Have you ever found yourself in a position where you weren't sure if you could keep going? I'm talking about that moment during a hike where your whole body is screaming at you that you cant move one step further and your mind is telling you that you are weak for doubting yourself. I'm sure you have, as I know I have many times in my life.
My next question is, do you listen to it?
If you're anything like me, you don't. You push through and remind yourself that each step you take brings you closer to your goal. You tell your mind to take a backseat while you let your determination push you further.
This was exactly what happened on August 26, 2017 on La Plata Peak near Buena Vista, Colorado.
I was hiking with three friends I had made on a previous hike up Quandary Peak last year. We were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready for our next adventure together. We started up the road to the trail head just a little after six in the morning, we were ready... Or so we thought.
Each of us had researched the route, however, it quickly became obvious as we bypassed the trail head by a mile or so that we hadn't researched it enough. By the time we realized, pulled out our GPS, and made our return trip back to the trail head, it was around eight in the morning, two hours later than we planned on starting and a few miles under our belts already. We stayed positive though and began our trek up the luscious path through the forest.
We were all amazed by the beauty of the creek along the way and the eye-popping views from La Plata Gulch where we stopped to eat and take photos of each other. It wouldn't be for another 1000 feet up before we realized what we had gotten ourselves into. None of use are what you would call "experienced hikers", however we did respect the mountain and knew that it would be unforgiving, yet we were determined to reach the top.
As we continued our accent, we noticed the mountain getting steeper and steeper. More so than we felt we had seen on any other mountain including the other Class 2 I had summited last year. Still, we trudged on seeing people at the top and willing ourselves to get there too. Eventually we reached a point in the hike where the trail seemingly disappeared. I searched and searched for cairns but only saw some much higher up on the mountain, so we went for it. Slowly finding our footing up the mountain keeping the lone cairn in our sights. My knees and hips yelled at me to stop, but I was determined. This impromptu bouldering continued for quite some time until we finally reached a point where the cairns were standing tall and clearly showed the route. Boy were we thankful, however, there was another bothersome event happening that we couldn't see.
One of my climbing partners was experiencing the first signs of altitude sickness. Our party had somewhat involuntarily split into groups of two, Justin and I were pushing ahead finding the trail determined to get to the summit. Kenzie and Mike were a short distance behind us. Mike had just flown in from New York the day before and was taking it easy. Though he was accustomed to hiking the Adirondack 46ers, the altitude was affecting him, but sweet Kenzie was hit the hardest. I passed Mike some electrolyte gummies and a can of oxygen, and continued up. I was worried about Kenzie, however, she and Mike encouraged us to keep going and that they would stick together, so that's what we did. Deep inside, I also knew that If I sat and waited for too much longer, I wouldn't be able to find the strength to continue to the summit.
When I finally wound my way up to the summit, I found Justin taking a nap and took that time to enjoy the outstanding views in peace being as we were the only two people at the summit. I was then reminded why I push forward each time even though my body tells me I can't, I prove it otherwise. Eventually Mike joined us at the summit and I was concerned because Kenzie wasn't with him. Come to find out, Kenzie's altitude sickness had become quite serious and before continuing up or down, she wanted to sit and do what she could to help her dizziness subside, yet she didn't want Mike to miss out on his 14er summit so she encouraged him to keep going. We spoke about making our summit visit quick because we wanted to get back to Kenzie, when we turned around to gather our belongings and begin our decent, we witnessed Kenzie coming across the last little bit to the summit. In that moment I was astonished, here was a girl who quite literally should be debilitated, and here she is coming towards us. When she reached us, she explained that she was able to push the sickness aside after eating, drinking more water, and using oxygen. Once she began to feel better, she knew she had to summit. So, we took our photos, laughed, and ate before heading back down the mountain.
We hadn't made it to the top of the mountain until the early afternoon, we were lucky and watched the clouds the entire time, however, it would be dark soon and we still had hours before we were off the mountain. On the way down, everyone was feeling the pain, however, Kenzie and I were struggling at every step. The four of us helped each other down the mountain, over rocks, and across bridges made of fallen trees, the sun slowly disappearing behind a nearby peak. When we finally reached the road, we yelled in excitement, it was almost 8:30pm and we had finally made it.
I learned many lessons from this trip, some of them I can't even put into words. However, I am grateful. I am blessed to have made it to my 5th summit on my 4th mountain and to have done it with such strong, fantastic individuals. I am thankful that no one was sevearly injured and that Kenzie's altitude sickness subsided. One of the many lessons I learned is that no matter how much you have researched a mountain, you should research it more because you may have missed something. Also, even though it is good to push your limits make sure to listen closely to your body. Sometimes it's okay to ignore it and push on, but other times you need to listen to it. The mountain isn't going anywhere, you can always go back to it.