Todd W. Burris, personal injury lawyer in Lexington, Kentucky, loves to climb mountains. After he married his wife Lindsey in 2010, the couple made a goal to climb one mountain each year.
One year their mountain of choice was Mt. Whitney in California. Its highest peak reaches 14,496 ft. The mountain requires rigorous training and dedication, and Todd and Lindsey faced it head on. They trained for months. Their goal was to climb the mountain and get back down within 24 hours.
When it was finally time to hike Mt. Whitney, Todd and Lindsey weren’t going as fast as they had planned. The mountain included a lot of long trails that were difficult to navigate. Their route included vertical climbing of 1200 ft. Once they started the route, they could only continue to climb upward.
The Burrises had never climbed this way before, so they only had guide maps to help them navigate the area. After a long day of climbing, they still hadn’t reached the peak. The sun was starting to set and soon it would be cold. But the couple wanted to reach the summit the next morning, so they decided to keep climbing.
Todd thought the spot they stopped at looked like they were 100 ft. away from the summit. But he couldn’t find the route. He searched all over the area for the final pitch, but to no avail. Lindsey said she thought it was best for them to stop and rest at the spot and regroup the next day.
Spending the night on the mountain had several risks. They could get hypothermia or stuck if a storm came through. While the couple was exhausted, they were determined. They anchored themselves to the rock and spend the night huddled on a small ledge. They layered themselves and tried to keep as warm as possible, but it was still cold. Despite the temperature, Todd and Lindsey saw the beautiful wonders of the sky above. They shivered and watched shooting stars light up the sky. Usually, light pollution in urban areas blocks most of the stars, but not on Mt. Whitney.
The Burrises didn’t sleep much. While Todd battled with the cold, he also fought a lot of self-doubt. He said he kept hearing negative thoughts about how he didn’t know what he was doing, how could he bring his wife up here, and they were going to need a rescue team.
But they made it through the night. And as the sun rose, so did their resolve. Todd went back to the spot to find the final pitch, even though he had struggled to find anything the day before. After another round of searching without any luck, Todd took off his backpack and took a moment to pray and refocus.
When he set his backpack down, out of the corner of his eye he saw what looked like the corner of a bookmark under a rock. Picking the paper up, Todd immediately recognized that the note had scripture written on it. He called out to his wife, saying she wasn’t going to believe what he had found.
The scripture was Psalm 95:1-7: “Come let us sing to Yahweh; Let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving & make a joyful noise to Him with songs. For Yahweh is a great Elohim & great king above all gods. In His hands are the deepest places of the Earth and the summits of the mountains are His. The sea is His & He made it & His hands form the dry land. Come, let us worship & bow down, let us kneel before Yahweh our maker. For He is our Elohim & We are the people of His pasture & the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will hear His voice.”
As Todd read it, he cried. He felt that saying this moment was sacred was an understatement. It remains one of the most holy experiences he’s had with scripture. He sensed God’s presence, that God knew Todd and Lindsey were on the mountain. Todd recognized that while he always loved mountains, he ultimately loved God.
When Lindsey climbed up, Todd showed her the scripture. They began discussing the last part of the climb and Todd felt that they were in the right place because of the note.
Going in the direction of the note, they found the last pitch and climbed to the summit of Mt. Whitney. It was the most difficult part of the climb, but they were on the summit by 7:30 that morning. Lindsey told him that after all they had been through, God wasn’t going to let them miss that note. Todd said it was as if an angel or Jesus himself placed that note there for them, to let them know they weren’t alone.