BECAUSE IT'S THERE
The trail to the top is just under 13 miles. Over that distance it gains 7,510 feet of elevation. Pikes Peak is a mountain we all see dozens of times every day. I can see it from my deck, and several of the windows in my house. We see it so often we usually don't think much about it.
I've been thinking about it a lot lately. It occupies my thoughts through hours on treadmills and elliptical machines. It's my motivation for letting that equipment wear me out day after day. Treadmills and elliptical machines can't live up to the task of the trail. Thousands do it every year, if you're one of those who does it often, and easily......stop reading here. (and stop snickering). For the rest of us it's tough.
I started this tradition when an old friend Joe and I ("old" as in known him a long time, he's my age, and I don't consider that old!) decided we both needed to be in better shape, and that the goal of hiking to the top of America's Mountain would be pretty good motivation. It worked. Over the next year we both worked pretty hard to prepare and in August 2007, with one more old buddy, James, (again, known a long time) we did it. Our time was 6 hours and 40 minutes. OK for first-timers in their (very) early 40's. We found it very difficult at the end, The final mile is brutal. You've got no oxygen, you've already climbed almost 12 miles, and it gets very steep at the end. That's the thing about climbing a mountain...it's up hill...the whole way!
I felt better later that summer when 11 News Reporter McKenzie Martin told me she hiked to the summit. This is a woman in her 20's who competes in triathlons for crying out loud. (26 miles of running? I get tired driving that far!) She climbed the peak no problem, but she also said the end was "kind of hard".
We went again last August. That 2nd time Joe brought his 15-year-old hockey playing, football playing son who practically bounced up the hill. James had a health problem before we even started and had to stop about 8 miles up. I walked back down with James while Joe and his mountain-goat of a child went on to the summit.
This year James is back and feeling fine. He's here now from Texas (parts of which I think are actually below sea level) a few days early to get acclimated to the altitude. Joe is back too, minus his too-fit first-born , who would probably be bored waiting for the old men to catch up. I think he's riding his skateboard up Everest this week, but I'd have to double check. Another friend Jeff is coming along too. He just passed a milestone birthday...40 , no....keep going...anyway, he's doing this as a birthday challenge to himself. Jeff and I used to work together when I was a weekend anchor/reporter and he was a news photographer at KRDO in Colorado Springs. He's always been very fit. The last time he went up Pikes Peak was for the ascent half of the marathon! He made it too. But that was about 16 years ago. He now lives near Boulder and works as an accountant (better hours).
Just to prove that I don't only have friends whose names start with the letter "J", someone you know is coming too. 11 News Chief Meteorologist Brian Bledsoe is part of the group for this year's hike. Brian has never been to the summit of Pikes Peak, not by car or train, so this is a great way to top it for the first time. He's in good shape, a regular at the gym. He and I have been training together at times for this task. He's also ten years younger than me. So there are no excuses for BB. He's already confident.
So am I. I think we'll all be fine. But there is that little worry I mentioned. None of us wants to be the guy who can't quite hack it. The situation with James last year wasn't his fault, he probably shouldn't have even started. It's not a race, we'll all hike and finish together, especially since Joe's big-horn-sheep-boy isn't here this time.
Here's the bottom line about going to the top. Once you make it, you spend a few days or even weeks looking at that magnificent mountain just a little differently, knowing you've walked all the way up.
Then it kind of wears off and you start training for next time. I'll blog again Sunday about who made and who didn't and how it went. For those of you who do it often, and easily....I thought I told you to stop reading!
We'll talk again soon.
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