My love for mountain climbing was birthed in the Himalayas in 2013 as a member of the Mount Everest Base Camp Freedom Climb team. I was privileged to have had this climbing experience alongside the founder of The Freedom Challenge, Cathey Anderson; as well as with many other amazing women from countries around the world. It was a life-changing experience that led me to not only better view the world through God’s eyes, but it also ignited a passion in me to climb mountains.
Prior to my involvement in the 2013 Freedom Climb (now called The Freedom Challenge), the subject of human trafficking was not even on my radar. With my life focused primarily on my family, coaching, and other activities, the world that I lived in was safe and comfortable. When I first heard about the Freedom Climb, I began to search the internet to research human trafficking. What I discovered shocked me and I wanted to get involved in efforts to combat it. As a former NCAA Division I collegiate athlete, I have always been an active person who has prioritized exercise and staying in shape. As a result, doing something physical, like mountain climbing, was appealing to me and I believed God had called me to be one of the climbers in 2013. I knew that I would have to devote myself to getting in great shape for climbing at high altitudes. So, with excitement and anticipation, I embarked on my training and fundraising. In the end, standing on the summit of Kala Patthar (18,504 ft.) just above Mount Everest Base Camp, was one of the most incredible experiences and accomplishments of my life. Having endured several long days of intense, arduous trekking and climbing, our team was blessed to reach our goal. The journey we all went through bonded our hearts and minds and made us ever aware of the struggles that enslaved women and children endure every day,
After having lived in Texas for 30 years, I moved to my original home state of Michigan in 2014 with my husband and high school-age daughter. My son and his wife, who were married last summer, live in Texas. After a period of adjustment to living in Michigan, I am the varsity volleyball coach at Frankenmuth High School, a leadership and teamwork motivational speaker, as well as a women’s Christian conference speaker. You can read more about me and what I do by visiting my website: shellyginterconrad.com. To bring awareness to my efforts in 2019, FrankenmuthClimber.com is linked to my professional website so that people could easily access my fundraising page and read more about the 2019 Freedom Challenge and learn about why I am climbing.
Since moving to Michigan, the timing for me to climb with the Freedom Challenge has not been right...until now. I am excited to once again join the Freedom Challenge movement as a member of the Mount Rainier Summit team. I committed to climb Mount Rainier this past November and I have been training and fundraising since then. I have primarily been using Facebook and Instagram to communicate with my friends and family, but I will also be mailing personal fundraising letters to friends and family to seek additional support. I have also been blessed to have a local sportswear company (Grasel Graphics) that is supporting me through designing and providing me with personal workout gear printed with Freedom Challenge Mount Rainier information printed on it. I wear this apparel when I train to bring awareness to my efforts as a Freedom Challenge climber. They also designed Frankenmuth Climber support team t-shirts for me to sell to help raise awareness and the needed financial support.
Just as I did in 2013, I formed a prayer team of women to come alongside me and support me on the journey. I communicate with them through a private Facebook page. Every few weeks, I share prayer requests and post various updates about the progress of my training and fundraising efforts. They use this forum to post encouraging messages to help keep me motivated and trusting God. I know that God has called me to this effort and that He is faithful to help me succeed in my training and fund raising efforts. I encourage all climbers to surround yourselves with a group of women who are committed to faithfully pray for you. Their involvement and encouragement will be a blessing.
So, how do I personally go about training for climbing Mount Rainier? Well, training for mountain climbing when you live at fairly low altitudes like where I live in Michigan is a challenge that requires me to be creative. I have incorporated the following as part of my indoor cardio training routine: The Stairmaster and treadmill (working up to its highest incline) while carrying a weighted backpack (increase weight over time); step ups with a weighted collar or backpack, and an elliptical machine that has a “climb” feature set at its highest incline. I also incorporate cardio training outdoors two days a week, weather permitting. My outdoor training days, I do much longer cardio workouts that are focused on hiking distances with a weighted pack, and walking up and down stadium stairs or steep hill inclines to develop endurance. When the weather warms up here in Michigan this spring, I’ll do some long trail rides and hill work on my mountain bike. I currently use a Training Mask (2.0) for some of my cardio training. It is a resistance tool for your lungs that I have found to be extremely helpful in building lung capacity. It mimics a high-altitude environment by forcing you to focus on your breathing as you learn to take deeper breathes and slow the pace of your breathing. I also include weight training as part of my routine to focus on building strength in the lower body, back, shoulders and core. Developing outstanding cardiovascular endurance is critical, but you also need to be doing strength training for optimal success. I lift a minimum of three days a week, using strength training ideas from mountaineering websites; as well as a strength-training regimen developed for me by a friend who is a professional strength training coach in Texas (Roland Jehl). There are lots of ways to strength train; you have to just find what works best for you based on your climbing goals and the amount of time you can devote to training.
While physical training is important, I have found that “spiritual training” is also very important. This part of my training routine consists of prayer and Scripture memorization. In 2013, I memorized Psalm 139. I wrote the verses out on 3x5 cards and carried them with me when I went on long hikes. You do a lot of thinking when you train, especially on long cardio days, and that is the optimal environment for me to memorize Scripture and pray. When the climb arrives, I want to be able to recall and recite the Scripture I have learned to help me endure and persevere when I get weary.
There are many components to preparing to climb and it can sometimes get overwhelming and it is not uncommon to experience some fear and doubt. Despite this, I am learning to enjoy the process as God uses our journey (to include training setbacks) to teach us about our limitations and our constant need of Him. God is faithful and He has proven that to me over and over in my lifetime. I love an adventure and having the opportunity to climb again with the Freedom Challenge and fellow climbers is something I am looking forward to. The friendships that were forged in my 2013 climb remain ingrained on my heart. The shared experiences bonded us and we developed a sisterhood unlike any other I’ve ever had. In 2019, I will meet new sisters-in-Christ and I look forward to getting to know them and as we climb for a common cause. Ultimately, I pray God is glorified and His work is done in and through us as we humbly seek His strength as we embark on a climb that will forever change us from the inside out.
Climbing for Their Freedom,
Shelly Ginter Conrad
Facebook: Shelly Ginter Conrad
Yesterday, school was cancelled due to the weather. We live deep in the woods and despite my efforts to make it to the gym in town to workout...it's 6 miles south...frustrated, I had to turn back. The roads were in horrible condition and I knew that even if I made it, I would never get back home because my driveway would be drifted over. So, I pulled out a wooden box and did step ups in our garage with my pack on. It was about 12 degrees outside and even with the garage door down it was still frigid inside. At first, I was really struggling with having to workout in those conditions. The snow really messed up my routine. I could have done my step ups indoors but the working out in the cold is good for me since the higher elevations of Mount Rainier is glacier covered and could possibly be cold and windy even in August.
After doing several step ups while listening to music, I decided to prop my phone up and watch a movie. The movie was "In Plain Sight" and I found it on Amazon Prime movies. It's a documentary about human trafficking. Quickly, my mindset changed and I stopped feeling sorry for myself having to workout in the garage in cold conditions. Watching that documentary convicted me and motivated me. Why am I climbing--to FREE oppressed and enslaved women and children around the world! My momentary bout of being uncomfortable while working out pales in comparison to the atrocities that are inflicted on sex and labor slaves.
I live comfortable and have all I need. Most everyone I know does. It is so easy to ignore what is happening in the world around us. Human trafficking is closer than you think. It is happening all around the world, in every country, in every state, in every community. What is life if we do not seek to help those who cannot help themselves? I may not be down in the trenches ministering to these women and children but I am blessed with the physical ability to climb and help the Freedom Climb effort to provide assistance to them.
Adapting to whatever comes my way is required. I am relieved that I do not do it alone. God goes before me, ahead of me, and He is my rear guard. That give me peace and puts all things in perspective.
"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice." Proverbs 31:8-9
Shelly Ginter Conrad
Written: April 14, 2007
Note: I wrote this almost 12 years ago now. I posted it because of its relevance to mountains and climbing. A season in which I find myself in once again.
If there is one thing I’ve discovered over the past few years it’s that I absolutely love the outdoors! It’s in this natural setting I meet God face to face and experience His presence the closest. What I love most is hiking in the mountains! There are no mountains where I live in Texas but I have had the joy of traveling to places known for their mountains, eagles, rivers and streams. The breathtaking panoramic view from the lookout point I arrive at after a long, exhausting climb is overwhelming and deeply moving. The sheer enjoyment and excitement of both the beauty and grandeur of the surroundings and the physical challenge of the climb combine a unique and unforgettable experience. God has not only allowed me to experience mountains in a physical and tangible way but He has also allowed me to experience victory in my life by overcoming trials that I have viewed as mountains to climb along the way. Through it all, God has been with me even during those times when He has seemed so far away. The valuable lessons I’ve learned throughout my life have made me stronger and have increased my faith.
Several days ago, God began to speak to my heart telling me to set aside my ministry aspirations for a time and to wait. Discouraged, I began to reflect on the timing of the fulfillment of a speaking ministry and it wasn’t long before I realized my timing was not His. With a husband and two children at home I was convicted that my passion to serve God was beginning to take precedence over whether the timing would be right for my family. He brought to mind my word for the year, “healing,” and told me not to get ahead of myself and create my own way. I realized despite experiencing tremendous personal healing over the past three years, there was more to be had. God whispered into my heart and began to say, “I’m placing your desires on hold for now and I am asking you to put the needs of others before your own. It’s not only you I am calling to serve me in ministry but also your husband and kids whom I will need to prepare each in their own way. It is extremely important you continue to build trust with them, which will come from making more of a priority in your life. They will feel loved and respected as you serve them and place their needs before your own.” Hearing all this I said, “Alright Lord, whatever you say but please grant me the patience I need because there is a fire inside me that I cannot contain!”
Our dialog continued. “There’s a new mountain I want you to climb,” He said. At that point I began to visualize this new mountain in my head. “It’s unlike any mountain you’ve ever hiked before and it will be the hardest, most demanding climb of your life!” He said. “Wow, so how do I train for this one Lord and do I need to workout extra long hours to get myself in great shape?” I exclaimed. “No, Shelly,” He responded without hesitation. “There’s something about this mountain that’s unlike any mountain you’ve climbed before and that is what makes it so mysterious and vitally important to you,” He urged. “So just what is it about this mountain that is so very different from all the rest?” I replied. “This mountain is not a physical mountain but a spiritual one that will be full of emotion and it will challenge your will in a way unlike never before. This mountain is called Mount Yourself,” He passionately exclaimed. Intrigued I said, “I’ve never heard of that one before!” A bit confused I again replied, “I don’t understand Lord, please help me to know what you’re trying to say.” I could see it coming, this mysterious and valuable lesson He was talking about was about to unfold. Speaking directly into my soul He whispered, “You’ve hiked and made it to the top of several physical mountains but now it’s time for you to hike to the top of a mountain that is going to bring even greater emotional healing into your life than ever before! It’s a spiritual mountain and you will be unable to conquer it in your strength alone. There will be challenges along the way in the form of lies that will try and trick you into believing you’ve gone off course and you’re all alone on the climb. You must tap into the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit within you and from it gain the strength, endurance and confidence you will need to overcome this mountain you now face at this time. It will require you to surrender your selfish ambitions deep within your heart. This adventure will no doubt try and intimidate you and there will be times when you feel unable to take your next step. But you must press on and keep your eyes fixed readily on My face and surrender your will, step out and walk by faith. Trust and hold fast to the hope that your efforts will be well worth the toil and pain. Have hope, as you will also experience much joy and blessings as you reach higher and higher on your way to Mount Yourself’s highest place. Hold fast to Me, the summit will become clearer and clearer each step that we take.”
Overwhelmed by what I just heard and feeling much uncertainty I said, “Oh Lord, I have to admit I am a bit afraid. This is a mountain I’ve never climbed before so please assure me You will make Your presence known to me along the way!” I immediately felt an overwhelming sense of peace as He reached out to take my hand. Grasping it tightly He said, “I am with you always and will never let you go, stay close to me so you’re not deceived by your flesh that will tempt you to go off-course leading you astray. It is time for me to make you aware of the true meaning of this mountain that is not a physical place. Shelly, it represents you, you’re the mountain you must overcome and it will be a steep, treacherous climb we hike together so trust Me...I AM THE WAY. Though things are unclear to you now and you are uncertain about this new terrain, have faith in Me as your guide and I will show you the way. Are you willing? Will you surrender yourself to me this day? This journey will teach you to be humble and it will grow you up and increase your faith. In doing so, there will be a reward in heaven for you someday. There is a goal you will set out to achieve but it is not one you might think. The goal of this climb is not only to reach the highest peak because in this case that would be making it only halfway. The goal is for you to get over (Mt.) YOURSELF then descend to the base of this mountain that I’ve identified as you. Have you now clearly understood My message, Dear One? Life is about serving and considering the needs of others, it’s not about you.”