The Ascent Of Mt. Elbert - My Family Travels

I was awoken well before dawn by the sound of my, not so light footed, teammates getting out of bed. It was the fifth day my cross country team had been in Leadville, Colorado. We were taking a week long trip to participate in some altitude training in preparation for the upcoming season. We quickly gathered our supplies and departed from the Leadville Hostel where we were residing. The team and I were headed to the base of Mount Elbert, the highest mountain in the continental U.S. topping off at 14,433 ft. We arrived at the trailhead just as the sun began to rise, eclipsing the behemoth that towered over us.

The alpha group (including myself) quickly separated from the slower group as we hiked up what appeared to be an eighty degree incline. As time passed and the oxygen thinned we overcame the tree line and advanced to the peak looming over us. After about two hours the top of the mountain was right above us. I suddenly gained a burst of energy and sprinted up to the peak…only to find that it was the first of several “false peaks.” Now before this trek began I had no earthly idea these demonic things existed. It was like playing a game of cat and mouse except I couldn’t breathe. Finally, after almost two more hours of hiking (and resting) we saw snow, people eating, and no larger peak above us. We had finally made it to the top. As snowflakes lightly fell onto the group, we eagerly climbed the last hundred meters. There was a large wooden post with a flag attached reading “Mt. Elbert, 14,433” The small, withered flag was what we had climbed, stumbled, and sweat for over 3 hours to reach. The proof. The proof that we had accomplished something not many people are able to, or have the opportunity to complete in their lifetime.

I felt as though I was standing on top of the world. We all took pictures with our “proof” and sat down for lunch. While we ate a lean fifty-ish year old man stood up and introduced his climbing partner. The man he introduced was diagnosed with Parkinsons disease. He had not only climbed Mt Elbert, but it was the final of seven hikes over the course of a week the two had completed. These hikes were to raise money for the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinsons, and all seven mountains were over 14,000 feet. After the small applause ended and people went back to eating I went and shook the mans hand and talked with him, informing him of how much I looked up to him after knowing him for about two minutes. After a long lunch and picture taking session we began our return trip to the bottom. As we walked down I had the time to think about the man at the top of the mountains story and the more I did so, the more I was inspired to not let anything hold me back from achieving my goals. After three hours of downhill walking we reached the parking lot and drove back to the hostel. Although my feet felt like they didn’t exist the next day, I would climb the mountain again in a heartbeat. It was one of the biggest accomplishments of my life, and a phenomenal adventure that I learned a lot from completing.        


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