80-We Came, We Saw, We Conquered… Now What?
The cold, Superior air exited my lungs with a smooth stream that clouded my limited view by headlamp. The sun had gone down hours ago and I was still on the move, staying warm and stepping face to face with the climb that we had trained so hard to conquer. The only vision my guide partner and I had was the faint glow of a wall of ice in the full moonlight that made it almost unnecessary for headlamps, except to keep a close eye on the coyote tracks in the snow that seemed to be interested in what creature made snowshoe prints in their territory. My heart beat a little bit faster as we could make out the outline of Grand Portal Point, a massive rock slide just past HMR, and HMR (Help Me Rhonda) herself—200 feet of vertical ice, clung to the soft sandstone wall that gives Pictured Rocks its claim to fame. The next morning our group of five would be climbing that mamba-jamba, fulfilling the physical feat we set out to take on head-to-head.
The next morning finally arrived after a full twelve-hour recovery; sore legs, hips and shoulders the only reminder of the previous days trek into the uninhabited winter scape of Lake Superior, we excitedly pounded down some oatmeal then geared up for HMR. A picture really never does the wilderness true justice, no matter how good the photographer. At best, the capture of God’s wilderness in print should spark a sense of adventure and longing to feel the wild in our bones, breath in the air and cling to God as our designer and maker of ground we can weight… (that’s the best I’ve got to describe seeing HMR in real life!). The sore hips, the eight weeks of training and cold feet all became a small price to pay to have a shot at being on the wall, merely a short hike and anchor set-up away.
Here’s the kicker, the point of this blog is not about how great HMR was to climb… I mean, don’t get me wrong it turned out to be roughly 120 feet of sustained vertical ice climbing in one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever seen. But at the end of the day, all having conquered our intended challenger, twice no less, we had to answer one simple question. What now? We really weren’t sure what to do next! We had another two days on the trip and the challenger lay defeated. I mean, David cut off the head of Goliath… maybe with some small explosives we could send HMR into the depth of Lake Superior?! Uhhh, no. We decided to go to another climb site about a mile and half from camp that proved to be even more beautiful, unique beyond all measure, and another reminder that God is not finished yet. He is not finished with us, there is always more to be revealed about His nature, character, and plans for us. Spray Falls was about a third of the height of HMR, easier to build anchors and to climb; but boy did we have fun! Spending time taking pictures, filming the waterfall during sunset, talking about the experience of the Coast Guard helicopter circling around to check out what us crazy ice climbers were doing hanging off the top of a waterfall, burning pancakes, dropping ropes into Lake Superior, and sharing the ins and outs of previous relationships we’ve had… this encapsulated the journey, and this was the true prize that lives on in our hearts and memories.
Goals are a great thing—we need them to push us farther physically, deeper in our relationships, and to attain growth that we may miss out on without them. However, let’s not forget or miss the journey along the way. Stop and smell the roses if you may. Take a moment and relish the little moments during life’s journey that may or may not be directly tied to the ultimate goal you have in mind. Who are you thankful for right now? What small matter has brought joy to your soul? Thank God and thank those around you because it is all of life that makes it just that… life.