My Experience Climbing Mt. Shasta

Eeeek!!! I think this is the most excited I have ever been about a post!! I have been patiently waiting to write this post for months and now I finally can.

On July 22nd I traveled across the country to JH Ranch in Etna, California. It was a long day filled with nerves about meeting new friends and it was time to finally do what I had been working towards.

I was at the ranch for two weeks, so the first week we did activities that would get us used to the altitude. We even did our own version of The Amazing Race (we got last place) but had so much fun. You do a lot physically the first week but you also hear talks that are life-changing. We learned about the love of God, our identity in Christ, how our choices effect us, what to do during hardship, and so much more. Every time I go to JH, I am transformed and grow spiritually more than I ever thought I could.

Once the first week was over, it was time for us to head out to climb Mt. Shasta. I felt prepared after everything we did the first week but there was still so much fear in me. I did feel like God had a lot in store for me though because I felt like He had really called me to go climb this mountain. A few months before I left for JH I was thinking about not going because all my friends were leaving for college a few days after I would get back and life would be moving so fast. I told my dad I was thinking about not going anymore and he really encouraged me to go, but to think about it over the week because I needed to make a decision pretty fast. The next morning I was reading a book my young life leader gave me and the chapter I was reading was on obedience, then it said, “Sometimes obedience is climbing a mountain.” I was in a coffee shop and was just like okay woah God I guess I will go! You can’t deny it when it is that clear. I held onto this the whole time and knew God had a lot to teach me but of course, I was still super nervous.

We left the ranch Monday and went to a grocery store and to a store called The Fifth Season to get some last-minute gear. Monday night we spend the night at the trailhead called, Bunny Flat. We all packed in close in sleeping bags and were ready to start the climb Tuesday morning.

Tuesday morning came, and we all got into our climbing groups and met our guides. Your climbing group is about 8 people, so you get really close with them. Getting to know my group was one of my favorite parts! That day we hiked about 5 hours and since it was later in the summer we did not see much snow till we got up to 51/50. For me the first day wasn’t that bad and I was very thankful I did the stairclimber. You also take breaks, so I would get tired but after a break I would be ready to keep going.

Once we got to 51/50, I think it was about 2 or 3pm and we set up our tents and unpacked some gear. then we started snow school… honestly this was a rough time for me. We learned what to do if you fall and kind of emergency situations, but it scared me and I wasn’t good at self arresting. So I kinda struggled though all of that, but then it was time for dinner. We had Mac and Cheese with like a zillion sticks of butter in it, but honestly at the time it was what I wanted. Then we got all our stuff ready to go for the morning and went to bed around 7:30pm. You go to bed so early because you have to wake up at 1am the next morning.

Sleeping was hard because I was so excited and anxious to wake up and start climbing. At 1 am, we got woken up and started getting ready immediately because the guides want you to start climbing by 2. I started getting ready, then the liner is my glove was messed up and I spent about 30 minutes trying to fix and was rushed with everything else. My guide fixed it by sticking a spoon in it, but I was just about in tears about my glove (it’s funny looking back but at the time I was freaking out haha). Then I put my crampon on the wrong foot, so it was a stressful hour, to say the least.

Around 2 we started making our way to Lake Helen, which was about an hour away. I was doing good physically and mentally till we were just about to make it there and then I fell down because my crampons got stuck together and the way the snow melted made it have a bunch of dips in it, and it was hard to walk on. My fall did not hurt at all, but it scared me and made me start to freak out mentally.

Once you get to Lake Helen, you split up into groups of 4 and get roped in because it gets really steep after that. They also make it very clear that once you get roped in if you turn around your whole group has to turn around. It is a lot of pressure! Our team of 4 got roped in, but then they realized there was no one there to take some people down. Our guide ended up being the one to take them down, so all 4 of us got put into other groups that had open space. At first, I ended up getting roped in with a group of all boys who were going to go super fast. I was excited in the beginning because I thought to myself, “Yes!! with this group I am going to get to the summit so fast.” Then before they left, they asked me if I wanted to switch with a boy who got put into a slower smaller group of all girls. Being honest, at first, I was kind of irritated because I had to switch so much and was ready to go and keep climbing! You also have to get to the summit by 10 am, so time is important. I ended up switching though because it would be better for me to be with the girls, and he could be in the all-boys group. Since we had all these changes, I ended up being at Lake Helen forever and was freezing, scared and crying at that point. Francois (actually the best person I have ever met) prayed over me, and it made me feel better. This was probably the worst and hardest time for me mentally.

We eventually left Lake Helen and started making our way to The Heart. I think that took about 2 hours, but honestly, I don’t even know. This was also hard for me because we were the last group, so we were worried about making it in time to summit by 10. About halfway up this section, the sun started to rise, and our guide (Alex, he was so good!) told us this was a good spot to be in when the sun was rising. That made us feel a lot better about our time and pace. The view was also amazing. You could see the shadow of the mountain, it was one of the coolest things I have ever seen. Making it to The Heart was long and hard, but once we got there I felt so much better mentally. Once it was light, it also made a huge difference because you can see what is in front of you. Before you could only see your feet, right where your headlamp was shining.

Now it was time to start climbing up Red Banks. This was one of the steepest parts of the mountain, and we were on our hands and knees for some of it. This was hard physically but I had a lot more hope of making it to the summit that I felt so much better. After Red Banks, was Short Hill (definitely not short btw) and that was fine you just have to push through and keep going. The whole time, you just have to thank God for every step and keep praying for energy and strength to keep going.

Once we got done with Short Hill, I was so freaking excited because we were getting so close!! We got to take our crampons off and put our ice ax away for the next part, which was Misery Hill. We also were not too far behind other groups anymore, so we were excited about that. The name Misery Hill sounds terrible, but I think it was my favorite part of the entire climb. It is more of a trail, and once you get to the top of Misery Hill you can see the summit, and only have about 30-45 more minutes till you get there.

We kept making our way up, and made it to the summit!!! It was one of the best feelings ever. We were 14,179 ft up and could see everything it was crazy. Definitely one of the best days of my life. We got to spend about 20 minutes up there, and took some pictures and got to sign the book everyone gets to sign when they summit.

Once we got to the top, I was ready to come down, but downhill is a big fear of mine so this wasn’t easy at all for me. I felt bad because we got roped back in going down Short Hill and Red Banks and I kept falling and I’m sure my team was annoyed but they were so nice to me about it! Being with such an encouraging group of girls was one of the best parts. Once we got to The Heart, we got to glacade down and omg it was so much fun. You just sit on your butt and slide down basically and use your ice ax as your break. You go so fast and we got to do that all the way back to 51/50.

At 51/50 I got back with my original climbing group and finished packing up all my stuff and then started heading down. You feel like your so close to being done, but you still have 3-4 miles left and your dying. My knees hurt so bad and I had zero energy left. I was using my poles as my legs and somehow just made it down.

Getting back to the parking lot was the biggest feeling of accomplishment I have ever felt. After that, we had a pizza party and got to go back to JH and shower and go to bed. I have never slept better in my life!!

Since then, it’s been almost two weeks since we started climbing Shasta, so I have had some time to think about everything I have learned and processes what happened! So now gets to the important stuff lol!! The number one thing I learned was it’s better to go slower with the right people than fast with the wrong. Originally when I got put in the fast boy’s group I was so excited, but looking back on it there is no way I could have done it any faster than I did. The girls I climbed with (Ann, Isabella, and Maggie- shoutout to y’all!!) we’re also some of the best people I have ever met and acctually ended up being the biggest blessing. We all pushed through our own struggles and I realized God gave me exactly the people I needed to get up to the summit. I think having a strong community of girls that push you to grow in your relationship with the Lord is so important. This is definitely a lesson I will keep in mind as I start my freshman year of college!

Another thing I learned a lot about was fear. That moment I had at Lake Helen after falling and switching ropes so many times I had a lot of fear. Fear of getting roped in and making my whole team turn around, fear we would not summit in time, fear of falling again and again, fear of feeling like I failed, and a million more things I could go on about. God really showed me that He is bigger than all our fears and doubts. I did not learn this because I made it to the summit, but I learned it just because every step I prayed and took with him He began to take my fear away. Before I went to JH I thought a lot about what I wanted to learn and focus on and the main one I had written down was to grow my confidence in God and having confidence in Him is not having fear and doubt of His plan and what is going to happen next. I am actually happy I had that time at Lake Helen because it was a time I really had to put into action the verse 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made in perfect love”.

When it was all over and we refected I still kept learning and realizing things God had taught me on the mountain. I learned it is the small steps that will eventually get you to your goal. Each step I took I would look up and felt like I was going nowhere but then after an hour of small steps I would look down and could see how far I had come. Psalm 119: 105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light on my path”. They talked about this at my church this past Sunday, so of course, I had the perfect picture in my mind of me taking those steps in the dark and could only see the light my headlamp was shining right in front of me. Eventually, I made it to the summit, but it was because I took all those small steps with God. We have to say yes to the step he puts in front of us, even if we can’t see the big picture.

Sorry, this is getting so long.. but I want to share one more thing that really stood out to me! Once we all finished and got back down we went to a local church and had a pizza party. We were all exhausted and could barley move. They played worship music at the end and during that time, one of the coaches, Megan Mae, stood up and said that you still need to worship the Lord even when you’re uncomfortable. I started thinking about it a lot and I realized I was just sitting there thinking about how tired I was and how much my feet hurt when I should have been praising my God who just got me all the way a 14,179ft mountain. I think this can relate to so many different situations in our lives. Going into the future I really want to take more notice of this and focus on praising Him in the uncomrtable, becuase I think it can also be a big time of growth in our realtionship with the Lord.

Moving on I want to try to focus on all these lessons and applying them into my life because I know he taught me all of that for a reason! This was also probably my longest post ever so if you read it this far I appreciate it and I hope you got something out of it. Now go climb your mountain, because God will get you there!!

2 Comments

  1. Kristen Schenck
    August 13, 2019 / 3:53 pm

    You are my role
    model! You are absolutely amazing, I miss you!

    • maetaul
      Author
      August 13, 2019 / 6:23 pm

      Omg I love you so much!!

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