22 Jun Incredible Mountain Climbing Expedition in Bolivia
Warrior Expedition to Huayna Potosi Mountain,
La Paz, Bolivia
May 18-19, 2017
Field Report by David Pineda:
The best experience ever! Even though only one of the seven who were on the team made it to the summit, each of us had an amazing learning experience about faith, perseverance, team work and, most importantly, dependence upon the Lord.
There were around 35 climbers wanting to get to the summit. Our group prayed, shared Scriptures and also gave this opportunity to God, asking him to please send us angels to give us strength as He did with our Lord Jesus (Luke 22:43). We saw others going back from other climbing groups with different kinds of challenges from altitude sickness to energy challenges. One of them was on their knees, tired of the climbing, another wanting to continue even though the guides said the opposite to him about his condition. I felt bad for them though I knew I could be one of them, too. Actually, I was one of them, I just didn’t know at that time. It was a sensation more of “we are together in this” and need to support each other in spite of what group you were part—it was not a competition to see who gets first. Lesson learned: “we are in this together for His glory”.
We were at around 18,500ft and my legs started to fail, shaking, taking to many time outs to gain energy. “Motivation” my guide expressed, “Motivation, David!” I really wanted to continue but knew I had to make a decision. I knew many climbers die on the way down, not on the way up, as they give everything they have to get to the summit and then they don’t have enough reserves to come down, so I knew I needed to make a decision and it was clear, my physical condition wasn’t good enough—I had to stop and go back to camp for the sake of my team and my own life. I didn’t want to be a stumbling block for the team. It wasn’t an easy choice but I believe it was the wisest thing to do at that point. Not enough energy to come down and a better opportunity for others that had more strength than me to climb the summit. I gave the camera to Sean and wished him and Teo (our guide leader) the best to get to the summit. Teo told me he’d let another guide know to come back for me and to wait and to move in case I was freezing.
What an experience to be alone on a mountain at around 3am with cold winds, a little bit of snow started to appear, everything dark, only the sky with its amazing stars, no more lamps, cameras, no more fellow men, my body was getting cold, hand and fingers to numb, tried to warm them by moving but it was hard. Then I started to pray to the Lord to please help the guide come down quickly, negative thoughts came to my mind, what about an avalanche? What if… what if…? Remembered people who died on a mountain freeze because they couldn’t move any more. Then finally I saw from the top of the hill a lamp moving, someone was coming down and fast. I remembered his name: Luis. I felt like an angel was there with me as Luis asked if I was David. Is that how disciples feel when they are alone in this world of darkness? They slowly let their hearts become cold (Matthew 24:12), but how amazing when someone comes to rescue you—that’s true fellowship! Another lesson, we need to go back for the weak disciples and help them strengthen their faith, strengthen their hearts and not become lukewarm.
It took me around seven stops to gain strength and get all the way back to camp. I thank God for Luis and thank Luis for his patience with me. That’s when I knew I’d made the wisest decision—maybe not the most courageous one for some but maybe for others, but the wisest one in my opinion. “Go back! Need to recover, let them continue.” In the end, six of us had to come back for different reasons, here are some described:
Einar Zelaya (Missionary to Tarija): His chest was in pain and couldn’t continue. He had already climbed the Huayna before and got to the summit almost two years ago. He made it around 17,388 ft.
Sean Klein (Paramedic serving HOPE Worldwide): He couldn’t move both of his hands, they were starting to freeze. Decided to go back because the group told him to do so as he wanted to continue.
Jose Zavala (Youth Leader): His back was in pain as he had to make efforts through some difficult parts of the climb.
Rodrigo Soliz (Missionary to Cochabamba): His knee was having problems after climbing a technical part.
Victor Bolivar (Campus Ministry Leader): Energy dropped, exhausted, vomited and couldn’t continue. He was only 164ft from the summit.
Rodrigo Carrasco (Campus Ministry Leader): Made it all the way to the summit and recorded the moment. He gave a dedication to the team and lifted God’s name in prayer on high. Summit is 19,974 ft.
In spite of the challenges we all faced and that only one out of the seven team members got to the goal I feel very proud of each one of them. They are my heroes. They all demonstrated team work, giving and receiving help with the load (Luke 23:26), true partnership; we weren’t doing this for the glory of self but for God and the family that we have the honor to represent. They are WARRIORS giving the best they can for the common good of the church and God’s glory. Each one of them learned something very personal with God, very special that I’m sure we’ll never forget something we all needed as men to learn alone with the Lord on the mountain. It seems God gave the sermon for tomorrow and in the near future more lessons from this trip and others to come with the grace of our Lord.
We hope next year we can go back, we all expressed our desire to go back more prepared in different ways for this challenge. Nevertheless the lesson is simple and powerful we need to “Depend on the Lord”, not on our strength, not our might, but in the Lord.
“So he said to me, ‘This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.’” Zechariah 4:6 NIV
La Paz, Bolivia