♣ Step by Step

“… let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith… (Hebrews 12:1-2).

MAY 2018 MARKED the year of completing the UK 3 Peak Challenge: Ben Nevis (Scotland); Scafell Pike (England) and Snowdon (Wales). Seven of us comprised the group of determined candidates to complete these ascents and descents within a twenty-four hour period. We actually beat the target by forty minutes.

We strenuously trained a year prior to the Challenge that entailed unfailing commitment for hard gruelling climbs, scrambling and sometimes knee-jarring descents to reveal whether or not we had what it takes to achieve the heights before time outran us. Weather was not a consideration from freezing snow, rain to obliterating rays of the sun; we tenaciously proved our grit.  

One of our main concerns we anticipated was the travelling time between each peak, for the clock did not rest as we took ours; travel time would stem anywhere from five to six hours taking out a fair chunk from our chances to meet required targets. Traffic delays certainly added the intense factor which, as a total, only left us with thirteen hours of contact time to complete all climbs.

Ben Nevis, in Scotland – the highest mountain in the British Isles – standing at 1,345 metres above sea level – set the clock running at 07:00 for our first Peak. Spectacular views was like the wind behind our sails at times for the long arduous climb ahead of us. A few of us struggled with altitude sickness but a dogged resolution to stand on the final summit gave us momentum to carry on once we regained orientation.

Reaching Ben Nevis at half way point gave me a surprising second wind as my pace quickened despite reaching the most challenging point where others lagged behind. Don’t ask me where that burst of energy came from after moments of serious fatigue, but it happened to where this beast became my easiest climb, a great confidence builder in preparation to tackle the remaining two peaks… well, so I assumed.

Our second peak, Scafell Pike – being the highest mountain in England – at an elevation of 978 metres above sea level, the smallest of the 3 Peaks was a serious shock to my body; I sure was a different man compared to flying up Ben Nevis. It was a relentless steep climb from the start with absolutely no letup. My body screamed to quit as my legs became like increasing lead each step I took, while others in the group breezed through its ascent. Incredible discouragement saturated my entire being. My mind, though, still fought to hold its determined edge but my body was not complying until I remembered our mountaineer advising us during our training to keep moving at a pace we’re able to, small steps even, just don’t stop as that steals away all momentum. At points, I don’t know what was more tortuous: my mind battling possible failure or my body longing for a comfortable chair, but the challenging factors would switch and fight for higher ground. Nonetheless, I endured the climb, not being too far behind the rest of the group when Pike’s summit was reached. It’s hard being last but a good lesson to know our frailty and that we’re not as good as we sometimes think – the school of humility does its wonders on us. Scafell Pike’s descent was cruel to which most of us found. Ninety minutes of sheer pain, yet accompanied with inspiring views, would jar my knees with every step down I took, but we all made it, some of us wondering as to whether we were able to take on the final peak, others feeling confident they could.

It was 22:30 once we arrived to our vehicle, limping, sore and our energy as bright as the last glimpses of daylight dancing on the distant horizon. The small roads in the Lake District National Park certainly holds no sympathy for tired folk; the endless winding roads were merciless as many of us prepared our expedition meals that are near to instantaneously ready once hot water is added; trying to eat and curb our hunger while the van was in transit sorely failed to provide us with that Bon Appetite moment. More than the need to end hunger pains was the need to replenish our bodies in preparation to take on the last mountain and beat the clock. Carbohydrates, as well replenishing with electrolytes, are essential to staying in the game. I was feeling a little nauseous with the vehicle frantically swinging from left to right, undoubtedly because the driver knew we had to be at our final destination to give us good chance in smashing the 24 hour Challenge target. Some of us suffered with motion sickness and with it being pitch dark outside there was no horizon to focus on – yeah, forgot to mention that in relation to my last post in overcoming travel sickness. So, in this instance all I would suggest is: close your eyes and certainly don’t eat!

The vehicle’s seats didn’t permit much comfort or time to sleep, not to the mention the adrenaline pumping through our veins; sleep was frequently broken so REM went  down the pan. Thirty minutes prior to arriving at our final destination, one of our team leaders interjected and jarred many of us out of sleep. “You have twenty minutes to get your stuff together, because as soon as this van stops, we’re ready to shoot off; there’ll be no hanging around”, came the alarming words. It was like an SAS operation… “Right lads, move it, move it!” Bleary-eyed, with torches in our mouths to locate our stuff, we scrambled to get changed into new clean gear, blister plasters in place, rucksacks replenished with the essentials while the van mercilessly swung from side to side as the roads were dead quiet at 03:00.

We were all set on arrival for our last summit: Snowdon – the highest mountain in Wales, at an elevation of 1,085 metres above sea level, and the highest point in the British Isles outside the Scottish Highlands – very faint daylight was perceived in the far east and low clouds enveloped us. Our head torches came into final use. Tiredness gave way to excitement as we rapidly made our way ahead to the Pyg Track (one of three main routes to the peak). For the first 50 minutes energy levels kept their momentum and our pace looked promising until, of course, the ascent grew steeper. It seemed no time had passed before daylight permitted us to walk unaided with artificial light. Clouds were densely thick, leaving a wet film clinging to clothes and skin. The steep incline grew all the more arduous, our breathing more laboured and the heart rate now thumping. That heavy lead feeling came swooping back as if all oxygen had been squeezed from our quadriceps. Our Pace became slower and time didn’t hang around; it wasn’t just getting up there; we had to complete the entire descent and cross the threshold before the twenty-four hours were up. Energy gels infused with caffeine were quickly utilized for that extra boost. By now we had ascended some significant levels. The trick was to keep moving as fast as we could, ignoring the pain, the light headedness while envisioning reaching Snowdon’s pinnacle. Looking for inspiration to find an excuse not to quit, our heads, one by one, without a moment’s notice entered the next level above the clouds. What we saw next held us all spellbound and awe-filled, like nothing I’ve ever seen with my naked eye. Towering above us, straight ahead frighteningly stood Snowdon’s peak, this huge mass of molten rock glowing dazzlingly red from the morning’s sunrise. I wanted to just stand there and take it all in. I mean, it’s not every day one gets to see something like this. It was as if I could see for the first time ever in my life. All I have is memories that have left their awestruck impression on me for life. Hauntingly flooring and yet beautiful at the same time; feeling insignificantly minute compared to the inexpressible grandeur before us and yet privileged to behold its wonder.

We still had some way to go and by now the route  had formed into a zig-zag path mercilessly daring us to carry on. I couldn’t go on, feeling I’d reached my capacity but my mind insisted otherwise to persevere. Cramp was setting in. If I had to crawl up there, I’m going to get there one way or other I thought. It was enough determination to keep going. And we did. We made it to the very top in two hours and ten minutes, leaving us only one hour and fifty minutes to get back down into the car park and cross that finishing threshold. But could we turn straight back around without acknowledging that three hundred and sixty degree view, with an incredible 05:00 sunrise, towering above the clouds way beneath us in the lower mountains? A sense of exhilaration came over us and photographic shots and videos had to be in place. The video can be seen at the end of this post. The Challenge was not complete. A quick descent was to commence.

With ease – perhaps another adrenalin kick – we sailed back down the route we came up, running part of the way to regain lost time and overtaking many other climbers. Tiredness was something we all pushed to the back of our minds as our minds eye focussed upon the finishing line and crossing that we sure did. A feeling of relief that it was over and  that we accomplished the Challenge in less the time required was an amazing sense of accomplishment, but for me a part of me has been left on Snowdon’s summit while at the same time I have something invaluable remaining with me to this day; a part of that wonder still breathes in me that I intend to express through paint. Photographs tell their story but what is seen with the soul a camera can never replicate.

I use this personal (and yet shared among us all as a group in accomplishing this Challenge) experience in relation to our Christian journey in this life.

There are times, and many of them, when we feel we cannot go on; we feel we haven’t the strength to keep ascending or descending for that matter because of pain, because of fear, fear of the unknown or fear of failure, or weariness of all the delays and the monotony of circumstances remaining the same. We sense we cannot take anymore, cannot take another step forward, or maintaining our stand in what God has permitted for His duration of time. I am here to say, “Yes, we can.”

Why? How am I so sure that we can keep moving forward; how am I so confident in saying that we can keep standing or climbing? For the very reason – and for no other reason – that it is God Who has called us unto salvation. It is His gift of grace that has awoken us out of a life of slavery to bondage of living life imprisoned by sin and life without God. God has called and saved us out of such a life, but He has also empowered us to walk free in His covenantal love for us, a love that will not let us go, a love that will be all-sufficient with His grace to empower us to keep going as we take such steps forward.

 “…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…”

God will never allow us to handle more than we are able and oftentimes we are convinced God has put us through circumstances beyond our capabilities. Of course He has because no one is capable in and of themselves, just as the apostle Paul said himself, “For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead… on Him we have set our hope.” (2 Corinthians 1:8-10)

 “But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God…”

It may mean at times that we take small steps rather than taking leaps and bounds, but it is still moving forward step by step rather than moving backwards.

And there is the very key; we only persevere because of Him as He enables us to. It is, “looking to Jesus the author and perfector of faith” that is the very secret. We only accomplish great exploits by being in impossible situations beyond our control where He manifests His glory – the God of the impossible.

My scaling of mountains and going beyond what I thought I was capable of is a mere drop of water in the ocean compared to what the God of all grace can pour in to you to accomplish beyond your wildest dreams. Have great confidence in Him who shall never fail you.

One day you will stand before such an awesome sight that infinitely transcends all of earth’s breathtaking beauties; what we see here are mere shadows of the Glory to be revealed; we shall see and behold HIM Who made all things.

 

Posted on October 13, 2019, in ♣ Devotional and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Well you had us right up there with you 🙂

  2. Reblogged this on Welcome to Poetry Cottage and commented:
    An amazing and encouraging read from a dear fellow blogger … Never Give Up.

  3. Wow! Thank you so much for sharing this amazing challenge, your victory through the many trials, and the Christian analogies. So glad you shared the video too! What an amazing accomplishment. Congratulations.

    • Thank you. Being the first time writing about that event, I wanted to relate that to our walk as Christians. There are climbers out there who have achieved incredible goals, but I’ve had little tasters that’s opened my eyes to this pursuit.

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