Phil Plait

What Can You Accomplish With Good Friends? Long’s Peak Anyone?

Phil Plait

CC Image Courtesy of Phil Plait

I ask you this question as I sit on my living room chair looking out at Longs Peak in CO. This past Friday I marked my 40th birthday by climbing this incredible mountain. The hardest physical challenge I have ever had and as a trainer that says a lot. The best part of the whole experience is who I did it with. My husband Jeff and I were joined by 3 friends who had never climbed even 1 fourteener (a mountain over 14,000 ft) let alone a class 3 challenge.

We began our trip at 1:30am from Fort Collins, arrived in Estes Park at 2:40 and began our hike at 3:00am. The beginning 4 miles built our confidence as it is a nice hike with moderate elevation change and we witnessed the most beautiful sunrise you an imagine at 12,000ft over the front range. The trek got more challenging to the Keyhole and then we spiraled around the mountain to the west side where the true challenge began. Along the west slope there are steep drop offs and an area called the trough that would challenge even the fittest individuals. At the top of the trough you believe you must be close to the top as it is right there but you have to brave the narrows which are extremely dangerous and then you come to the home stretch which is a challenging 250 yard climb. At this point you are almost there yet so far away as the elevation makes it hard to breathe and your muscles are tired from the long hike (7.5miles and 5-6 hours at this point).

Submitting of course was our goal and many have had to turn back at the keyhole because of bad weather. We were very fortunate with beautiful blue sky the whole way! The top is quite chilly but you must find time to rest and eat before heading back down.

The down is challenging in many aspects and you find that although going up is hard, down can be just as hard. At this point your body is tired, knees wobble on unstable ground, ankles can roll and accidents can easily happen. Toes are bruised (many toenails can be lost in the weeks after a hike like this) and your body is pushed to its physical limit.

So what is in this about friends? There were countless times where encouragement, a hand, some direction, a little cheer leading and coaching happens between your group. You also gain new friends along the way. There is a kinship on the mountain. One friend was helped by strangers as one lifted her up and the other let her step on his shoulders to get past what is considered by many as the hardest point on the mountain. But strangers you are not during feats like this. You are brought together by your common goal. You are high fiving others as they reach the summit. It is a party of epic (pun intended!) proportions. And I was truly as happy for others as they accomplished it, as I was for myself when I stepped on top.

Life is meant to do with others. Connection is essential to our existence. So, when you think you can’t do something, remember that often friends and family will help you through your challenging times. Like most feats in life, almost anything is possible when you do it with your own determination and the hand of good friends.

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