Feature Story

First-Time Climb

January 30, 2014 – by Karson Stevenson ’16

Pictured here (left to right), William Hayes, Haley Figelstahler ’13, and Ryan Carlson. (Photo courtesy of William Hayes)

Pictured here (left to right), William Hayes, Haley Figelstahler ’13, and Ryan Carlson. (Photo courtesy of William Hayes)

In July, William Hayes,  Associate Chaplain at OWU, accompanied 14 members of the Wilderness Ministry and the Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO, a campus ministry that works with churches, colleges, and other organizations) on an expedition to climb Gannett Peak. Together with the current Director of the Wilderness Ministry, OWU alumna Haley Figelstahler ’13, the group explored the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming and successfully climbed the highest peak in the state at 13, 804 feet. This party was led by the former Director of the Wilderness Ministry, Ryan Carlson, who served in the position from 2003-2008.

The Wilderness Ministry is an organization that focuses on the bond between nature and God. According to the web site, it is “a place to grow in faith and spirituality and explore our relationships with ourselves, others, God, and creation.” While it is a division of the Chaplain’s office, many of the group’s adventures stem far beyond Ohio. Some of their most recent trips include visits to Florida and Ecuador.

The primary objective of this particular expedition was to strengthen the leadership of the Wilderness Ministry staff. Gannett Peak was chosen due to the familiarity the CCO had with the Wind River mountain ranges. The group frequently visits, with students, but never before have they climbed the highest peak there. The inspiration was that, after the leaders had successfully conquered Gannett Peak, there could be future expeditions with other students. Hayes explains that, by working with each other and improving their leadership skills, the staff would be able to better serve students. It was, he states, “A chance to see veteran leaders share some of their best methods of leadership and discuss their faith.”  With yet another accomplished venture behind them, the members of both the Wilderness Ministry and the CCO are excited to return to Gannett with students in the near future.

Hayes emphasizes the immense sense of calm and tranquility that he experiences when immersed in nature. He describes how it allows for his faith to grow with each encounter. For Hayes, the separation from reality that comes with the temporary escape into nature is exactly what he needs to refresh his faith every time. “The space and the quiet provide me with the perfect setting to mediate and pray. The fast-paced life at OWU is put on hold for a brief time. The true value of the Wilderness Ministry is in placing people in the natural beauty of the outdoors where the quietude inspires reflection and introspection.”