lessons learned climbing a volcano

We had an incredible time climbing the Iztaccihuatl volcano yesterday. (Here you can read a blog my husband wrote about the volcano legend.) It was a demanding ascent through the snow to over 16,000 feet elevation. I learned some important lessons from the experience; I don’t want to forget them because I believe they are relevant to so much of life and leadership.

  • push beyond the comfort zone

This kind-of hike is not a normal everyday activity for anyone in our group. It was difficult – physically and emotionally… legs hurt; lungs ached; wet and cold harassed; nausea and headaches assailed, fear attacked; exhaustion was real. However, at the end, even those who had suffered most claimed it was a (horribly) awesome experience.

Isn’t it true that we often get to great achievement only through agonizing struggle? There is something very satisfying about pushing through the challenge to accomplish something worthwhile. Where can I push myself beyond my comfort zone to a greater challenge…physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally, intellectually?

  •  prepare and take care

Without a doubt, previous exercise routine, warm wool and polyurethane clothing, and hiking quality boots made the climb easier. Extra socks, hats and gloves came in handy, as did the lemon-grass tea and the Ibuprofen and Excedrin tablets. It was also important to drink plenty of water and re-apply sunscreen throughout the day. (I learned this hard lesson last year – I paid a heavy price in sore muscles due to dehydration.)

It makes no sense to take on a big challenge unprepared. Strengthening ahead of time and planning well means I am ready for the test and can even support others. How am I training today for tomorrow’s challenges? What can I do better prepare for the future?

  • go with others

During the day we talked, laughed, took pictures and praised God’s creation together. All along the climb, different people battled seriously with fatigue, cold, fear, altitude sickness, and pain while others took turns to encourage each next step, accompany those who needed rest, help and protect on the treacherous slopes, share food/medicine/clothing supplies, and celebrate and rejoice at each milestone. I was so proud of those who persevered when it was tough and of those who served when others were weak. We made an incredible memory and “bonded” because of what we went through together.

I would never consider attempting a climb like that alone, and I was so impressed by the support and camaraderie offered that enabled others to achieve more than they could by themselves.  I need that kind of team in all areas of my life. Who encourages me? And who am I helping to accomplish what they could never do alone?

What have you learned from a challenging experience? Are you ready for the next one?