The First Ascents

July 3, 2013 | Austin Price

Mindy and I have an expression we like to use whenever we accomplish something. Whether that means finishing an essay before a 9:00 am deadline, ending the day with a meaningful conversation, or listening to all 26 minutes of Sufjan Stevens' "Impossible Soul" in a single sitting we call that "climbing a mountain."

With everything in West Glacier still being relatively new to us, there are many mountains left to climb in terms of making this place our home for the summer. New jobs, friendships, routines; living in a new climate, running at a new altitude. It all feels like the ascending steps on uneven ground each step is stressing and painful yet altogether mixed with the joy of going up and up.

And you wouldn't believe it, but here in Montana there are actual mountains to climb as well. Glacier National Park boasts 740 miles of trails, and from day one, we hit the ground running or climbing, rather. We started in our own backyard: the Apgar Range.

Mindy looks out over Lake McDonald.
A couple weeks ago, under a quilt of cumulus clouds typical of a Montana June sky, we climbed the steady 1800-foot gain to the old Apgar fire lookout. Its splintered deck offered a 360-degree view of the wild country around us. Lake McDonald, once magnanimous from its shore, now appeared comfortably nestled amid the snow-capped behemoths and forested valleys that blended to oblivion to the north and east. Behind us, to the south, lied the path we had tread for the past two hours and the humble village from where we had started.

Climbing these mountains always gives me a paradox of feelings: at once, I feel both invincible and humbled, experienced yet childish in the face of the mystery of beauty and all that stands before me, unknown and untouched. There's something to be proud of when you reach the top of a summit, when you forget the pain of the past few hours for the few moments of splendor that stretches for miles and miles. I would've gone so far as to pat myself on the back before realizing how small I am compared to the view before me and the God who created it all.  

My teammate Ruth read aloud Psalm 8 from the balcony of the lookout. O Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth, yet you put all things– all this – under our feet! You have blessed us with these views and the healthy feet with which to reach them!

Even from the mountaintop, I continue to look up, that the King of Glory may come in!

Across the Lake McDonald valley, fifteen miles away (a distance I felt I could leap in that moment), Mount Stanton and Mount Brown tower over the northern shore of the glassy blue like throned leaders, crowned with the glistening snow-white, in their court of tremendous beauty.

I'll reach those peaks in time. Even from my high place, I know there are thousands more miles to walk, more beauty to see, more pain and joy, more of God's Love to soak in.

There are more mountains to climb. These are just the first ascents.

Austin Price

"Our daughter...worked in Glacier Park with ACMNP for two summers. The experience was life-changing for her."
– Karen and Bruce

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