One More Mountain

Last night as we lay in bed, clean and safe, I asked Tony why he grabbed me and kissed me in the headlights of the rescue vehicle. He answered confidently,
“Because I didn’t think we’d make it”.

Some of you may recognize this from a blog I posted 5 years ago right after our 45th anniversary.  We’d just climbed, with almost disastrous results, our favorite mountain in Japan; Myoko San, as we had done on numerous anniversaries before.
It’s rather long, but if you have time, I’ll post it again today and you can grab a cup of coffee and have an exciting read.
The reason I was thinking about it recently, was that our 50th was somewhat like that climb.  We didn’t almost die and we didn’t have to call a rescue vehicle, but it a lot of ways, it was the same kind of “grueling”.
We had SO MUCH FUN!  True, we’d planned this ‘event’ for about 6 months, and the execution was not unlike launching a space shuttle or separating conjoined twins, of which I have no right of comparison.  But suffice it to say that it was a LOT of work and we could never have gotten it done without so many of you.  I can’t thank you enough, from my kids to all the relatives and near relatives that rolled up sleeves and pitched in.
Some wanted to ‘reflect’ on where we went wrong, but I told them it was of no interest to me because we’re NEVER doing it again.  Just like that mountain, we’re never revisiting it again!
And the “take away” that we’re left with from all the celebrations of party and cruise, is that both Tony and I are hearts full of gratitude.  We can’t imagine anything better than the blessing of 50 years together, beautiful children and grandchildren and sooo many friends. God has been overwhelmingly good to us.
Next week I want to propose a new tack I want to take (more ramblings no doubt), so we’ll see.  For now just enjoy the memories if you have time and we’ll see you next week!  Marsha

From August 10, 2014:

So where to begin.  Beautiful day, two small packs FULL of snacks, rice balls and water, best shape we’ve ever been in, sunny and 8:00AM.  We sail onto the trail with joyful abandon, even though within minutes my old comfortable tennis shoes blow a tread.  No worries, Tony’s penknife takes off the offending bit and we’re back on track. We pass up a water source because we have half bottles and are confidant that there will be more up ahead  (Mistake #1).  We get to the first intersection of trails at 12 PM, 2 hours slower than usual, but hey, we’re 64 and 66. By now my phone has died because it got stuck on camera mode in my back pocket.  The map was on that phone, but no worries. We’ve climbed this mountain so many times it’s like an old friend.

At the next split, we don’t find water, but it’s not too hot.  Cache one pack with snacks and the rest of the water to lighten the load (Mistake #2) and push on to the summit.

Rain begins to sprinkle, but we’re good.  Stop to ‘discuss’ throwing away the summit but I’m reluctant to give in.

Tony says, “Well, I won’t say quit unless we hear thunder”…… I’m not kidding, the words are not out of his mouth when lightning cracks and thunder rolls right overhead. Tony ponders whether imminent death is worse than resentful wife (Mistake #3). We decide to go ahead only as far as the chains, because hey, that would be dangerous in lightning! Remarkably, within about 20 minutes the sun comes out beautiful so we continue on, with inflated chests of victory.

We make the summit at 2:45.  A little late but that’s because we missed the trail at one point and ventured onto a cliff face not meant for people like us (Mistake #4).

Now we turn around and begin the descent in earnest, knowing that we’re thirsty and running behind time.  We get to the junction and the cached pack is GONE!   Alas, we remember the exuberant gang of junior high school boys we had met and also remember that ‘boys will be boys’ and snacks will turn anyone’s head.  We forgive them but wish they’d left the water.

About 5:30, we’re coming to where we should be seeing the trail to a ski area with a cable car we had planned to ride down. But by now it’s raining so hard the trail has become a log ride. It’s almost impossible to take a step without slipping. We both fall repeatedly and painfully, but by God’s grace are spared anything worse than cuts and bruises.

Eventually we come to a hut, a tiny one-room affair available to hikers.  We see that every inch is occupied by a large group, but ask if there’s a source of water anywhere. The man leads us about 200 yards down a different path to a spring, then insists that we come back up to the cabin. As we squat in the only space available, the foyer, he makes us coffee, which is better than any Starbucks I’ve ever tasted, then he gives us the facts: It’s at least two more hours to the cable car, which by now has already stopped operating. Since it spans several deep canyons, walking underneath would be impossible.  It will soon be dark and the trail from there on down is even worse. There’s no choice but to stay in the cabin with them.

We consider it, but Tony decides we simply have to go on. We have no food, no blanket and nothing dry to change into. Plus, there’s no place to even sit; and we simply can not stay with these guys, as kind as they are. (Perhaps this was probably our penultimate Mistake #5, leaving the dry hut.).

We head on, against their wishes. They gave us an umbrella (useless except as a hiking stick) and a small woman’s rain jacket, asking that we leave them at the bottom of the cable car the next day, if we made it.

From that point on, an already difficult descent becomes a nightmare. With increasing darkness, we fall more and more, insects came out in droves, biting anywhere we were exposed.

While I’m wearing a garbage bag for a raincoat, Tony tries the borrowed small ladies coat for awhile but since the hood is the only thing that covers anything on his girth, we swap bag (which fits him nicely) for coat.  (He’s using his garbage bag to keep the phone dry) By this time we’ve had a couple of phone calls from the B&B owner where we were to stay the night. He’s worried about us.

The trail is horrible, just as predicted.  I also try whistling when I remember all the hikers today wearing “bear bells” (Apparently bears don’t like to be surprised). But I have to give that up as my lips are too wet.

There are ropes and chains to hold on to from time to time.  I’m following Tony, mildly relieved now that it’s too dark to see down the precipice where we could fall, but all the while BEGGING him not to fall.  Of course we both know from experience that falling is not a voluntary choice. Once I fell down standing still, the mud is that slick.  At least the lightning has subsided.

I begin to wonder about the big things.  SO many of our friends have recently faced challenges, including two this week, where they have either lost a mate or almost.  (I guess it’s our age that is beginning to bring these experiences into focus).  We juxtaposition for lead on the trail, depending on who is more stable at the time, but either way, if Tony went over, he’d not only leave me, which would be beyond devastating, but also he carries the one tiny mag light and the working phone.  Today we can laugh about which would be worse, the loss of HIM or the rescue he represented.  At the time it wasn’t funny at all…..

The phone rings again and we have to let it ring out.  No one can answer it because we’re too wet.  iPhones depend on skin contact and if there’s water between……. Finally it rings again and we’ve found a bit of hanky in some far nether-region and dry a finger off enough to make contact.  It’s our B&B guy and he tells us he’s called the authorities and they’ll meet us on the ski slope in a 4WD, if we can just get that far.

We stop to thank God and hurry on. Finally we break thru to a ski slope (we can’t find a trail, but we just head downhill).  Within minutes we can see headlights way below, moving slowly. Tony has just face planted again, but he tells me to take the Mag light and try to get the guy’s attention.

It takes at least another half hour to get to where he waits. From out of the darkness we hear a man’s voice, “Woods san desu ka?” No sweeter sound was ever heard. The drive on down to the village is another five miles or so, which had we been walking would have taken the rest of the night, barring the onset of hypothermia, which by now is a distinct possibility.

What can we say, theologically? It should go without saying, but say it we must: God was gracious and spared our lives. But did He warn us back up there on the mountain? I believe He did; but by ignoring the warning, were we being rebellious? Perhaps. How often do we act pig headed, demanding that our selfish wishes are granted?

Well, we got our wish, we made it to the summit.  But I have to wonder if the cuts, sore muscles, bruises and insect-stung swollen eyes we suffer today are not unlike a good switching with a stick.

These last few months before we retire are going to be filled with a lot of goodbyes. Climbing Mt Myoko was one of those, remembering years and years of fun adventures on that mountain.  I think I can say it was a “proper goodbye” but as we exited the rescue vehicle, enervated by our harrowing experience, we thanked the man profusely and said, “Don’t worry, we’ll NEVER be back!”


PS. While we are thanking God for being patient with us, I came across the verse that says it all.  1Kings 20:11, “One who puts on his armor should not boast like the one who takes if off.”

Have a safe and dry week!

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