Surprise Snow Storms and Comfort Zones
That’s what my mom asked, while laughing, after I finished telling her about my six-day stint on Summit Adventure’s College Semester Program 12-day backcountry expedition. I paused for a second. That wasn’t the response I was expecting, but God sure had been answering my prayers.
Hi! My name is Katherine. I currently work as a social media and marketing intern for Summit Adventure. Most days that looks like sitting behind my laptop attempting to develop a content calendar for our social media channels and all the tasks that come along with that. However, sometimes I get to tag along on courses and photograph them. My most recent foray was a few days backpacking and climbing in the Ansel Adams Wilderness with the Summit students.
I didn’t know I was going until the last minute. After it was confirmed, I attended a planning meeting with the instructors and quickly realized I had gotten myself in over my head. Ice axes? Crampons? Alpine starts? Sounds incredible, but I’ve never done any of that. I walked away from the meeting feeling uneasy. I wasn’t going to back out after I had insisted on coming, but this definitely wasn’t going to be the “chill” backpacking trip the College Semester Program assistant had told me about.
I should have known better. I’ve been working at Summit Adventure since January, and if I was going to sum up their mission in a few words I would tell you Summit’s goal is to push course participants out of their comfort zone to develop greater reliance on God and others. What I didn’t realize was that, as an intern, I would be pushed in the same way.
The trip started out great. We drove as far as we could into the high country, and then started the hike into our basecamp for the week.
The next few days were full of fun and new experiences…
- a morning of hiding out under a tarp and practicing tying knots while it snowed
- a couple afternoons of climbing
- a class session with crazy creeks chairs seating and the Sierras as a backdrop
- an early morning start for a cross country hike to Mount Madera, snow climbing for the first time and then rappelling down
Summit Executive Director Tom Smith and I were scheduled to leave the expedition early for a board meeting back at basecamp. Board members had traveled from all around the country to be there. It was a meeting Tom couldn’t miss. The night before we were supposed to hike out, we got word that there was a snowstorm coming in. It was supposed to dump 6-12 inches in 24 hours starting at 3 am. The decision was made to start early the next morning for the van in hopes of beating most of the snow.
There was already a dusting of snow when we left camp. I inched my way down wet slabs of rock as fast as I could. I’ve never been known for being the most coordinated, so to say I was grateful when we made it to the dirt road we hiked in on would be an understatement.
Worries over, right? Nope. I had forgotten about the stream crossing. Tom scouted the bank. We decided to give the log we had crossed on our way in another shot, the log that was now covered with four inches of snow. More inching across slippery surfaces, but we made it across, and the van was only a few minutes away.
We hopped in the van and were able to drive it out only a few miles until we hit a hill that had an old snow bank under the fresh layer coming down. We worked for three hours trying to get the van up the hill. Tom and I shoveled dirt over the tire tracks in an attempt to give the van some traction. Turns out, the snowshoe I found in the back of the van is highly ineffective as a shovel.
Around noon, we decided the van wasn’t getting out of there that day. Tom was going to hike down the road to find cell service and be back at around 4 pm. “What am I supposed to do if you’re not back by then?” I asked, not exactly thrilled about being left alone at the van while it was still snowing and there was already 6-8 inches on the ground. “Stay with the van; that’s your best bet.” Still not thrilled with the plan, we went on ahead with it since it was our only hope of getting out of there that day.
Four hours later, and after hiking for 10-plus miles, he came back with the news that he hadn’t been able to find cell service. We were going to have to spend the night in the van. As I was getting ready for the night, trying to get as comfortable as you can on a bench seat, I bounced back and forth between thinking this was just a small inconvenience to it’s NEVER going to stop snowing and I’m going to die in a 12 passenger van.
“Psalm 91 says God is going to rescue us.” That’s what Tom said before he soundly dozed off for the night. I spent the night tossing and turning. I knew God had opened the doors for me to come on the trip. I knew He was asking me to trust Him. But getting stuck in a surprise spring snowstorm was definitely making it difficult.
The morning finally came and brought clear skies with it. I worked on putting on my now-frozen shoes and then hopped out into the foot and a half of snow. Tom gave me a quick lesson on how to put on snowshoes and we started on our way down the road.
North Fork, the closest town, was 46 miles away. If nobody drove up the snow-covered road and if we couldn’t find cell service, Tom informed me that it was our destination. Grim prospects, but still a spectacular morning to be in the mountains.
Little did we know that our rescue was already in motion. Unbeknownst to us, it was opening day for trout season in the Sierras. Not five minutes after we made it down to the main road, we saw a truck plowing through the snow. Tom flagged them down, and we found out they had come up here to fish at the very creek we had crossed the day before. They graciously offered to take us down to a place we could get cell service. Awesome! I silently rejoiced that I was not spending one more night in the snow.
It gets even better though. As we were driving down we saw a game warden coming up the road. We stopped and talked with him, and he was able to get a call through to Tom’s wife to pick us up at a campground down the way. An hour or so later we saw her pulling up and happily piled into the car. We made it back to basecamp safely, and Tom was able to meet with the board members.
The weeks prior to the trip, I had been praying for God to deepen my trust in Him. Apparently, there are unexpected consequences to that kind of prayer. Sometimes He’ll send you through a snowstorm to prove His character once more. He’ll give you small adventures to show you who He is. Then when larger storms in life roll in, you’ll have those past experiences to hang onto when doubt about His faithfulness comes.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory … forever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21