There is something special about Mount Shasta and mountains in general. All through time people have sought out “high places” as a challenge and to build their various altars. Many times God gave His people mountain-top experiences to inspire them for their lives down below.
Mountains allure, elevate, challenge, reward, humble—they build men
Boys ascend mountains and come down to lead as men
The last year has given me a lot of opportunity to consider such mountain-top experiences: our family trekked to Everest Base Camp in the fall and then I just summited Mount Shasta with our son last week. Hours of climbing brings introspection and one thing I considered is our family’s “vision”—especially in relation to raising men.
#highaltitudefamily in Nepal
Our family is a #highaltitudefamily on Instagram, representing our “high” priorities: faith, hard work and adventure. Mountains are a frequent presence in our family’s goals—goals My Man began to establish with the birth of our first son.
As we worked out the kinks in our early marriage, I began to understand the importance of making My Man’s priorities my priorities. It is a daily, intentional effort—but I can thankfully look back and see the great rewards from all the times we managed to be on the “same page”.
Mt. Shasta 2013
My husband used to work away from home for weeks or a month at a time, and I often told the boys: “keep Dad’s wishes in mind even though he isn’t here”.
In this way I raised up confident mountain climbers even while My Man was away—I wore out their bodies with work and outdoor play, while allowing for quiet minds that were anchored in God’s Word.
Not busied with busyness, busy television and busy video games.
Being of one mind with my husband, and with God, set a dependable foundation, an anchor—from there we could confidently explore the world around us and meet challenge head-on.
Keeping boys in a sheltered, artificial environment only fosters fear and gives them an artificial idea of God. Instead, give them challenge and a real view of the world so that they will seek shelter in a real God.
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty
Shadows of Mount Shasta
Mount Shasta has been part of our family’s vision for raising men. My Man and I summited Mount Shasta with our oldest son, and our firefighting friends, in 2013.
JH, who was twelve at the time, calls that experience one of the biggest challenges he has ever faced.
It is no wonder—poor kid! We left Bunny Flat at midnight, summited at 10:30 am, and were back at the truck by 4:30 pm! Talk about torture. We had followed poor advice at Red Banks and glissaded from there in icy conditions. That was a bad experience and we were fortunate not to have been critically injured. I’m not sure which was worse, though, the icy glissading, or the slow, knee-killing descent.
Soon the torture was mostly forgotten and we were all exhilarated with the accomplishment. Mount Shasta’s unmarred, striking beauty had left its impression.
John Muir spoke our feelings, he visited Mount Shasta a dozen times:
The slight weariness of the ascent was soon rested away
JH, age twelve, resting on the summit of Mount Shasta 2013
Why Mount Shasta?
We live within 80 miles of it’s grandeur and lure, described perfectly in this Joaquin Miller quote that I included in my historical fiction:
Stern constancy with stars, to keep, eternal watch while eons sleep;
To tower proudly up and touch God’s purple garment-hems that sweep
The cold blue north! Oh, this were much!
Mount Shasta is definitely a towering, impressive site in the entire north state—so is it taunting us to attempt a climb? Or are we adventure junkies always looking for our next fix?
The first time I remember really looking at Mt. Shasta was when my mom and brother left to climb it in July of 1988. At the time I didn’t quite understand the feat they were undertaking, but it did start to sink in that my family had adventure in their bloodlines.
While they were climbing I was testing my own endurance in a 50 mile bike race in Modoc County. It was strange, peddling away, taking in the view of Mount Shasta, knowing my mom and brother were up there somewhere. We were each on our own journey.
Each on a personal journey
So can we explain it away as “adventure in the bloodlines” or call adventurers “adrenaline addicts”? We can try, but I believe the reason people climb mountains is much deeper.
We were designed for close encounters with our Maker
God designed us with an innate craving for the outdoors—it’s there whether people acknowledge it or not—for in the outdoors we can experience Him.
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
From that verse we learn it is His nature we experience outdoors, not the “nature” humans have turned into a god. Many go on outdoor adventures not recognizing that their need for the outdoors is actually their need for God. They build “altars” of their own kind—the thrill of victory short-lived.
So that is one approach: the short-lived adrenaline rush of victory that gradually turns into the “now what?”
Another approach is the soul-filling experience of recognizing, and closely interacting with, God’s magnificent creation. It isn’t a “now what?” but a “I want more of that!”
John Muir would agree, recognizing His Creator and going out to
Study the inventions of God
Every crystal, every flower a window opening into heaven, a mirror reflecting the Creator
With KH, age fifteen, on Mount Shasta’s summit 2018
Presenting challenges and opportunities for our boys helps them encounter God personally. God brought Moses, Abraham, Peter, James, John and others to mountain-tops for personal encounters. These interactions gave them the needed inspiration for what was ahead.
It may be hard for some to physically reach a mountain peak, but even a trip out the front door, into a natural setting, can be inspirational. If one can’t walk for hours in meditation, they can instead rest in a place of beauty and solitude. Luke 5:16:
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed
John Muir explained the need for withdrawing to quieter places:
Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home, that wilderness is a necessity.
“Over-civilized” people find calm in the uncivilized
One way My Man keeps us on track with our family vision is to send me into the uncivilized with the kids. “Why don’t you guys go find that remote lake and camp for a couple of days?” or “KH wants to climb Mount Shasta but I don’t think I can get away.”
That may sound comical but, the truth is, I don’t mind and he knows it. From other posts you should know by now how much I like to wander and frolic in the outdoors.
I won’t lie, though, there were some worried thoughts and fear that crept in during the days before our recent ascent; the man we rented our crampons and ice axes from didn’t mince words:
Be careful, car-sized boulders have been known to go crashing down Shasta
I hadn’t heard that one before!
The first time, in 2013, I was hit with a good-sized icy, snowball that flew down the mountain without warning. On this trip it took our breath away to hear people above us yelling, “rocks, rocks”, with it being too dark to see where exactly the rocks were.
I hope they aren’t car-sized!
We also had huge chunks of ice whiz between us with no warning.
We rose above fears
I believe those brief moments of worry and fear are healthy as long as we don’t obsess over them; they help us to examine ourselves and to realize the brevity of life. Statistically, the 60 total deaths on Mount Shasta is much less than the number of deaths on the Interstate just below it.
Statistics or no statistics, God is still in control, and our kids know it.
It is always healthy to take to heart that God is the only giver and taker of life. Deuteronomy 32:39:
There is no god beside me. I put to death and I bring to life.
KH and I considered the dangers and then planned our trip. We chose the Avalanche Gulch route that our group took in 2013, except this time we would camp one night at Lake Helen for acclimating and rest. Lake Helen was without creature comforts, but I was glad for the adventure. KH took on the challenge of snow camping, even making ice-melt coffee for me at 2:00 am. Thank you God for this man-child you have lent us.
Misery Hill lived up to its name, but altogether our ascent wasn’t too bad. We witnessed a glorious sunrise and summited at 7:30 am.
KH led the way glissading on our descent—starting below Red Banks this time. I still ended up with bruises, but the powdery conditions were close to perfect—shaving hours off our descent.
Opportunity to man-up on a mountain gives boys a vision of bravery—bravery they will need to live as men who are willing to give up their lives for others—the kind of man who won’t shy away from providing for their families and who will be courageous defenders-of-their-faith.