Interested in seeking God at the end of the world? A group of young adults made their way to the Kyrgyz high mountains with “Adventure & Faith” in August. Fr. Clemens Gutberlet, LC, shares what they found.
With a flight via Istanbul to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan this past August, the eleven participants began their journey into adventure. The first leg of the journey was a five-hour minibus ride to Karakol near Lake Issyk-Kul, one of the largest lakes in the world. But why go through all of this?
The best version of yourself
The idea behind Regnum Christi’s apostolic project “Adventure & Faith” is to inspire and empower people through adventures and community experiences in nature to become the “best version” of themselves and, motivated by these experiences, to have a positive impact on their environment in everyday life. Once outside their usual environment and everyday worries, the participants are be able to discover completely new sides of themselves. Challenges and unexpected situations lead them to cross boundaries, and they experience what it means to grow in inner freedom.
Fr. Clemens Gutberlet, LC, accompanied the participants as chaplain, and shares the planning, the challenges, and moving moments.
Fr. Clemens, this year you were with “Adventure & Faith” in the high mountains of Kyrgyzstan. Why did you make such a long journey to seek God? Is God only to be found beyond our borders (comfort zones)?
Fr. Clemens: Of course God is very close to us and does not need to be sought in the distance, but it is about experiencing an adventure, treading on unknown terrain, even untouched land. This creates a special ambience and openness to God. Going to our limits makes us realize our neediness, our dependence on the group and, ultimately, on God. The request for the blessing for the day then comes naturally. I myself was surprised where I found limits of my comfort zones everywhere, not so much in the physical sense, but in the interpersonal and, for example, in the dependence on my will. Of course, God is not only where we are uncomfortable, but the willingness to carry one’s own cross means that we are detached from life, and more open to let God’s love lead us out of our comfort zone and thus become like Jesus.
How did you plan the route? What did you have to take into consideration?
Fr. Clemens: One of our participants went to Kyrgyzstan last year to explore the local conditions and to better plan routes. We wanted to hike from Karakol for six days in the high mountains and spend two and a half days on horseback. Due to adverse circumstances, we shortened the high-altitude tour to five days. From Lake Issyk-Kul, which is located at 1800m above sea level near Karakol, several parallel valleys go south into the Kyrgyz high mountains. We started the expedition in the valley of the Turgan Aksuu glacier and crossed three mountain ranges from east to west. In this way, each of the valleys could serve as a possible route. We searched online maps for feasible transitions over the mountain ridges that were not marked as paths, but also noted down already known paths for safety. On the second day, for example, we decided to resort to one that was well known because we considered the climb to the ridge over a scree field to be too dangerous.
How did you take care of yourself in the high mountains?
Fr. Clemens: We carried the food for the hike with us, about 4.5 kg of dry food per person, everything packed in small plastic bags beforehand: an oatmeal mixture with milk powder, which we mixed with hot water for breakfast, a bag of instant coffee, two sausages and a few cookies for lunch. For dinner, a ready-made pasta dish to boil. We had four small gas cookers, with which we cooked the hot water and pasta for everyone every day. In addition, one energy bar per person per day. We also had tents, sleeping bags and the most necessary clothes. The participants’ backpacks weighed on average 17 to over 20 kg.
What was the daily routine like?
Fr. Clemens: We got up at dawn, and our tents and any objects left outside were white from hoarfrost in the morning. The actual time we were moving averaged in total only three hours a day, but we usually spent six to seven total hours on a hike, often taking breaks because of the effort expended due to the weight of our backpacks and the thin air. In the high mountains we moved in the open terrain, mostly without paths, between 2,600m – 3,700m above sea level. During the first break on the daily hike we took time for a daily liturgy. We celebrated Holy Mass daily in the open air, spontaneously and in a beautiful place, usually a large stone served as an altar.
How many kilometers did you cover?
Fr. Clemens: With the minibus we covered a total of about 1,000 km, on foot only 56 km but at 3,200 meters in altitude, on horseback we travelled 52 km at 1,800 meters in altitude.
What experiences can you share with those who weren’t there?
Fr. Clemens: In the group we shared our experiences several times along the way: highs, lows and “God moments.” A special moment was when we erected a cross made of stones on the ground at the highest point of the excursion (3700m). In a moment of prayer, I said a prayer of blessing for the Muslim country and its people, a moment that deeply moved many in the group. The prayer flowed through me, almost without my intervention. I felt God using me as an instrument. Afterwards we held the liturgy for the day at the same place. I couldn’t remember the thoughts I had prepared, but God animated me with the thought “my grace is enough for you.”
About “Adventure & Faith”
It all started in 2015 in Schladming (Austria). The website recounts, “Somehow we knew something new was emerging today.” The team, which in addition to Father George Elsbett, LC, includes men and women with very different biographies and extraordinary professional experience. “We all shared the intuition that having shared challenging experiences, shared adventures in nature, have enormous potential. They can be a kind of gymnasium to prepare for what Pope Francis had in mind when he once said: ‘Authentic faith always brings with it the desire to change the world.’ We were also aware that this had to do with the willingness to leave one’s comfort zone.” Adventure & Faith began as a kind of “start-up experiment” and considers the Regnum Christi John Paul II Center in Vienna, Austria, its base. The program offers challenging and intensive events for women and men several times a year.
► Information about “Adventure & Faith” ( in German) can be found on the website here.