In my quest to become a true Coloradoan, I have been fly fishing, snow skiing, and, as of yesterday, I climbed a fourteener. For those of you not from around these parts, a fourteener is a mountain over 14,000 feet tall. There are 51-54 (depending on who you ask) fourteeners in Colorado, including our own Pikes Peak.
Yesterday, a group of men from the church began our ascent on Barr Trail before the sun came up. Barr Trail is 12.6 miles long, but it is not the distance that gets you. It is the elevation gain. It begins in Manitou at 6,600 feet and goes all the way to the top of Pikes Peak, which is 14,110 feet—that is a 7510 foot gain in elevation. When you get to 12,000 feet, you are breathing 40% less oxygen that you breath at sea level. By 14,000 feet, you are getting just over half the amount of oxygen as at sea level. For those who are in good shape, that isn’t too much of a problem. Unfortunately, I am not in good shape.
I was feeling pretty good until the last three miles, but the part that really got me was the last mile. During that last stretch, where the oxygen is at its lowest and the climb is at its steepest, I started counting my steps. I would take 150 steps. Stop. Take another 150 steps. Stop. . . Snails can travel a mile faster than I did that day. While I was despising life, Page Clark and Bryan Counts were running to the top. The whole time, Page was saying, “This is brutal,” which is Page’s way of saying “I love it!”
Just ahead of me was Kevin Allen, Kevin had the look of death on his face and his hands had swollen so much they looked like his hero’s, Mickey Mouse. It must have been because he downed enough generic “Sport Drink” and Powerbars to fuel Michael Phelps for a week. Alan Bruns, who is a physician, looked at Kevin and told him that his best bet was get to the top as quickly as possible. Whenever a doctor looks at you and says, “Your best bet is…”, it is pretty motivating. So, Alan escorted Kevin to the top as quickly as Kevin could go. Once he got Kevin near the top, he ran (yes, ran) back down to encourage me the rest of the way.
A bit behind me, Thomas Ufer and Randy Thompson were making sure Richard Hunt made it up. These men are great encouragers and did a wonderful job of taking care of those of us who were struggling. I think Page, Thomas, Randy, Alan, and Bryan could have climbed another peak that day and still had energy left over for a jog. Richard, Kevin and I were simply thankful to be alive. In fact, Alan had so much energy left that, instead of riding down with the rest of us in the church van, ran back down on his own.
The beauty of the hike was spectacular. We saw deer, marmots, and pikas. However, most impressive were the views and the rock formations. My pictures do not do them justice.
Am I glad I did it? You bet. Would I do it again? Only if I were in better shape.
There were a number of things that impressed me. First, I was impressed with the way the men cared for and encouraged one another. It is obvious why these men are respected leaders in the church. They all have shepherds' hearts. Secondly, I was impressed with the sheer size, diversity, and beauty of the hike. It truly is something to behold. If this is what fallen creation looks like, I can't wait to see the renewed world.