That's what my friends kept telling me throughout our snowshoe trek today up the highest mountain in Washington, Mt. Rainier. The grey clouds and snowflakes falling around us hid the majestic peak of this volcanic mountain from our sight. But beyond the veil of clouds rose the mountain peak and a panoramic view of other peaks as well, including a far off Mt. St. Helens. I reassured them of my faith. After admiring this mountain for so long from a distance, I was just happy to finally be standing on it! After all, 2 Cor. 5:7, "We walk by faith and not by sight," right?
When the four of us set out in the early morning, it was pouring rain - not a promising start to the journey. Driving up the mountain, my faith began to waiver as I did not see any snow. Were we going to end up hiking in the rain? But our hardcore leader was undaunted, so we kept hoping.
Near the very top, at the entrance called "Paradise," the rain magically turned into snow within a mile! With gusto we unpacked our gear and began cresting the mountain one hill at a time. We’d say hello to fellow passersby and ask, “How is it higher up?” or “How high did you go?” And they’d give us a report, such as “Avoid that one slope over there where the wind is real bad.”
We climbed onward. It was my first snowshoeing experience, as well as my companion Giorgio’s, but our two other companions were pros, making sure we were well outfitted and assisting us in getting our gear on correctly. They’d been up these slopes before and were our guides, while we saw it all for the first time.
“The higher we go, the better we shall hear the voice of Christ,” such were words that a twenty-something Italian outdoorsman had spoken in the 1900s. Crazy about the outdoors, especially mountain climbing, Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati was a vivacious young man who found the mountains a good place to commune with God. His famous phrase was “Verso l’alto” – or “to the top!”
I couldn’t help but think of this saint and wonder if he was with us in spirit as my companion Giorgio pointed and said, “To that tree up yonder!” – just when we were discussing heading back down. It looked a long way off. Could we make it up one last hill? We set our poles in the snow and climbed to the tree, forging our own path through the wet, heavy snow, pushing on until we finally made it up the slope and to the designated tree.
Up here the only sound was the wind humming in the fir trees. “Where else can you go and find such silence?” asked one of my friends. Indeed. The stillness of the snow and the whispering winds quieted our souls. If I inclined my ear to listen to the wind, would I hear the voice of God?
Frassati, the Italian saint, once wrote to a friend: “I left my heart on the mountain peaks, and I hope to retrieve it this summer when I climb Mt. Blanc. If my studies permitted, I would spend whole days on the mountains admiring in that pure atmosphere the magnificence of God.”
I decided that I would come back to this mountain someday - God willing, when the August sun was shining on meadows painted with wildflowers...
Going down was smooth and easy. When we came up, we were as strangers to each other. Now we descended as friends...
Steaming cups of hot cocoa in the lodge finished up the trek, and I felt the warmth of it penetrating through the layers of my soaking-wet clothing to my bones.