What I knew is that since we had settled on a smaller mountain, then we could get everyone to the top. Everyone—even those who told me they didn’t care to summit Wheeler—who were content to hang back, enjoy the surroundings, encourage the others.
And, I had begun to make peace with that—it was unrealistic to think that everyone could or should climb a major peak.
But then the students chose Atalaya, and I knew what I must do. It would be a stretch—probably the hardest thing some of them had ever done—but it was makeable.
So the night before our climb, I gave a brief pep talk ending with a hiking order. And, as that famous prophet from Galilee once said, the last became first, and the first, last.
My words were greeted with silence mostly. But I have it from a good source that there was plenty of talk in the hotel room later—am pretty sure I was compared to all the major dictators and serial killers of our era.
But the next day we began with the stronger hikers at the end, and, although we didn’t end that way, we did end with everyone on top.
And at least one participant (who will go unnamed) has promised to start speaking with me again in the spring.