The last day of the hike

The trails blend in my memory. We’ve had high highs and low lows. Metaphorically and literally. 

This morning we woke up more rested than I expected. The large shared room had double beds separated by a thin wood board. We even had a window above us  that stayed open all night. 

 This style rooms are called “lager” which is the name for the camps the nazi placed the persecuted groups of people. 

So we spent five nights in lagers after hiking 6-10 hours each day, carrying 10-15 kg backpacks. I am not sure what we are training for but I would trust this group in an extreme situation where we would have to run for our lives through wilderness. 

Today was the longest hike. And I did not think it could beat yesterday’s maddening two hikes in one day with 900 m descent followed by another 1000 m ascent. 

It made me cry. By the end I thought I won’t make it. We all ran out of water, and the climb back up was steady and steep. And seemingly never ending. We saw some large sheep, beautiful cows, marmots that roamed the plaines, goats that followed us on the trail. These animals are free, happy, well fed, and quite confident in their identity and rights. 

We also have seen each other at our very bottom. Our patience was worn thin by the physical and mental strain. But we kept it together as best as we could. If someone is grumpy and I know I didn’t cause it, I don’t take it personally. I give them space. 

We all had burdens we carried. And we all has different strengths to endure the strain. 

It was bizarre to see strong people be on the verge of tears, due to pain. Including me. 

We were together every second, or so it seemed. Like summer camp. And now, as we arrived at the base of the mountain, listening to the rain, thunder and lightning, knowing that tomorrow morning early we don’t need to brave the elements only with a thin raincoat and cross the alps on foot, it is quite comforting, relaxing. Unfamiliar. 

I think we need a few days to process what just happened. We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. Expert level trails, with proper bouldering and climbing skills necessary. A sharp mind, agility in fast decisions, good balance, upper body strength. Did I mention that three of our fellow hikers are around 70 years old? We felt confident that if they can do it, we can do it. They showed us off. Steady, calculated, sharp and stubborn. We did it together though. The quiet ones got the chance to shine, to show the depths of their altruism, empathy, strength. 

If we were ever tempted to judge, to be annoyed, this experience humbled us in healing ways. 

Two father figures. Two men from across the world. They show up and they affirm the hearts of a group of children who are adults in their own rights. With love, patience, grace. With humor and generosity. 

We meet, not with insignificant effort, and we love each other. But not from our own will and by our own merits. There is something greater that brings us together. The cross, the grace of Jesus forgiving us all when we didn’t deserve it, the knowledge that we are sons and daughters because we accepted Jesus as savior and son of God. 

The Bible we all treasure and which brings us together to study and reflect on, wrestle with and feed from together. I am nearly 4 decades old and being a believer has fulfilled my life more than I can say, and the boundaries it has set in my life were all for my own benefit and safety and abundant life. 

All my life I’ve heard that a practicing Christian life is dull and limiting. But my experience is quite the contrary. 

Just like many may look at our crazy adventure in the Alps and shake their heads.  But the exercise, the testing of our strengths, mental fitness, the camaraderie, the views we saw, the prayers we uttered together, you can’t quite explain it in such a way to convince someone that this was amazing, unless they are willing to hear you and to believe you. 

This adventure is not for everyone. Without any prior preparation. We also had to buy the right equipment, shoes and backpacks especially, so our feet and shoulders could have the best chance. They all hurt anyway, but they didn’t blister. 

I am still high on adrenaline from the day. Going to bed soon. And we will not hike tomorrow. I hope our muscles won’t cramp or freak out due to the sudden day of rest.