We May Be In the Ascent of our Lives



In 2011 I hiked with two friends, Mark, and David, to the summit of Kilimanjaro: 19,340 feet/5895 meters. We took 6 days, 4 to summit and 2 to return.


Altitude sickness starts at about 8000 feet (2434 meters). We spent 5 of the 6 days above 8000 feet. The summit assent from Kibo hut at 15,400ft (4700 meters) was the most physically demanding day of my life


This is the point where our guides were checking on us for danger signs. More than once, Stephen, my Tanzanian guide, asked me, “Simba, do you have a headache?” He nicknamed me Simba because of my toughness. If nothing else, it was good for an extra tip. In truth he usually called me papa or father because of my age.


For 4 hours all I could see were the legs of Mark, my hiking partner, directly in front of me. It was dark, I was constantly changing directions, I was tired, and I was confused.


There are a few respites in the dark.


The odds were against me summiting. I had to make a decision – I chose to continue.


Occasionally I lifted my eyes to see Stephen ahead. We were all wearing headlamps except Stephen. “Stephen why aren’t you wearing a headlamp?” I asked. “I know the way, Simba,” (or was it father?) he replied. I’m using two walking sticks, my head is down, my fingers and toes are tingling, I’m praying gibberish in Swahili, and I am too tired talk. Stephen is strolling up the mountain with one hand in his pocket. I am certain of this: my only hope of success lies with Stephen.


What we know today


  • Each of us are ascending

  • The air is thin

  • We are checking for danger signs

  • The odds are against summiting


Trekking has taught me this


  • A Guide is essential when entering new ministries, ventures, experiences: who is your guide?

  • Consider a mentor, spiritual director, specialized expert

  • We do this in community:

  • Who are your fellow trekkers?

  • Are they supportive?

  • Do their values align with yours?

  • Do they want this as bad as you?


* Are you prepared to sacrifice the summit to ensure your fellow trekkers survive, if the ascent to success, the summit endangers them?


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