Wednesday, October 5, 2022


Setbacks. We all experience them. I'm facing one, and I'm not sure about the way forward. As you know, I feel like I have one Alp left in me as a mountaineer. The mountain I've chosen is the 4,027 meter peak called the Allalinhorn in Saas-Fee, near Zermatt. 

It's one of only 82 peaks in the Alps over 4,000 meters. A few years ago I climbed its sister mountain, the Breithorn. Although both peaks are considered relatively "easy" climbs, they cannot be taken lightly. On the Allalinhorn especially, the weather can change on a dime, and the highly glaciated terrain means you will be navigating large crevasses during your climb. There are two main routes to the summit of the Allalinhorn. The first, called the Normalweg (normal route), is the one most commonly used. The route I'm planning on taking with my mountain guide is called the Hohlaubgrat, which is a much more challenging alternative to the normal route. It is mostly a climb on snow and ice, but it has two rocky sections in it. 

Photo of actual rock face. 

To successfully negotiate these rocky sections you need to have considerable upper body strength -- which is the main reason I've been spending so much time of late doing weight training. I'm finding it exceedingly slow going, and at times I've thought about quitting. Today my trainer at the gym was brutally honest with me when he intimated that unless I can learn how to perform pull ups easily I will probably not have sufficient upper body strength to make it to the summit. He is right, of course, and that is a hard pill to swallow. If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know that I thrive on new challenges and that I definitely do not back down from anything. My philosophy of life has always been, if you keep your eyes on the goal line, and overcome the challenges along the way, you will make it. The problem is that highly motivated athletes tend to be impatient perfectionists. But sometimes we just need to focus more on the texture of our daily lives instead of focusing on the polish. My friend, don't let perfection get in the way of achieving your goals. You need to set perfection aside when you are chasing down your dreams in life. You have to take a negative situation and turn it into a positive one. Difficult alpine conditions -- it's a reality that all mountaineers have to deal with on a regular basis. Training HARD is a big piece of the puzzle. Luck has nothing to do with it. That's why my trainer has me doing tons of lat pulls and pull ups. 

It really comes down to talent, planning, and yes, an off-the-charts work ethic. It is time to do less talking and get to work. 

I'm a big fan of putting your head down, tuning out the noise, and pushing through obstacles as you chase down your goals. I will likely revisit this topic in the coming weeks and months as I continue to train for the Alps. Fitness does not lie! No amount of planning and wishing can overcome a lack of fitness. We can aspire to be tough, especially on the actual ascent, but frankly, the goal is usually achieved during the 90 percent of the time you spent in training. 

I am beyond excited even to think about the possibility of actually climbing the Allalinhorn, but I fully realize that the stepping stones along the way are just as important as making it to Saas Fee next year. For me, today's "setback" (reality check) was a moment in time to stop, look at myself in the mirror, and ask, "Am I honestly doing everything in my training to achieve the desired outcome?" Remember: no one can do the work for you. That's why the Scriptures have a lot to say about perseverance. That's also why we are not to run from our setbacks. They are there to teach us how to reach our God-given goals. 

So ... best wishes to you. Not only for your future successes. But for your future setbacks. May these adverse times be outrageously joyful because you know it's at these very moments that Christ's strength moves in on your weaknesses.