Posted on October 20, 2011 at 1:45 PM
Saturday, Oct 22 at 8:11 PM
No one said it would be easy. In fact, it's been just the opposite. Grueling is one word to describe it. And we haven't started the climb yet. We begin Thursday. That's when Seattle Union Gospel's Rainier climbing team takes its first steps to what we ALL hope will be the top of the mountain. Photojournalist Doug Burgess and I will climb with them, every step of the way. At least that's the plan. We hope to reach the summit Saturday morning just after we see the sunrise. Lucky us.
I remember meeting with our lead guide Alex Vansteen, from Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. (RMI) in the spring as we were beginning our training to summit Mt. Rainier. Alex said something that stuck with me. "People who attempt to summit Mt. Rainier say it's the hardest thing they've ever done." We'll soon see.
For the last six months we've been sharing with you the inspiring stories of a group of men getting a fresh start. Thanks to the recovery program at Seattle's Union Gospel Mission they've climbed out of homelessness and drug addiction as they've prepared to climb Rainier.
"It's harder to climb out of homelessness than it is to climb Mt. Rainier, " says Mike Johnson, the Mission's Project Director who will also be climbing with the men. "It's hard to put your life back together when you're broken, than it is to climb that mountain." We've been referring to it as the 'climb before the climb.' Out of the the seven original men on the Mission's climbing team, only three made it to this point. "Which is a little less than 50 percent," says Johnson.
Who made it? Who didn't? It'll break your heart to see what's happened just in the last few weeks. Check out the video and you'll see. Until then I can tell you one of the original men is in jail. Another has been living on the streets, drinking and stealing. And another, who told us a few weeks ago, "I'm a man of my word, I'm going to do it," backed out. "Too much on his plate," he says. And a fourth man won't be going either. Early on, he left the recovery program. The 'climb before the climb' was too much for these men: Ellis, Frank, Daniel, and Jason. They won't be going.
"It's hard stuff," says Johnson. "The recovery stuff is hard stuff." Johnson insists much harder than climbing Mt. Rainier.