Alpine Failure and Second Chance

Austria Travel Blog

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Gerlos

I got up that day in Gerlos, an Austrian village high in the Alps.  My knees still ached some from daily hikes up and down the mountains. My goal for the day was to hike the highest mountain in the area, the Kreuzjoch berg. I spent these hikes alone, looking for God in nature, hoping he would reveal himself to me. I drove to Zell am Ziller, a town in the valley and took a gondola up the hill, past the farms on the hillside. I thought this was cheating some, but it was the only way up the first leg of the hike.  There was a second gondola that went further up and then ski lifts thereafter that were closed at that time of year, but i declined the second ride and started up the mountain.

Gerlos
  I walked an hour and was still in farming country and met two old men sitting by the path.  I asked for directions as I didn't have a map and they pointed out what turned out to be the wrong way.  But I found my way and started up past the tree line.

Instead of focusing on God, I focused on breathing as the air was thin for me at 8000 feet.  Then the knees starting hurting again, maybe I should have rested a day, I don't know.  I wanted to feel spiritual, but nothing was there for me.  I ascended higher past the highest ski lift and stopped at an Alpine pond and admired the valley below.  The valley was dotting with buildings, but looked like specks of red from that altitude. 

A cross marked the summit along a ridge about a half kilometer away and about 30 meters higher.
Gerlos
I went alittle further and talked myself out of going the rest of the way to the summit.  I gave up, period. I convinced myself that I was too tired and hurt too much. About half way down the mountain I stopped and realized my failure.  The symbolism was so strong it slapped me in the face. Instead of turning to God to strenghten me and help me to the summit, the cross at the top, I quit and did what I wanted and scurried down the mountain like a weakling, a coward, a sorry excuse for a man, a sinner. I wanted to turn around and go back, but it was too late in the day to make another ascent.

I headed back to Gerlos with my tail between my legs, disgusted with myself and my weakness. I wanted another chance. Licking my wounds and stripped up any pride, I looked at the map and found another mountain, the Kirchspitze, translated the church peak.

Gerlos
I decided to redeem myself, the symbolism of the name was not lost on me.

The next day I started hiking towards up the mountains.  The first leg was through a thick forest.  God was always in my mind. I quoted verses from the Bible to inspire me, and when i said the one from Genesis that says "let there be light", the sun broke through the clouds and forest canopy and shone on me.  A sign at last. I climbed higher above the tree line and made it to the first peak, the Arbiskogel. I was tired and breathless but could see the cross atop the Kirchspitze in the distance. 

I refused to quit this time, asking God to help me to the top, to keep me safe, to keep me alive.  I climbed on slowly and finally reached the top after some time. The simple wooden cross to mark the summit towered over me.
Alpen peaks stood imposing in every direction. A glacier was to the south. I found peace. I wasn't a man, I wasn't the body called Jon.  I was an invisible spirit, part of the beauty of God's creation near the clouds. No one knew I was there, I could have been carried away into heaven and no would would know. I felt good and at peace.

There was a steel box attached to the cross.  In side was a journal that people wrote in.  People from all over. I saw only a few from the States. I wrote my thoughts and made my mark in the book.  And headed back down. 

I decided to take the trail down the back side of the mountain. When I reached the tree line there was no trail.  The trial I was to take had been destroyed by a logging road that crisscrossed up the mountain.
  I asked God to help and lead me off the mountain, I started down with a now useless map.  The Lord got me off that mountain and I took a dirt road back to civilization. Farmers stared at me, thinking me a fool I think for not knowing the trail was closed. Near the end there was a wooden shrine with Christ hanging on the cross, and I stopped and prayed.  I wasn't tired and my knees didn't hurt anymore, and I slept that night in peace with the spirit of God giving me comfort.

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