On the summit

You can do hard things.

Over the last several years, Westview’s Eric Brandell has been the lead team member for Westview’s mountain experiences. These trips are, as it happens, much more than just a hike up a mountain. Eric explains this in his recent replies to questions about the trip with Team Ascend.

The primary purpose of Westview’s annual backpacking trip is to provide our residents with a uniquely challenging experience. For some, this is their first trip to the mountains of Colorado, and many teenage boys who do not thrive in the home or classroom find that they feel right at home in the wilderness. They unplug (no electronics) and unwind (no hustle and bustle) during the week in a way not many young people do.

Key components for being selected to go on the trip include interest, ability, and character. Though we have a lot of fun, this is no mere vacation. Potential candidates need to know that backpacking is exhausting from beginning to end, and a successful summit attempt demands tenacity. A trip of this magnitude also requires that attendees be trustworthy, so only those who receive a recommendation from their caregivers may take part.

A common mantra before, during, and after the trip is: you can do hard things. Some admit that summiting a 14,000+ foot mountain is the most physically demanding feat they’ve ever accomplished. By design, a backpacking excursion presents stressful situations: packing everything you need knowing you’ll have to carry everything you pack many miles, preparing food in unfamiliar ways, being resourceful, sharing tent and camp responsibilities, and manifesting resilience as you endure mosquitos, drastic temperature fluctuations, and extreme altitudes. Successfully navigating stressful situations such as these fosters an earned confidence that one can persist in the face of other challenges going forward.

The trip is developmentally beneficial because it provides an opportunity to grow in all five of Westview’s core value areas: Respect for God, others, self, property, and nature. Participants have the time to pray, praise, and reflect on their spiritual relationship with God; work together with others in stressful conditions; test their internal fortitude as they walk for miles carrying many pounds; appreciatively care for their tent, pack, and other essential supplies; and breathe in the crisp mountain air while surrounded by a breathtakingly beautiful natural landscape.

We thank God for those whose partnership in our work empowers such life-changing experiences.