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Backpacking with the SaintsWilderness Hiking as Spiritual Practice$
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Belden C. Lane

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199927814

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199927814.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 24 June 2021

Failure: Mt. Whitney and Martin Luther

Failure: Mt. Whitney and Martin Luther

10 (p.127) Failure: Mt. Whitney and Martin Luther
Backpacking with the Saints

Belden C. Lane

Oxford University Press

There are times on the trail when you have to turn back. Nothing is more discouraging. Maybe you’ve done something stupid, like losing the map. Changing weather conditions may have made it dangerous or foolhardy to go any further. Maybe your gear is soaking wet or the black flies have become unbearable. Sometimes you simply don’t have it in you to go on. Whatever brings you to that point, you admit defeat and grudgingly head back toward the trailhead. Yet there are times when not reaching one’s goal on a pack trip may be even better than having done so. At least that’s what I’ve always told myself about my failure to climb Mt. Whitney. It was my second year at seminary in California. My roommate Eric and I wanted to cap off our previous trips into the Sierra Nevada by hiking the highest peak in the lower forty-eight. We had made mistakes on earlier hikes, as we would on this one. That’s always easy to do in the Sierras. One afternoon on an earlier trip, for instance, we’d been returning to our base camp on the High Sierra Trail when we got tired of the interminable switchbacks. We decided to take a “shortcut” down through the rocks. But within ten minutes we were in trouble, facing a level of rock-climbing for which we weren’t prepared. We soon were separated, each of us fearing the other had fallen as we heard rock tumbling in the distance, then nothing but silence. Hours later we stumbled onto each other on the trail in the dark far below, grateful to be alive—knowing how foolish we had been. That’s what wilderness does for you, says Gary Snyder. It lets you make all the mistakes you need in order to get where you’re really going. The trail we took up Mt. Whitney, peaking at 14,505 feet, was a grueling one. The average elevation gain is 550 feet a mile, though the altitude makes it seem twice that. But the beauty is incredible. Hidden lakes appear and disappear on the winding trail.

Keywords:   God, Mountains, Sufi spirituality, Twelve-Step work, fear, perfectionism, sin, vulnerability

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