Lesson from the Mountain Top
“This can’t be the way,” I said out loud as I peered down over the edge of the mountain face at the jagged rocks 50 feet below. “Head back the way we came." It’s amazing how quickly your confidence fails when you realize one little misstep and you could get seriously injured or die.
“In what sane world do people do this,” muttered Lucas, the boy closest to me, as he hugged tight to the mountain while carefully choosing where to place his hands and feet. Our single file line slowly edged back the way we came.
Things Looked Different in Real Life
Our little band of seven climbers, which consisted my wife, her brother, our two teenage boys and a couple of their good friends had made it to “Chicken Out Ridge”, the infamous part of the Mount Borah ascension where about half of the climbers turn back. In our own party we had lost two already—my daughter and father in law about 15 minutes earlier. At the beginning of the ridge you are standing at 11,500 feet elevation, which is twice the elevation of Bogus Basin. Helicopters (with the exception of specialized military equipment) can't fly this high for rescues, so get hurt up here and you are in big trouble. The climb was scarier than I had anticipated. I had watched Youtube videos and read the official website on how to cross the ridge. But things looked different in real life.
After double backing, we attempted to find another way up the mountain. “Why don’t they label the stupid path up here?” I thought to myself. The path leading up to Chicken Out Ridge had been well marked and traveled. But now we were on a rock face and the path had all but disappeared.
“We definitely don’t want to go this way,” said my oldest son, Palmer. He was perched on top of a boulder about 10 feet above our party. It’s a 100-foot drop over this ledge.
My wife started to panic as our two teen boys searched bravely (or carelessly depending on how you look at it) for a way over the mountain ridge we were on. “Dallin, come down from there and get behind your dad. I think this is as high as we need to go."
A Welcomed Demonstration
While we clung to the rocks trying to decide whether continue or to head back, we saw a group of four men coming back from the other direction. They effortlessly shuffled across a little path we hadn’t noticed before, wished us good luck, and easily descended the mountain below us.
After seeing somebody cross Chicken Out Ridge using the correct path, the fear we had all been feeling seemed to lesson considerably. Our group, now led by my wife’s brother and the oldest teens, easily and quickly crossed the ridge. While on the now-identified-trail over the ridge, I looked below me and my confidence grew. If I fell from here, it was only a 10 or 15-foot drop. You would get hurt from a fall, but not seriously. It wasn’t like the 50+ foot drops we had been looking at earlier.
After making it across the rest of the ridge, we continued up the mountain and an hour later found ourselves at the highest point in Idaho—12,662 feet to be exact. The experience was fun and challenging.
The Need for Live Training
“There’s a lesson in training here,” I thought later that day as we descended the mountain. Oftentimes in life we get “stuck” as we head into territory we haven’t been before. Whether at work, school, or in the home we will sooner or later encounter a scenario we haven’t seen before. Many times we can figure things out by trial and error. However, some circumstances don’t lend well to trial and error—like trying to make your way across a dangerous mountain ledge.
Seeking training, coaching, or mentoring from somebody who has “been there, done that” can eliminate or lesson fear and mistakes that oftentimes come from trying to figure it out on our own. In our case, the teachers were the four individuals coming back the other way. Their brief, live, 3-minute demonstration was all the training we needed to successfully complete our journey.
In your journey (whatever that may be) make sure you are taking advantage of training available to you. Books and videos can be very helpful—we all know that. But sometimes what you really need is to have somebody say, "Put your foot here," and it makes all the difference. Whether you are completing an IT project, managing a team for the first time, using a new piece of software, or even trying to climb a mountain, seek out training from instructors and mentors who have “crossed the ridge” already. You will thank yourself on the other side.