After the late night on Mt. Antero, I woke up with lead legs. After some foam rolling and stretching, I headed out and on to Mt. Yale. The parking lot was empty and the trail had no footprints. I know I was going up the more difficult and longer trail, but I figured someone would have started before me. Regardless, it was a pleasant surprise to be able to enjoy the powder snow and trail all to myself. I hiked through the dense trees and along a creek taking in all of the magnificent views, smells, and breathtaking sights. It was like artwork in a gallery with white mountain peaks, green trees covering the lower mountains, and rushing icy creeks making their way down the gulch. The experience of walking along, breathing the cold crisp air, knowing that I was the first hiker on the trail that morning, and listening the crunch of the snow as I walked through patches was a special experience that gave me a new sense of adventure. I could only imagine the old settlers and surveyors who climbed these peaks without trails and guides, just reading the land and figuring it out as they went.
Since it is rare to be able to see the actual summit of the mountain as you are approaching it, I enjoy looking at the peaks that I can see to either side of me. Based on tree line and current location they often look much higher than they are. Today, however, once I hit the ridge line, I was able to look at Mt. Oxford as a guide to tell how much further I had to go. As I climbed up along the trail past each false peak, I checked my Garmin to compare my actual altitude. By 13,500 feet, my legs were difficult to move. Each step felt like tackling a full flight of stairs and each time I had to hop a boulder, I felt like I had an extra 50 lbs on my shoulders. The two hikes the day before caught up with me on the third and were exacting their revenge on my body. Panting and gasping for breath I continued to put one foot in front of the other, trying to focus on the scenery around me instead of the path ahead of me. I was begging for the summit to come in to view and give me a light at the end of this painful tunnel. After reaching 13,800 feet, I took a break to elevate my feet and hopefully drain some of the soreness and throbbing out long enough for me to make it to the top.
I snacked on some energy gel and water which started kicking in as I crested the final false peak and could see the summit. With a new found energy and desire to accomplish the peak just from the sight of it, I forced my legs to lumber all the way up to the summit with a final burst of energy. Collapsing on the summit, all I could do was look around and realize I made it. I pushed through fatigue, sleep deprivation, and exhaustion to overcome a mental weakness and finish the climb to the summit. The sense of accomplishment that followed was heartwarming. I thought about all of the people I have met so far who have found inspiration in my journey and who have continued to push through their own boundaries of success.
For everyone still fighting that fight, I applaud you. For me, on this day, I have succeeded. The feeling is great. Tomorrow I will fight again. I will continue to fight day in and day out to encourage and inspire as many people as I can.