| 1 yr later, still fighting cancer, & climbed my 2nd 14er!
About a year ago I entered my first trip report about climbing Mt. Bierstadt on 9/18/09 while in the midst of chemo and what an awesome experience that was. Over the past year I thought and talked often about climbing again however all of 2010 has been focused towards beating cancer as it came back twice this year. While most of my time dealt with surgery and chemo I did manage to maintain a modicum of fitness in the hope that I would get a chance to climb Mt. Elbert some time during 2010. Why Mt. Elbert? I don't know for sure but given it was the highest in Colorado with a lower degree of difficulty made it an easy target. My climbing experience in 2009 left such a positive impression with me and I spent many tough days the past 12 months dreaming about getting back to Colorado and summiting another 14er.
Getting more bad news a few weeks ago and in starting chemo again I didn't think I'd get the chance to climb this year. The thought of another climb had kept me motivated all year and knowing what another round of chemo would do to me physically made that prospect unlikely. To be honest, not getting a climb this year was tough to accept and for the first time it seemed as if the cancer was getting the best of me. However, my wife surprised me with airline tickets to Denver for a 17th wedding anniversary gift. Having already thought about climbing Elbert all year I didn't waste any time in getting things together. As a bonus, our plan was to climb Elbert on our actually anniversary date, August 28th.
Having spent the year anxiously waiting for and then reading Elbert trip reports and learning the experiences of others really helped me get mentally prepared. Having limited time to train for anything this year I knew that this would be tough even if it was one of the "easier" 14ers. We left Columbus, Ohio on the afternoon of August 27th and arrived in Leadville late that evening. I hardly slept a wink as I was so excited to have this opportunity. The next morning we arrived at the trail head by 4:50 leaving for our northeast route assault at 5:15.
While climbing Elbert may not be technical it is challenging. The walk through the pine scented forest was a great way to start off and with over 1,500 feet of elevation gain you get a nice introduction of what to expect for the rest of the climb.
Breaking through the trees at approximately 12,000 feet you get the first real idea of what you are up against. Knowing that you can't see the summit from there helps so false expectations are not set.
The route description indicates that 13,400 to 13,900 is the crux of the climb. That description doesn't do it justice. Having done my limited training at or below 1,110 feet did not prepare me for what this would be like. What a great experience this was! Gasping for breath, focusing on each step or series of steps, and the feeling nausea and lite-headedness gave me significant perspective on what it must be like to climb some of the harder and/or higher mountains. It was tough but it was a great feeling! And compared to chemo, I've felt worse on a bi-weekly basis for the past 19 months.
Getting to the top was an awesome experience. Having my wife join me a short while later was even better. With the awesome weather we were able to spend an hour plus on the summit, talk to some great people, hear some comical stories and amusingly watch a group of guys doing jello shots. A tremendous experience!
As I now shift my focus back to a different kind of mountain to climb, one which doesn't have altitude or a difficulty rating assigned to it, I'll treasure the experience I had and the people I had it with on August 28th. This will give me confidence going forward and I look forward to what I'll be able to do after I summit this different kind of climb.
Special thanks to Amy and my kids, Katie, Hannah and Danny, for being there and for making this all come together. I look forward to climbing with them in the future. What a great time and Happy Anniversary, Amy!
And in 2011, who knows. Maybe Longs, maybe Mt. of the Holy Cross, maybe……