Friday, August 23, 2013

A Climb up a Mountain

Well, the day finally came. This week a friend and I went to Mount Bierstadt to climb. It was the first time either one of us would attempt such a thing.  I was nervous to say the least. All kinds of crazy thoughts would run through my head but most of all I didn't want to fail. To me, at that time, failure meant not making it to the summit. I have struggled all year with injuries and failing to complete events. I did not want this to be another time I failed this year...especially going with a friend. It is one thing if you can't finish on your own but to have a friend turn back because of you, well, that would have been too much for me to handle....or so I thought.

The day started out bright and early...okay not too bright but definitely early.

We got to the trailhead just after 6:00 a.m. There were a few other cars in the parking lot already, which made us happy as we were not sure how isolated the trail would be on a midweek day in the late summer. We prepped and got on our way.

We climbed and climbed. The first portion was through some sage brush and really wasn't that bad with the exception of crossing a cold creek. As we were a little afraid of slipping on rocks, we actually removed our shoes and socks and waded through it. Not sure it was the smartest thing to do but definitely better than risking wet shoes by slipping off a rock.

The day warmed as the sun rose and we approached the barren landscape of the trail. It was a beautiful day and we definitely had more layers than necessary..but at least we were prepared.

I was happy how my ankle was doing. I felt it on some of the steeper portions of the path but all in all, it was doing well.

At just below 13,000 feet, we ran into the talus field (I learned this new word after the hike and reviewing what we did). It was a lot of loose falling rocks and gravel.

It was during this portion that we started to meet people who were descending. I became a bit more anxious as I watched people slip and slide through the rock and gravel. We had made it a bit more than halfway through the first portion of the rock field, when I finally spoke up and told my friend that it was not a smart option to continue and risk injuring my ankle again. Of course, I felt horrible about it.

Looking at my Garmin, we were at about 13,550 feet. We had made it quite a distance but here I was wanting to turn around and head back down. The long way down gave me lots of times to lament about "giving up" and "failing". I put many positive posts about it on FaceBook and in texts to friends but really I felt like a failure.

So, here is where the real "climb up a mountain" was for me. After we ate lunch at a great restaurant in Georgetown and got back home, I actually went to circuit class that night. I had previously thought I would be going to the gym with a great tale of accomplishment and victory. I found myself only telling a couple of people about the hike and the words "but I didn't make it to the summit" were how the story started. I did muster enough strength and energy to do the cardio circuit class but was careful about what my intensity was. The trainer was one of the people I told about the hike so he helped me with suggestions about slowing down and such.

That night, I had a restless night sleep, feeling I disappointed my friend and myself. It wasn't until I was driving to the gym at 5:30 the next morning that I was struck by the fact that I had done something that I should be proud of and that even by getting up and going to the gym, I was doing something that should make me proud.

Yes, it is true that I did not summit the mountain peak but I did take on the challenge. Not only did I have the desire to climb a mountain, I actually made the plans to do it. I made it to the trailhead and started the climb without reservation. I climbed to 13,550 feet, which is not something easy to do. I made a decision to turn back NOT because I didn't think I could finish but because I didn't want to reinjury my ankle and set my training back again. I know I will reach the mountain peak some day. It just wasn't going to be that day.

Compared to the unhealthy place I was just a few short years ago, I think this is pretty incredible. I am proud of the changes that I have made in my life. I also now realize that I do not have live in shame of where I was at one point in my life but I can be proud of what I am accomplishing now. Maybe I can now start living without this chip on my shoulder...the one that makes me feel like I have so much to prove to people who underestimate the guy in front of me in the weight circuit who lowers the weight on the squat machine after he is done to try to "help" me when I really squat heavier weights than he the smirks (real or imaginary) of others in the cardio portion of class when I just can't get to the intensity I need being handed a 18 pound kettlebell to push press by my trainer when I really want the 35 pound one...

I really do not have anything to prove. I am truly doing this all for me. I am okay with the fact that I went out to do a 14er and ended up only doing a 13.5er....I am more than okay. I am proud that I got as far as I did. I went out to climb a mountain....and conquered so much more.


  1. Hi Lynn! Yes, you do it all for yourself. In the end, it's about health and self-exploration. Believing in yourself, no matter what others think. I was hoping for a photo of you and your friend. :D

    :-) Marion

  2. Hi Lynn - the only opinion that matters is the person who looks back at you in the bathroom mirror in the morning:)

  3. Awesome accomplishment Lynn! Congratulations!