Monday, September 26, 2016

Peak Performance

It started the way a lot of things do with me.  With a sense of panic and regret about procrastinating for so long.  How come we've never hiked Pike's Peak before?  We've talked about it a million times, but shelved it for more exotic travels.  You'd think seeing it every day would be a reminder to put it on the agenda.  It wasn't.  Because when you see things every day a lot of times you take them for granted.  It was the fact that it's my oldest's senior year of high school, and maybe the last time we can do this as a family, that finally pushed me to prioritize hiking to the summit.  And once I've prioritized something,  (as I'm kinda the idea person, my family doesn't even really have a choice) then it's time to perform.   

To perform at this level, I might finally need to upgrade my nearly treadless Adidas I always hike in for some hiking boots for our first fourteener. 14,115 ft to be exact and the largest elevation gain (7,900 vertical feet) of all the 58 of the peaks over 14,000 ft in Colorado.  But, I wasn't about to buy new hiking boots right before a big climb.  So, I got an idea.  I'd go to a thrift store and get pre-broken-in hiking boots. Except they didn't have any hiking boots, but they did have combat boots which fit me perfectly and were super comfy when I wore them around the house for the rest of the day.  I'm a freakin' genius!

Your mama wears combat boots!
Early in the hike, feeling great I was worried about the kids.  My kid who forgot to pack a fleece, hat and gloves who was given extremely specific instructions on what to pack which I repeated over and over again.  My kid with the bad knees.  The other kid whose feet always hurt.  And the one we weren't worried about at all.  I still worried about that one because I'm a mom and that's what we do.  But, it became pretty clear early on, when they left my husband and me in the dust that the ones we should have worried about was us.

My husband at the 4 mile marker.
Me near mile marker 2.
This is when it started.  About mile marker 2.  We'd completely lost contact with one of the kids who was way ahead of us.  And I had the start of a blister on my left foot we stopped to tape up when we stopped to filter water from a stream because we should have packed more water.  But we were too concerned about our pack weight because we had to pack sleeping bags for our overnight stay at Barr Camp halfway up the mountain.

Aspen grove.
Around mile six we walked through an aspen grove.  By default,  we'd come at the perfect time of year to see the leaves change color in the mountains.  And even though it'd already snowed on the peak weeks earlier, it was all melted now.  When we arrived at camp our lost kid was waiting for us.  There was nothing left to do, but eat, sleep and hope it didn't snow overnight so we could summit the next day. (And stay awake worrying about that kid who didn't pack appropriately and whether we'd have to be airlifted off the mountain for frostbite. Especially after running into other campers who'd just hiked down from the peak and overhearing them talk about the difficulty of the climb and the subzero temperatures with the windchill.)

I did the math.
$500 x 6= $3,000
Ready to start our trek.
After a night of sleep (some more than others) and no snow flurries, we were ready for the most difficult half of the climb.  Unless we weren't.  The boys forged ahead, while we forced the girls to hang back with us.  Even so, we lost them for a bit right around tree line.  Even taped, my blistered foot was slowing me down.  Until my husband had an idea.   While I am normally the idea person, he's the fixer.  And I give him a lot of things to fix.

I'm married to MacGyver.
Blister relief and air conditioning all in one.
Finally, we caught up to the girls shortly after passing timberline.  They were trudging along just fine.  While it was cold, the wind wasn't unbearable.  And between the four of us we had enough shared hats, gloves and other gear for everyone.
The girls somewhere around mile 9.  
The views were spectacular.
The last mile was the hardest.  With a series of steep switchbacks.  But, we all made it and when we got to the top, amidst the mass of other people who'd driven or taken the cog railway up to the top, we found the boys.  And forced them to take a mandatory photo.

While we were waiting in line to get a picture in front of the sign, some older guy behind me asked me if he could cut in front of us.  I think he was joking.  Not that it made any difference.  I didn't care.  I pointed to my pack.  "We hiked this".  We earned it.  Now you sir can wait just a damn minute before you get back in your warm car with the heated seats and drive your lazy ass back down.  That last part was implied.  But, I'm sure he knew that.

I wear the combat boots around here, mister!

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