Taking the Plunge
‘Click.’ For the third time this morning I pull up the webpage. A towering peak fills my computer screen. Sheer cliffs of scarred rock line its face while bands of ice and snow try to cling to its jagged flanks. A snow packed ridge leads in from the left, seemingly the only access route to the top.
Once again I imagine myself roped up, ice axe in hand, topping out on that ridgeline and walking across the roof of South America.
'Click.’ I close it up.
Leaning back in the warmth and comfort of my office, I imagine the possibilities. It would be three adventurous weeks in Argentina: seeing the sights, experiencing the culture, and most of all, climbing in those mountains. Just thinking about it gives me butterflies. However, this isn’t the first time I’ve contemplated a trip to Mendoza and an attempt on Aconcagua. Out on the trail, my hiking buddy and I have been talking about it for years.
“Wouldn’t it be great to spend weeks out here?” I would interject as we slurp up our Mountain House, freeze-dried delicacies. Camping for just a night or two just never seems long enough. Plus, familiarity breeds contempt. The Chugach Mountains that tower over our hometown of Anchorage, Alaska, once seemed full of adventure; now we long for something more. “We should go on some epic trek.”
Then, the next day as we crest the summit of a seven thousand foot peak, JR would look across a panorama of rock and snow and ice, spread his arms wide and declare, “I love this. We need to get into some seriously high mountains. Let’s go somewhere big.” And that’s what began the discussions about signing up for a guided trip deep in the Andes.
Located in western Argentina, near the Chilean border, Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the western and southern hemispheres. It dominates the sky west of Santiago, Chile's capital city, and is visible from the Pacific coast, 100 miles away. Although not a highly technical climb, glacier travel and mountaineering skills are required. Standing 22,841’ high, it is a serious endeavor and something that requires focused training, diligent preparation, and careful execution.
The commitment level is, of course, what has taken me so long to decide. Once I sign up, I will be pledging a significant amount of money, spending many days training, and devoting tons of energy towards my preparation; and that’s just to have a chance at a summit bid. Yet no matter how much I try to dismiss it as some far-flung, hair-brained scheme, I can’t seem to shake it. More and more I’m realizing that I either have to come up with something new to dream about, or finally take the plunge.
In some ways, our journey of faith is very similar. We can feel God out there and imagine Him. We can do our due diligence and study the facts about His existence. We can ponder and talk with our friends until we’re blue in the face. But at some point we’ve got to say yes. We’ve got to turn it from a dream into a reality, turn it from an idea that we’ve mulled over in our heads a hundred times into something that is a part of our lives. Really, when it comes down to that proverbial leap of faith, at some point a decision must be made. I know that I don’t want to turn around one day and realize that life simply ran its course without me because I couldn’t decide to turn one way or the other. I don’t want to float along, rudderless in the cultural currents of the day. Sometimes, however, I need a little shove.
Donald Miller in his book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story, talks about the merits of an “inciting incident.” This is an event that serves as a doorway through which we cannot return. Like blurting out “I love you,” it is something we can’t take back and changes us forever. We consciously give ourselves a push by creating a situation that we know will move our lives in a better direction. Sitting here this morning, I know I have to create an “inciting incident” in order to push Aconcagua into a reality. As soon as I put money down and tell all my friends I’m doing it… there will be no turning back.
‘Click,’ open up the website.
'Click,’ find the Aconcagua trip.
‘Click,’ submit deposit $1,500, press enter.
“Are you sure you want to sign up for Aconcagua trip for a non-refundable deposit of $1,500?"
'Click,' "Yes, I am.”
Almost immediately things come into focus. It feels good to have given myself some direction. Now I’ve got to train; now I've got to test my gear; now I’ve got to be ready. I am excited. I will call JR and tell him I’ve signed up and that there’s no turning back. My “incident” will cause his “incident,” and pretty soon we’ll be hiking through the Andes with expedition packs on our backs and our eyes on the summit.
There will definitely be no backing out on my buddy, or worse, not being ready and somehow hindering him from realizing his dream of standing on the highest peak outside of the Himalayas. Nope, now I’m committed, and it feels great.