Overcome - Found By Beauty, While Caught By Failure
10% chance of rain, and now it starts, exactly before the most difficult part....not so cool... Oh how crazy the branches are growing down there horizontally! British Columbia...Somewhere in the wilderness of the Coastal Mountains. A densely forested mountain range on the Canadian west coast interrupted by many fjords. Moist marine air rises up the western slopes causing barely accessible rainforests and sometimes the heaviest rain and snowfall in all of North America. The peaks are heavily glaciated. It is home to the largest mild latitude ice fields in the world.
It is a natural spectacle unlike any other. The Coastal Mountains are mostly untouched by humans and are among the most biodiverse ecosystems in the northern hemisphere. Over the entire length of 1600 kilometers, they are crossed by roads only twice.
According to our information, the route has never been walked by anyone and is to bear the name "Valentin Alge Route" to commemorate a mountaineer friend who died tragically in 2018. We will start from Port Mellon and are planning to depart 8 days later by ferry towards Earls Cove. But before that, 130 kilometers and a total of about 12,000 altitude meters of wilderness are waiting for us. Heavy rains and thunderstorms were to accompany us for the next few days.
With us are our backpacks weighing up to 35 kilograms, packed with tents, crampons, climbing ropes and large quantities of peanut butter. Bear spray is supposed to protect against grizzly and black bears. careful..keep it coming… wow this backpack is heavy! careful, wait, woha, woah, woah..
Oh my, of course YOU have to keep it interesting!! We are 14 enthusiastic and adventurous people from different nations. Our expedition is under the auspices of "Adventure & Faith" - an initiative that aims to inspire people to strive for greater things through community experiences in nature. In addition to journeys of discovery, the focus is primarily on faith and community, on deepening one's relationship with God and oneself.
People should experience something of what is defined by the motto "Greatness begins outside your comfort zone." Why do people take on such hardships? The eternally stretching mountain ridges promise to be breathtaking. But the way there i s long and arduous and requires days of marching through Canada's rainforests by means of bushwhacking. It is so arduous that we could hardly convince a Canadian to accompany us bushwhacking. Imagine walking through a wall of three meter high thorny overgrown blackberry bushes! Moreover, a European can't imagine the "black flies" and swarms of mosquitoes until he experiences them on the ground.
By the way, an adult grizzly male, can reach a body height of up to four meters and climbing trees is an easy task for black bears. For this reason, it is recommended that travel provisions be hung four meters above the ground and at least two meters from the tree trunk. Far from reassuring circumstances.
And yet somehow it all seems worthwhile. Perhaps the subject of the journey offers a more precise answer. Perhaps it is the longing for the truly good, for authentic beauty, something unadulterated, that draws us into the deepest wilderness. We are ready to take this risk In search of the true, the good and the beautiful. Right on the second day we are confronted with the subject of truth. It should be our easiest day - without any major difficulties.
A rather small mountain stands before us. The challenge seems manageable. But we have to realize that the continuous rain has made the ground under our feet very soft and uneven. With the heavy luggage this could become a problem I hate it so much… look at the rain cover there, my arm hair already peek through , that’s how wet it is! Yes, it’s not just anything, its Dollarama quality!! Rain-soaked, superimposed boulders, as well as dense forest undergrowth, form literally a common alliance that tries to prevent us from moving forward.
In some places, the steep terrain has a gradient of up to 40%. when we got up in the morning it was raining, awesome.. Then we hiked, for the past 6-7 hours we were making our way over the mountain through heavy bushes, so we covered about 1-2 km in that time… now we arrived here it’ll get dark in about forty minutes, Dominik lost his tent… Somewhere in the last eleven hours of our hike the tent must have been left behind. It's almost 9 p.m. and we're still stuck in the middle of the slope in the Canadian wilderness. A tricky situation since in these latitudes the temperature drops drastically at night.
Continuing to hike would be too dangerous in the dark. But we cannot stay in the middle of the rocks. It now begins to become clear to the leadership team that there is no way that at this pace we will reach the place where we want to stock up our food at Vancouver Bay in Jervis Inlet in 7 days. Alternative routes are rare.
I think Max said that we needed to sleep here... But I thought that this wasn’t an option, we should rather go to the forest over there and then, as everybody was aimlessly standing around I thought I should just pass out tasks for everybody because if they have something to do, then they are not thinking about how bad they are feeling right now. So I told 4 people to go back, 2 to go ahead and the rest should take a break and follow later, and I think that worked out pretty well! Not even an hour later we receive the good news: the tent has been found and, with that, our lost spirits. And yet, the last 200 meters of altitude prove to be the most difficult. so I’d say we should push through, cause sleeping in the woods is not an option! Paul, Max, you, and me, we will go ahead because if you three walk through the bushes you don’t leave anything standing in your way and then the others can follow and well, the others just need to push through! Then we will arrive right after it gets dark and set up camp! Come on! Cant this forest be a bit more merciful to us than this shitty bush? The key is to accept the situation you are in.
The acceptance of reality. This is what truth is all about. It is not our thinking that determines reality, but it is reality that should determine our thinking. Today we had to accept the arduous path as truth. Complaining would have brought us all nothing. And as the saying goes, "He who doesn’t let go, has a lot to carry!" Strange that we forget that frequently in "real life".
Truth requires a sufficient dose of humility. Hard to imagine that one can so easily deny or manipulate reality. But we are not God, and thank God we don't have to be. Jesus puts it this way: "The truth will set us free." And then, full of relief, we pitch our tents at the foot of a stream, day 2 of the expedition is finally over.
“Out of your comfort zone” doesn’t mean that you are at your limit all the time, but that do something that you usually wouldn’t but you realize that you can push through! See, right now we are not suffering just cause we are sweaty and our skin is scratched and still it’s outside of our comfort zone. That’s right, right now it feels more like a nice recreational walk! By going out of your comfort zone, your comfort zone enlarges! Thats right! And that’s how you gain security in your day to day life, because you’ll know you can handle difficult situations, you have gone through worse! For me this day wasn’t that exhausting because we started out on the logging road and I was very glad that for the first time my backpack was packed well, and I had no trouble shouldering it in the morning! But it got really difficult for me, the moment you took away my backpack and told me that I was going too slow… that was a real mental challenge! And it took me a while to process it… and in the evening I understood that it was really my pride that got hurt, at one point you have to realize that it’s not always about yourself! The lumberjack we met there, he told us: “yes over there, through the bushes”, we thought we would have the do bushwhacking again, but he said: “there is a trail, it’s not going to be a problem, last time somebody crossed the woods with mountain bikes”, I really don’t know where they went, but for sure not through that bush!! There was no trail at all with plants as wide as 1m meter in diameter that I have only seen in movie about the jungle so far! And I thought great, at least no logs across our path. At least something. But suddenly I realized I got wet, not from top to bottom, but from bottom to top! And I thought great, it’s not raining, but I'm still getting wet! Nice… hopefully it doesn’t continue like that in the next couple of days… Are you alright, Julia? Like beasts! The "good" is often associated with the ethical concept of "morality", with virtuous standards such as "what to do". At first sight, morality seems to limit our freedom. Each of our companions brings different talents and gifts that greatly benefit the group. For example, Benni and Max are two of our more skilled rope technicians.
Through their efforts, the group is able to move forward. It's about taking responsibility for what is personally given to everyone. Running away from responsibility and ignoring one's own abilities and talents that are given, the Bible defines as sin or abuse of freedom. It is significant that in the confession of guilt in Catholic worship, the sin of omission is dealt with first. One asks forgiveness especially for the good one has not done, to which one feels called from within.
One asks forgiveness for the fleeing into irresponsibility. The one who loves takes responsibility. Only the egoist is afraid and flees from it. Responsibility always has something to do with freedom. It is therefore the consequence of freedom.
The greater the freedom to do something, the greater the responsibility, but also the greater the capacity to love. Perhaps this is the reason why rejection of responsibility can be so hurtful, especially in relationships. Okay, so real quick, the plan for today would be to use this day of God-given rain to recover and regain some strength, the next step would be the “Ridge” and that part is simply too dangerous in the rain. So today we will stay here and use this day to reflect, take some time.
I probably won’t eat my whole ration for today, so in case we need more time we do have some spare food. The plan is to continue tomorrow if the weather gets better… I think we are all a little tired from doing nothing, from laying around, I’m trying to use this time well, I spent some time in prayer and now I’m trying to catch up on my diary and the questions we should work through from our Adventure&Faith booklet, and really meditate on it… It’s really good to spend some time in silence and have the chance to really reflect on what happened in the last couple of days, I really missed that… We do have a little bit of rain today… The bottom is wet.. And if I take off my cloths and enter my tent, then everything would be wet there too, so I rather stay outside! I had to smile when I saw your wooden toothbrush peeking out of your pocket. What do you think, Julia? I’m happy!! I’m really looking forward to the mountain! So we just scouted the track and two thirds of the way is similar to what we had the last couple of days, pretty steep, but manageable! We will just stay close to one another, Benni goes ahead, I will be in the back, we will go up to the spot where we fixed a rope, there we will show you how to tie yourself to the rope and then we will go in teams of two up to the peak.
Oh wow! Oh no… it’s on camera… Be honest, you know did it for the camera!! Yeah right… everything for the camera… Here could have been the head, and all of this the body… yeah, and all that is blood! Sure? Or maybe something kind of erosion? No for sure not... Here the head and all that the body… oh my, imagine that running towards you… We dont have a lot of luck, with just 10% chance of rain it could maybe just not rain for once. Beauty fascinates and touches us. It puts us in contact with our deepest desires and makes us feel that we exist.
Perceiving beauty requires a certain ability, for self-reflection, introspection, and deepening perspectives. A simple look at reality under the influence of love. One loves others for the others own sake, without ulterior motives, without the expectation of reciprocation.
Love without ulterior motives allows us to look deeper into things and other people and it liberates. Greed reduces the field of vision to that which is its object. That is why John Paul II once said that pornography, for example, does not show too much, but too little.
To have an eye for beauty is to see the whole. Yes, Canada once again brought us into contact with the essence of nature, and even the rain was only an expression of its endless beauty. We had come to learn what nature is like and to accept it with all its wildness, unpredictability, beauty. We wanted to learn to enjoy what is given to us. Be it the beauty of a heart that brings joy to others or the warmth and security of a shared dinner around a campfire.
A common journey leads visibly to the fact that one begins to get to know and see each other, even more than many a long-time friend. Extraordinary. And it were precisely these deep encounters without ulterior motives that opened up ways for us to recognize the beauty of God not only in nature, but also in our counterparts.
Only love recognizes beauty and only love unfolds it. A big steak… That would be awesome now! Wow, imagine that… or sausages with a beer! Can you please stop? You are killing me… So we will shoulder the backpacks now.. How does it taste? Disgusting!! But its full of protein and I need that for my muscles.. But still, twice a day… (Outburst of disgust) So, for sure a reason why I came here, besides the people and that it’s a unique experience to go beyond your limits, for me now more because of the weather and not so my because of the hiking, was to figure out the answer to some questions that stressed me at home, like what do I want, where do I want to go, and others… and I think I realized that what I am doing is exactly what I want and my stress is useless… and that makes me happy because I can appreciate it more! And maybe because of the distance I realized I am missing it, but not in a way that pressures me to go back now, but rather I realize that those things, be it kickboxing or a prayer group, just things that I do on a regular basis, give me joy and an inner balance in my day to day life, and i think it’s a good thing to really make time for those things, and for sure I have questioned that previously… Gradually, exhaustion overcomes us and it starts to get more and more dangerous. Suddenly somebody said: Hey we need to stop, Julia got hurt!, and i just thought oh shit, now people get hurt in this terrible terrain… we gathered and soon we found out that she twisted her ankle and it was already a little swollen.
And after an examination it was clear that she strained her outer ligament in her ankle, not a catastrophe, but definitely something that would slow us down… then short after, suddenly Beatrice twisted her ankle as well, and I thought: Oh no, not again, that’s really not good!!, Fortunately she was able to step on it and everything, so we didn’t even take off her shoe… we continued and shortly after I hear behind me: aaahh!!, so I turn around and I see Paul and Father George, and Paul’s lower leg was stuck between two huge rocks, I ran over there, and helped rolling the stone away, fortunately it was just a bruise and his bone wasn’t harmed, but inside I was so so mad because I thought: shit, it’s simply too difficult for the group!! Two days before, that thought already passed through my mind, when we passed that steep part right before the little lake. It is simply too difficult. And if it’s too difficult it’s not “out of your comfort zone” anymore, it’s a plain health risk! Those were the thoughts that passed through my mind, if it reflects the truth or not can be subject to discussion, but the terrain was just too difficult for us.
That’s why we were always slow, that’s why we were always too late and that’s why people are getting hurt now. Then we continued into the woods, but it was again such a difficult terrain that we could just go really slow… It was 9pm and we started out at 7am and we arrived at a terrible place to set up camp. So we gathered around and we discussed if we should stay the night there… But I thought: “This can’t be the best place to stay!” But we decided scout the area for possibly a better place, maybe at a lake close by. I was so caught up in my negative thoughts, inside I was so angry… Max and Benni rush ahead to find a suitable place for the tents. As we will learn later, a heated argument broke out between the two in this tense situation. And just as the situation begins to get out of hand, Max asks his colleague for forgiveness, an act that even Benni would never have reckoned with.
The "good" could emerge anew here because someone had taken responsibility for his own actions. Thus, what was on the verge of breaking could become good again. So we had a fight up there that I started, afterwards we went back and sat in different spots, I walked over and told him: “Hey, I’m sure we can do this”, but he just answered:” Max, up there you didn’t say one word that made sense! What’s up with you??” And just in that moment I realized that it was true, and I told him:” Hey Benni, I’m really sorry I really want to apologize for that..” and Benni replied:” Okay, I forgive you”. That was actually a highlight of that day, which I consider a failure.
After that we walked uphill and set up camp there. It was an amazing spot and I just thought, if I hadn’t been that negative in my thoughts, then I would have been able to enjoy it much more, but I was simply angry inside and that prevented me from enjoying it. Well, that was my day.
Look at that! How soaked my glove alone is… Everything is completely wet, fortunately my phone hasn’t died. Good, now we are up here, but we still have to go for one more kilometer to reach the street but the bush is really thick here. There is one mark… We are on the trail again!! One of the many profound and instructive experiences we had on this trip. Even though at the beginning our whole expedition had been on a knife edge, we had also all been prepared to fail this time. Not because we would have missed the goal in Powell River, but because in the end we would not have gotten quite where we wanted to go.
Just like in everyday life... Adventure carries with it many risks. The risk of the unexpected, the risk of failure.
Nature had taught us that. It is said that "God can write straight with crooked lines". And the way forward runs not on holding on to past misfortunes, but on recognizing and taking advantage of possibilities in every moment that life brings us. Canada, we will be back!