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by Sandi Radoja

Being a person who appreciates creature comforts, it’s hard for me to grasp the attraction of climbing a mountain toting 70 pounds in a backpack. The exertion and physical effort alone is daunting, not to mention the climate changes from hot and dry to cold and wet, or from calm and inspirational to windy and biting. But for countless people, mountain climbing beckons.

David Rayman-Rajkovic is one of those. 

He is an outdoorsman all the way. Beginning with his manifest love of nature as a child. He was attracted to the woods, the air, the sunshine and he enjoyed it all with his family, including his brother Zachary.

By 2009, David had married Branka who came from Bosna. The couple now has two daughters. David owns and operates a landscape construction company. “We as family enjoy visiting Holy Orthodox places, monasteries, and churches in America, Europe and the Middle East,” he said. “My hobbies include mountaineering, sailing, visiting tropical beaches, hunting, fishing and trapping at my cabin in the forest.” A true outdoorsman.

In 2011, after his brother Zachary died due to an unexpected turn of events, His Grace Bishop Longin gave a blessing for David to lead a mountain climbing program as a mission under the

Serbian Orthodox Church. The mission was the gathering of Orthodox men to make and feel the connection of nature and God. At least for David, it was also a journey of contemplation, healing, grieving, and prayer. 

In the documentary film Beyond The Peak directed by Aleksandar Jovic, viewers can experience the agony and ecstasy of the mountain journeys. We witness the coming together of a small group of men which is actually the inspiration and birth of the St. Nicholas Mountain Climbing Club. David says the film was God-inspired. “This was a group effort, Father Dragan Petrovic (of St. Nicholas, Indianapolis, Indiana) and Father Marko Bojovic (now of St. Sava, Jackson, California) are our spiritual leaders of our Serbian Orthodox faith. All the mountain climbers throughout all these years, like our choir director and assistant reader Dylan Remes Jensen, who faithfully climb these dangerous mountains, are part of this film.”

Dylan adds, “Struggle and brotherhood are at the heart of the experience of the St. Nicholas Mountain Club (SNMC). Our primary goal is to provide fellowship amongst men, connecting them to God through experience with nature and the Orthodox faith, as grounded by day-to-day life at St. Nicholas parish in Indianapolis and our participation in its services.” 

As with any fledgling organization, since its inception in 2011, SNMC has undergone many

changes.  “While we have never been large in number, we have had 22 men participate in its activities over the past twelve years…climbed all the significant ‘14er’ peaks of the Sangre de Cristo mountains in Colorado and have, over the last several years, begun to venture out to other ranges in the state as well as to climb further afield.  In 2018, we summited Mt. Whitney in California, and last year our group summitted the third tallest mountain in North America, Mexico’s Pico de Orizaba.” Current plans include a 2025 trip to reach the Andes and climb Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in the Western Hemisphere. 

The Club trains together and prays together. They host social events, go hiking, and experience wither retreats. “Significantly, we have had the honor of participating in the yearly processions in honor of St. Mardarije between New Gračanica and St. Sava monasteries in Illinois.”

He says the story of Beyond the Peak has a number of “engaging elements—pathos, spirituality, adventure, camaraderie.  Yet, it’s not the only story that could be teased out from within the group. It sits within something bigger; an expanding tale still being told. These aspects are less easily related—personal, perhaps guarded, and to some degree incomplete. We, those of us that have participated in the climbs and other events of the group, are ourselves works in progress.” 

In a previous article in The Path of Orthodoxy, this quote from Psalm 121 1:2  was written

“I lifted up mine eyes to the mountains, whence my help shall come. My help shall come from the Lord, who made the heaven and the earth.” 

SNMC Chronology: (* signifies the mountains were not summited) 

2011    Mt. Lindsey (14,055 ft.)

2012    Blanca Peak (14,350 ft.)

2013    Ellingwood Point (14,057 ft.)

2015    Kit Carson Peak (14,167 ft.)

Challenger Point (14,086 ft.)

2016    Humboldt Peak (14,086 ft.)

2017    Blanca Peak (14,350 ft.)

Little Bear Peak (14,041 ft.)

2018    Crestone Peak (14,299 ft.)

Crestone Needle (14,196 ft.)

Grays Peak (14,275 ft. winter)*

2019    Mt. Whitney (14,505 ft.- highest mountain in lower 48 states)

2020    California Peak (13,849 ft.)

Mt. Lindsey (14,055 ft.)

“Huerfano Peak” (13,828 ft.)

2021    Grays Peak (14,275 ft.)

Torreys Peak (14,272 ft.)

Capitol Peak (14,138 ft.)*

California Peak (13,849 ft.)*

“Mt. Amalon” (UN 13,557 ft.)

Mt. Shavano (14,230 ft.)

2023    La Malinche (14,636 ft.)

Pico de Orizaba (18,491 ft.-third highest mountain in North America)

Participants include David Rayman-Rajković, Ranko Radlović, Fr. Marko Bojović, Dylan Remeš Jensen, George Seat, Denis Kosorukov, Dimitrije Proševski, Stefan Arsić, Adam Arsić, Michael Beck, AJ Edelbrock, Matthew Jackson, Anatoli Morozov, Dimitrije Jović, Aleksandar Jović, Fr. Justin Matthews, Don Armenoff, George Mikić, Miloš Stanković, Alex Tanasković


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