Setting Aside the Summit


Getting stranded on icy slopes is a frightening prospect, but it’s even more terrifying when you’re stranded alone. That’s the unfortunate case that Lincoln Hall found himself in on May 25, 2006. He had suddenly contracted a case of altitude sickness while climbing the world highest peak, Everest. His teammates had worked frantically for hours to try and revive him and guide him down, but there he lay unconscious and darkness had fell. They finally decided that they couldn’t stay any longer. They descended quickly to the nearest camp and reported that Lincoln Hall had died. There was no way he could survive a night in the death zone of the world’s harshest mountain. But imagine their surprise next morning when another summit team radioed down that they had found a stranded climber who was not only alive, but speaking with them. They found him with no oxygen mask, no gloves, no hat, and with his climbing suit zipped down to the waist. Quickly they escorted him down the slope to the North Col where a doctor began treating his badly frostbitten limbs. They didn’t even have to give it a second thought—rescuing this man was instantly their first priority. They immediately gave up their summit attempt in order to help Lincoln Hall. For the team that had been forced to abandon him on the slopes 12 hours ago, it was as if he had come back from the dead.

            This story of sacrifice to rescue a fellow climber was especially impactful because of the tragic story that had happened just 10 days before. David Sharp, a British mountaineer, had summitted Everest dangerously late in the day on May 14 and then had to take shelter because he wasn’t able to continue. But even after he went unconscious, he was passed by several teams of climbers who were making their own summit attempt, but they made no attempt to rescue him. The incident had caused a great amount of controversy and debate about the ethics of mountain climbing. But the story of Lincoln Hall’s rescue provided inspiration and courage to many climbers after the earlier tragedy.  

            The climbers who immediately prioritized their stranded fellow and did everything in their power to rescue him illustrate a point that was very important to the Apostle Paul. In 2 Corinthians 4:7-15 he says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” Sharing the gospel isn’t about promoting ourselves our earning God’s approval. It’s about abandoning any selfish agendas to serve God from a heart of love. Reaching out to others with may not always be easy, but selflessly bearing the message, even in the face of harsh opposition and even danger shows a heart that’s given over to God. We can all grow into God’s servants more and more by God’s grace.