Ten years ago, today, my dad, Dr. Tom Popp, and I climbed to the summit of Mount Rainier.
At Team Popp Dental, we talk about how family, friends and beautiful places make us smile. This adventure with my dad, although difficult, still has me smiling!
Mount Rainier looks so calm and peaceful from afar. It stands powerfully above Washington’s green valleys and rolling hills. Along with its powerful stature, its majestic appearance makes it falsely seem forgiving to anyone who dares to step foot on it.
My dad attended Orthodontic residency at University of Washington in Seattle and would always see the magnificent mountain towering a short distance from the city. I was born in Washington in 1990 while Dr. Tom was finishing up residency. He gave me the middle name, Rainier.
When I graduated high school, my dad and I knew that our next big trip needed to be a summit-attempt of this special mountain. I had never climbed a mountain before, and we were attempting to conquer one of the most unforgiving mountains in the United States.
After getting all of our gear and minds in order, we hiked up to base camp at Camp Muir which has an elevation of about ten thousand feet. We went to bed early and awoke at midnight. We started in the dark to avoid ice falls when traversing across the mountain glaciers. We were roped up in groups of five, with boots and crampons on our feet, helmets and headlamps on our heads, and ice axes in our hands. After crossing multiple glaciers, avoiding crevasses, and fighting the pitch black of the night and the chill and force of the sixty mile per hour winds, we reached the top at 7 AM. We summited just before a storm rapidly closed in and began our descent back to the safety of lower elevations.
Looking back at that experience, I have been able to metaphorically relate much of life and health to it.
Life truly needs to be taken one step at a time; the only step that matters is the next one. Be mindful of each step and embrace it! If I had carelessly let my crampon snag the strap of my other boot, I would have tumbled down the mountain. If I thought about how far away the peak was and not about my next step, I could have easily been discouraged and wanted to turn back.
Live in the moment and enjoy every moment! Take a step back occasionally and be grateful for the time spent with family and friends because we never know what our last adventure with that person will be.
The mountain is comparable to life in that we can’t entirely control our futures; we are at the mercy of the mountain. All we can do is prepare ourselves mentally and physically and provide ourselves with the proper gear, nutrition, health, and fitness to survive the climb. The mountain decides our true outcome.
We were fortunate to reach the top that day, and since then, we have been lucky enough to summit two more of the top five mountains in the Continental United States. With every mountain comes a similar, but new, challenge. As we climb that unfamiliar mountain, we must always look back at our previous struggles and triumphs to motivate us to take that next step up the mountain.
Colton Popp, DDS
Team Popp Dental