Success! The Red Team poses for a group photo at 10,358 feet.
As they crested the crater’s rim, a cold, rushing wind whipped around them and tore at their clothes. After five hours of trudging up 4,000 vertical feet on a steep trail covered in volcanic rubble, the students were tired, but they found a hidden energy.
They hugged and gave high fives.
“We did it!”
“That is so sweet.”
“Feels so good,” senior Preston Devine said as he scanned the volcano’s crater. “So good.”
Just two hours earlier, some of them had been wearily quoting Monty Python, calling “Bring out your dead!” between deep breaths and footsteps.
Devine, along with eight other students, were three days into a weeklong hiking trip, and every one of them passed the biggest physical challenge: get to the top of the mountain.
On Aug. 17, the Red Team woke up at 4 a.m., packed their gear and set out to climb the South Sister, a 10,358-foot volcano and Oregon’s third-highest peak. A little after 10 a.m., the whole team stood on the summit.
The view from the South Sister’s summit reveals the striking peaks of the Middle and North Sisters. Mount Washington, Mount Hood and Mount St. Helen’s were also visible that day.
The students, many of whom had never climbed a mountain before, were left amazed at the view and the achievement.
“This trip changes your sense of scale,” junior Seth Terpstra said. “Our sense of what we can accomplish in a day was really changed.”
Each year, all of George Fox University’s resident assistants and student government leaders – accompanied by a guide and an area coordinator – spend a week hiking and camping in the Three Sisters Wilderness near Bend, Ore. This year, more than 80 students were broken into teams of 9-12 people and sent into the wild.
The annual event, known as Walkabout, brings students together to learn principles of leadership and service they will need as resident advisors. Each student has the opportunity to emerge from this process with a stronger and more personalized sense of values and commitments, a greater awareness and celebration of their own strengths, and the knowledge that their limitations need not keep them from succeeding.
Jaynie Post, a junior psychology major, said she was nervous when the hike started, but every step forward made her more and more excited. Soon, the anxiety was gone.
“Then it was just awe and wonder at things I’ve never seen,” she said.