey Easterday, became ill on the first day of the climb and was forced to return to Seattle–He learned one of the hardest lessons of mountaineering:  climbing is filled with both great joys and deep disappointments.

The four of us together, with many sponsors who care deeply for children at risk, raised $20,000 for the Christian Children’s Home of Ohio.

And me, well I had one of the most important epiphanies of my mountaineering career . . . Its not the summit that matters most . . . it’s the people you love who are waiting for you to return home.

2 Responses to “What matters most”

  1. Ben Cachiaras August 22, 2013 at 7:38 am #

    Greg, great post, and important epiphany! When I was a younger climber, I rarely had those thoughts. But after Karla & children, often in the middle of limit-stretching potential danger I began to weigh the things that were more important than that particular ascent. My kids will tell you that’s one of the things I love about climbing, as they’ve heard me say many times: Sometimes you win, sometimes the rock wins. Such a beautiful thing to live near the edge, testing limits, whether in climbing or ministry or life — always pushing, wondering, “HOw much can we do, God?” and ready to go beyond where you’ve ever been if His grace allows, but also humbly ready to be reminded we are not God and that the summit is His alone…and our primary calling is to serve and love where we are and enjoy the gifts he’s given. Great post. thanks for sharing.

  2. Gary Johnson September 18, 2013 at 7:39 am #

    Thanks for setting a good and right example for us, Greg. Your post shouts volumes as to what is of most important in life — people. Just as when God met with Moses on the mountain top, it is clearly evident that you had a God-ordained moment with Him, as well. And you listened. I don’t know if I would be as wise as you. Over Labor Day, some of us guys from The Creek made our annual trek to the 14ers of Colorado, and on our last one, we transversed a narrow ledge that dropped off over 2,000 feet. When my hand grip gave way and the rock came loose in my hand, I thought, “What am I doing here? I am one step away from stupid.” I appreciate your heart for God and for your determined spirit to summit spiritually in life.

Leave a Reply