As some of you who know me knows that I am an avid beginner rock climber. I picked up the passion for doing the absurd thing of scaling vertical rocks last fall. Well, I began this journey of scaling rocks at an outcrop of rocks that is widely known on the East Coast as Seneca Rocks.
As you can see from the above picture, there are two peaks on Seneca Rocks. The North Peak (Left) and the South Peak (Right). From the ground, it is easy to see that you are able to hike up to the North Peak, but you must climb to get to the South Peak. The South Peak is the only peak on the East Coast (east of the Mississippi) that you cannot hike to, you must climb to it. This is what of course makes climbing the South Peak so appealing for many climbers. I have gotten a little ahead of myself here, let me back up now to say this rock is where my days of rock scaling began. It was on the North Peak (the higher of the two actually), that last fall my friend Ethan and his wife Melissa, took Jackie and I on our first climbing adventure. Nothing to brag about or too hard, but definitely an eye opener to the vertical world that is out there. We top-roped the north peak, which means that you go to the top and set your anchor first and then climb up. However, since my time on that North Peak, I have had an itching to try out my new love on the South Peak with an experienced Trad Lead Climber. This is someone who places your protection in the rock as you go up.
Above are some stoppers that you would place in the cracks of rocks and serve as a piece of equipment that would stop a fall if your lead climber were to fall. So anyways, this was/has been my dream since I began my climbing last year as I looked from the North Peak over to the South Peak.
The day had finally come. This past week my friend Ethan, his Dad – Lester Zook (experienced lead Climber and owner of Wild Guyde Adventures), and myself journeyed to the South Peak of Seneca Rocks. However, before I get to the actual climbing, I would like to simply take a moment and reflect on the hike. Seneca Rocks is a 900 foot above the valley fin of rocks. The hike to the base of this fin is a 600 foot hike, while the rock climbing is 300 feet. This hike is up is where I begin to spiritually reflect on my journey up these rocks. We had made it about 3/4 of the way up a very steep incline. Each step is about 18 inches tall, compared to the steps in a house which normally is about 8 inches tall. Trust me, an extra 10 inches makes all the difference. As we rested about 3/4 of the way up, my heart was not able to pump the required oxygen to my head and so I began to get dizzy. I looked over at the Zook’s and mentioned my lightheadedness. They invited me to sit on a rock that looked like it had been sat in many times before by worn out hikers. I sat down and sure enough I became dizzier, but then added another symptom (trouble breathing). Ethan and Lester both have their WFR (Wilderness First Responder), an EMT equivalent in the outdoors. About a minute goes by when they decide to take my pack and rope off me to allow me to breathe easier. A minute had passed when I had gone to my hands and knees trying to get oxygen to my head and yet another symptom came, cold sweats. I was on the verge of passing out and I hadn’t even made it to the rocks yet. Ethan came over and said to me, “Josh, you alright man?” With my rather quick reply, “No, I am not. I just want this to stop.” Ethan laid me out flat on my back and put my feet up about 1 foot and half on some rocks, and finally RELIEF! Within less than a minute I was beginning to feel stable again. Within two minutes, I was back up on my feet ready to go again. I profusely apologized as I was ashamed that I had just made this little scene. Lester comforted me and said that it was just a minor heart issue, where my enthusiasm overcame my limitations. As we began to walk up the trail again for the last little part of this hike, I began to reflect on my experience down below. “A heart problem? Me?” is what I began to think in my head. And then it dawned me, the passage from Deuteronomy 6:5, “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart…” What if my heart is weak, and doesn’t sufficiently do the job that it was meant to do because of my lack of care for it? Many normally take this passage of heart to mean with all of your love and devotion. But the passage continues, “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” All of your might, with all of the strength that is in you. Your strength relates to the abilities your body is able to withstand against exterior forces (gravity, weight), maybe it could even mean to be your spiritual body withstanding the exterior spiritual forces (demons, temptations, greed). However, it dawned on me as I trudged up the rest of this mountain to the base of these rocks, “if I am unable to take care of this body, then how am I going to serve God to my fullest potential?” This was not a new revelation for me, but rather one that I mulled over for some time in Seminary. But this was the first time for me that I ever saw myself “not fit” for an adventure. When your heart begins to fail you, and your strength is weak due to your lack of taking care of your own body, it begins to make a whole different take on these famous words that Jesus declared was the greatest of all the commandments.
Finally, the hiking was over and we were at the base of our climb. Lester went over some of the basics of Trad Multi-Pitch climbing. Trad climbing refers to the use of placing your own protection. Multi-pitch means that you are going to climbing more than one rope’s length up (a pitch). A rope is normally about 60 meters or about 196 feet. The climb that we were doing was going to be about 3 pitches (not straight vertical though). What I mean by this was that we were going to be going side to side a little. This might be a good time to show you our route. We took the G.O.P. route. the names of these routes are on the picture, but as you go up from the bottom we began with G to O to P. (NEW NOTE: Added a picture now with the names of the routes beside the highlighted routes.)
As I was climbing these routes to the top, the many verses from the Psalms that spoke about Rocks were echoing through my head. Psalm 18:2 taken probably from 2 Samuel 22:2, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” or maybe the words from Psalm 40:2, “He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.” As one climbs there are some foot holds that you use only but for a second for it is not a secure holding. But there are other times when your foot holds are just spectacular and you feel that you have been set upon the rock and you are able to stop, breathe, and look out over the landscape and just simply be amazed at the creation of God’s world. Another verse that has come to mind since the climb has been 1 Samuel 2:2,” “There is no Holy One like the Lord, no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.”
Samuel, the Psalms, and many other places throughout scripture uses this metaphor of Rock to talk about God. It is often portrayed as God, because rock is immoveable like our God. However, Jesus says something a little bit differently about Rocks, Mountains, and moving. In Matthew 17:20 Jesus says, “He [Jesus] said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of amustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” Again Jesus says in the Gospel of Mark 11:22-26, “Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. ‘Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.'” Jesus talks about a faith of forgiving one another that could move mountains. There is no other rock on this earth that is like or stronger than the Rock of our God. It only takes once to get up on a high mountain, looking around through the valleys surrounding you to realize just how Great and Grandeur is our God.
I would simply like to close with this scripture from the Psalms 27:1-5
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh— my adversaries and foes— they shall stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident. One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock.