We were at 13,000 feet trying to make it to the 14,500 foot summit and only one of the three guides that began the climb was fit to continue. This was by far my most dangerous and difficult climb that I had ever undertaken and I was glad to have several experienced men to take us to the top of Mount Rainier. Our party of 12 had been broken into three groups of four, each with their own guide. The guide for our group was now suffering badly from altitude sickness and could go no further. His face reflected the agony of his body and after ten minutes of throwing up he decided to hand the leadership to our next most experienced climber, Manuel. Fortunately, a group returning from the summit agreed to take our sick guide back with them. Single decent is not allowed on the mountain and the conditions were way too cold for him to stay until we returned. The leader of the other group was visibly upset that we were blocking the steep icy single track, forcing his group to walk closer to a dangerous edge to our right. He was a professional guide and thought our attempt to make summit before 10a.m was ridiculous. Several times he reminded us of the rule to turn back at 10a.m no matter how close we were to the summit.
“You will never make it, don’t even (bleep) try” was his last comment.
He softened a bit after looking at our sick guide and continued down the mountain. Our new guide Manuel, had only made summit once before, which made me and the other guy in our group a little nervous. The slope ahead was steep but not as dangerous as the terrain we had covered already. The other two teams were well ahead and we seemed to be slowing down. The summit was still a long way off when our new guide suddenly awakened our senses.
“Hey Guys, I can’t stay awake, the altitude is getting to me, what should we do?” said Manuel.
Oh great, there goes our other guide, I thought to myself. Our chance to summit seemed lost. Since I was roped directly to Manuel, it became my job to assume leadership and to keep him awake. Every few steps I would shout,
“HEY MANNY YOU AWAKE?
It was 9:30am and it looked bleak. We were at 14,000 feet and the wind as expected had picked up. Temperatures with wind chill ran at 25 below zero. Somehow we made it to the summit by stretching the 10am deadline but only stayed there for 15 minutes before heading back down. Only seven out of the original 12 had made it.
I will never forget the climb and its lesson for a young leader. You never know when your leadership will be suddenly in demand. Our readiness to take on extra responsibility is usually connected to the amount of rehearsal already invested. I had climbed many smaller mountains in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon, and although not the leader, had on more than one occasion been trusted to make important decisions. In my head I had played out several worst case scenarios in the weeks leading up to this climb. Would I sacrifice my own life to save another? Remember the Vertical Limit movie (filmed in New Zealand). Would I tell them to cut the rope? Good leaders constantly rehearse. You don’t suddenly know what to do in a crisis unless you have rehearsed beforehand. By investing your heart and mind to a predetermined action, you will lead well in any crisis. Use the struggles or falls of other leaders, to determine ahead of time what would you do if it were you facing the crisis. As you rehearse remember how Jesus counted the cost of the cross. He was to rehearse the cross many times, but never so clearly as at the Last Supper.
“This is my body given for you……..This is my blood, which is shed for you.” Luke 22:19, 20
On the cross the value of rehearsal was found in absolute form. There was no going back, only decisive action. Jesus had determined ….”For the joy that was set before Him …He endured the cross.”
The beauty of application of scripture is in its rehearsal. As we commit to memory the truth of every page, we also rehearse its application in our own lives as a leader. One day our very lives and those that follow our example will depend on it.