A couple of years ago, a co-worker and I decided to take advantage of the unusually warm early-September weather and attempt Greys Peak. We weren’t quite ready to say farewell to summer and wanted to say that we climbed at least one 14er that year. I had already hiked this peak once before, but it had been ten years. It still seemed fresh on my mind, however, and I remembered it for two reasons: that ridiculous, terrible road to the trail-head, and that compared to other 14ers, it was a
relatively easy hike.
At 6:00 that morning, my first memory was confirmed as we were navigating enormous potholes, ruts, and rocks, uttering obscenities under our breath, and congratulating ourselves on our wisdom to bring the four-wheel drive truck. When we got to the parking lot, we expressed out amazement at some of the vehicles we saw, wondering how they were successful in making it through that treacherous final stretch of road.
About 6:30 that morning, my second memory came into question as I was gasping for air, my heart was racing, and it was taking all I had to keep up. This wasn’t supposed to be so difficult, but the reality quickly set in: I was completely out of shape and not fit enough for this hike. As I pushed myself and ignored the pain and kept telling myself “one more switchback”, I realized that one of the things I love most about Colorado was almost beyond my physical capability.
With a slower pace, words of encouragement, and steadfast determination we eventually reached the summit, issued high-fives, snapped celebratory photos, and took in the amazing views. Because of its proximity, most hikers summit both Greys and the adjoining Torreys Peak on the same hike, but not this day. Despite a summit, this day felt like defeat.
This summer was different. Well, the road was the same, maybe even worse. But the hike — that was different. Months of staying active, eating healthy, lifting weights, and running had paid off. I felt strong, I was not winded, my heart rate monitor was encouraging me to do more. Then I heard the distant gasp from one of my friends, “Hey, Karl, don’t forget about us fat kids back here!”
We only summited Greys that day. Torreys still remained elusive, but I didn’t care. Today was victory.