Pole to Pole

Psalm 121

Assurance of God’s Protection

A Song of Ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the hills—
    from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time on and forevermore.


A couple of weeks ago my husband and I climbed Mount St. Helen’s.  It’s a long climb and thus there is a decent amount of time to think.  I tend to process best when I’m moving–either driving or running or walking.  I should probably qualify this and say that I mainly let my brain drift through thought on the way up.  On the way down I was just willing myself not to sit down and live out my days in that spot on the mountain. 🙂 Anyway, doing a big hike or climbing a mountain tends to bring me back to thoughts of life and our day to day living.  Whether that is within our family, vocations, within our organizations, or our day to day goals, life can be like climbing a mountain.  Thus, read this in whatever way is best for you.

21231687_1544938445564057_3082376079355046745_nWe began the hike early in the morning before sunrise.  It was a gentle, easy slope and we were able to have light conversation and breathe well.  But after two miles, we left the safety and gentleness of the known path and the green trees.  The sun was now up and shining making our sight more clear, but we could also see the climb would be tough.  Moving out of the trees and into the boulder field brought new challenges.  Some of the steps were easy and small, while some were big and took much more effort.  I said to Jeremy, “The ash between the rocks is hard to walk through.” To which he replied, “It’s going to get a lot harder ahead.”  At one point, between boulders, my feet felt like they were just churning, like on a cartoon: moving but not making any progress with a lot of effort put out to go nowhere. Jeremy came up behind me and told me to plant my feet firmly, find the foothold, and then move forward.  We continued on the boulder field, trying to find the best path, getting banged up a little, and using quite a bit of muscle to move forward uphill.


21270834_10155691374745967_7634656276999711100_nThat path was not specific.  We’d stand back, survey the space ahead, and try to choose the correct path.  Sometimes we’d look left or right and see a better path that someone before us had made…that we weren’t on.  Other times, we seemed to be following a well worn, well known path.  We’d often see beauty peeking out in unexpected places, such as beautiful flowers growing out of the cracks in the rock.


We followed the route via big poles sticking out of the boulder field.  The goal was to keep as close to the poles as possible and not stray too far.  Yet, there were different ways to get from pole to pole as they led to the top of the mountain.

St HelensSpeaking of pole to pole… on a climb there’s always a point when your mind and/or body want to give up.  Mine was in the middle of the boulder field.  I was expending too much energy for the progress being made, I got frustrated, and I started to cry.  Jeremy said to me, “Just work pole to pole.  Go from one to the next and don’t worry about what is beyond the next pole until you get there.”  I knew there was a next pole, I knew getting there would take me higher.  While it was important to look ahead to what lay beyond and see the big picture, it was also good to know what was right in front.  I needed both. My mantra became “pole to pole.”  I’d reach one pole and repeat that to myself, “Pole to pole.  Just go pole to pole.”  I could make it, breaking down the long journey into smaller, more manageable parts.

After the long boulder field, came the last 1/3 of the climb…all on small particles of ash.  It was a process of “just keep moving, put one foot in front of the other.”  It was a “two steps forward, one step back” type of process as well.  I’d plant my foot, push off, and slide back.  It took deliberate focus on the steps and a lot of mental concentration.  If possible, we’d look and hope to find larger rocks underneath to anchor the step and get a better leg up.  And yet, sometimes those big rocks underneath also slid.  It was not easy, but with enough steps we worked our way up the top.

21231245_1544952462229322_7921063696583321420_nThe beauty of climbing is knowing that there’s a big picture out there…bigger than what we can sometimes see.  While I looked in front of me to climb ahead, occasionally I’d pause and look back.  And when I did, I’d see the beauty of the accomplishment AND the beauty of the surrounding spaces…that you could only see by climbing higher and looking behind.

We worked our way up the ash field and as we came near the crater rim suddenly out popped an expanse of beauty that was unexpected.  Mount Rainier loomed in the distance, highlighting the beauty of Spirit Lake.  We could see a new perspective of the mountain on the other side, unknown until we peeked over.  We could look back and see the vastness behind us and the connection of mountain ranges, trails, peaks, and valleys.  We could see clouds that covered some areas and the sun shining through other areas. We climbed alone and we climbed with other groups.  We climbed in silence and we climbed in conversation.  It was all part of the journey.  21191991_1544937922230776_1844621289498398862_n

If I’m honest, I didn’t expect to make it to the top, and I was ok with that, because sometimes it takes more than one try.  Yet, breaking it down into pieces and moving pole to pole, one step at a time, the goal was reached.  It was hard.  There was frustration and there was joy.  There was darkness and there was light.  There were gentle slopes and big boulders that left it’s mark.  There was too much effort put out at certain times and not enough at other times.  There was action and there was time for rest.  Yep, climbing a mountain is like climbing through life.  But we keep going at it, pole to pole, step by step, because P.S…there’s more with each step that we take.


3 thoughts on “Pole to Pole

  1. Wonderful post about the challenges of climbing mount St Helen! I have done a long mountain hike I only made it to just over 13,000 feet. After spending 2 hours waiting for the rest of my group to return I made the decision to hike down myself. For me it was eye opening as I realized that I was no longer able to rely on others in the group to be there for me. That was a big revelation, and despite the fear of falling while climbing down alone I was able to overcome that fear, and accept things for the way they were. I obviously made it down, and while I didn’t make it to that elusive 14,000 feet, I am thrilled to have made it as far as I did, and to have accepted the reality of my situation!

    Shannyn thanks for the post, really amazing that I came across this post at exactly the right moment in time!!

    Miss you my friend!!


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