Monday, August 21, 2017

Mt Elbert: 5 Lessons Learned From My Old Man While Hiking Colorado's Highest Peak

"Do not think that what is hard for you to master is humanly impossible; and if it is humanly possible, consider it to be within your reach."
-Marcus Aurelius

A few months ago I posted a blog called, "Achieve Your Mountain".  In this article, I wrote about how I perceived success as a object sitting on top of a mountain waiting for you to reach it.  I still agree with that statement, however, following a recent trip to Colorado, I believe success is much more than achieving a positive end result or a goal.  Success is about the journey and the people you surround yourself with that will determine your end result.

In summer 2016, my father reached out to me and stated he wanted to hike a 14,000 foot peak for his 60th birthday.  Easy enough.  All I have to do is meet him at the Denver airport, rent a car and start marching our way to the to of a mountain.  I initially planned this summit weekend for August 2017.  This weekend would consist of reaching the top of four mountains all of which are over 14,000 feet tall. During the planning process,the first mountain we chose to hike would be Mount Elbert. Sitting at 14,439 feet tall and just outside Leadville Colorado, Mount Elbert is the highest peak in Colorado and the second highest in the lower 48 states.  After month of planning and preparation, the time had come to hike the 4.5 miles to the top.  With 4,500 feet in elevation gain, we would find out this will be no easy task.

We started the hike to the top of Mt. Elbert at the northeast trail head at 5:30am.  This day was highly anticipated and we could not wait to sit on top of Colorado's highest mountain.  We began our hike up a few switch backs and south toward a sign at a fork in the trail.  We took a right at the sign which was labeled Mt. Elbert.  As we ascended towards the top, we occasionally took breaks to take our jackets off, refuel on cliff bars or take in the sights of the surrounding rocky mountain wild life.  Every thing was going as planned until mother nature had a different idea for us.  Anyone who has been to Colorado knows that the weather can be very unpredictable and can change very quickly.  Blue skies turned to grey and black thunderstorms. It began to rain.   After waiting in the trees for 15 minutes this system passed through and we were back on the trail.  As we reached the tree line we noticed many people coming down the mountain and gathering under trees.  A second storm developed and we were once again stuck under a tree in a thunderstorm.

After the storm passed, many hikers decided it was best for them to turn around and return to their vehicles.  Not me and my old man.  We stared Mt. Elbert in the face and we had come to far to turn back now.  After the storm passed, it was our turn to make our push to the summit.  With the skies blue and the image of the beautiful mountains of Colorado appeared,  we made our push to the summit.

The treeline is an area in which trees are capable of growing.  As the elevation of the mountain increases,  the oxygen percentage in the air decreases making it incapable for trees to grow.  This decrease in oxygen also plays a major role when it comes to hiking.  The higher a person hikes, there is a decrease amount of oxygen for a person to breath.  The higher we climbed, the lack of oxygen began to take a toll on my dad.  The higher we climbed, his pace began to slow down, rest breaks became more frequent and the thought of failure began to show face.

As time passed, we kept pushing our way to the top.  I noticed my dad was in pain but the old dog kept pushing onward.  As we hiked, we would pass people who would tell us, "not today" and "this is much harder then I thought. I need to turn back."  When we thought we almost made to the top, a snow storm began to approach.  We took shelter against the side of the mountain against large boulders thinking we would be protected from the storm.  People kept passing us on their descent trying to beat the bad weather approaching.  When everyone turned back, we embraced the storm.  It was 2:00pm when 50-60mph winds blasted snow into our face.  The storm didn't last long but it came with a punch.

Shortly after the storm passed, we began our ascent again toward what we thought was the summit. On Mt. Elbert, there are three false summits. As we approached the second false summit (13,900 ft elevation), we realized we were not even close to the top.  Sitting on top of this summit, we took a break.  As we rested, my dad would explain to me how humbling of an experience this is and he never imagined that this was so physically challenging.  He explained to me the amount of pain his knees were in and how hard it was for him to keep moving.  At his lowest point of the trip, I decided to facetime my nephew/his grandson.  "WOW GRANDPA! Where are you?" Ethan asked over facetime.  " I am so proud of you grandpa you are awesome!"  After eating his fair share of humble pie and hearing the words from my nephew, he had the energy and the courage to keep moving forward.  Slow and steady up the side of this mountain we kept pushing our way forward to the next false summit (14,300 ft of elevation)  With the end finally in sight, we took one last break before our final push to the top.

With each step forward,  we were getting closer and closer to achieving our goal. At 3:30 pm, 10 hours after we started our journey, 4,500 ft of vertical ascent and standing at 14,439 feet above sea level, we finally made it.  We were the only ones standing on top of Colorado's highest peak. When others turned back, we kept pushing forward.  As we stood on top of this mountain, it occurred to me that success is much more than a destination, its about the journey.

5 key lessons I learned hiking Mt. Elbert.

  • Success is a journey, not a destination.
    • Remember the journey and the people you encounter along the way.  Your journey to the top is just as important as the end goal.  Do good to others, encourage people to do great things, help others in need and embrace the hard times.
  • You're journey may change and evolve.  
    • Initially we planned for 4+ peaks with including other mountains like Long's Peak.  
    • Through the course of our journey and an unexpected difficulties. We manage to accomplish one peak.  At the end of the day we still achieved a goal we set.
  • Goals that you set may be harder than they appear. They may even have a false summit.
    • It is always better to over prepare for what challenges may be a head.
    • When you think you achieved your goal, it may be a false summit. The smaller goal blocks our vision until we achieve it. When then realize it is just a stepping stone to the bigger picture.
  • Eating humble pie.
    • The taste is horrible and tough to swallow.  During your journey you will be in a situation that will humble your arrogance.  
    • Eat it, digest it, learn from it and move forward.  Don't be discouraged.  Embrace it!
  • When others turn around, keep moving forward!
    • In your life there will be doubters, there will be people who turn back, there will be people who try to bring you down, there will be people who say your vision cant be accomplished.  Prove them wrong.
    • "Don't give up. Don't ever give up." --Jim Valvano 

    After embracing each other at the top, it was our time to turn around and make the descend down. Although I will never forget the moment the feeling I had of standing on top of Mt. Elbert with just myself and my dad,  I will never forget the struggle and hardship it took to make our journey to the top.  

    If you have a goal in mind that you want to achieve and experience the journey of success please sign up to my email list.  I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas. 

    Over the next several months, I will be releasing a free online webinar. There will only be 25 spots available to the first 25 people who sign up to my emailing list.

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