Hiking up Mt. Elbert is remarkably similar to the journey of life. You see, false peaks are inevitable. But, you don’t always recognize them.
Mt. Elbert comes in at 14,433 feet. It is the highest peak in Colorado and the second highest point in the continental U.S. The difficulty rating for the hike is advanced as the elevation gain is approximately 4,700 ft. It is recommended that a hiker starts early morning (5-6am) as thunderstorms are common in the early afternoon hours. Round trip for the hike (depending on the trail chosen) is between 8-12 hours.
It isn’t the physical part of the hike that is tough. Most are able.
As in life, it is the mental aspect that will decide.
When walking the trail in the forest one can see only forest. There aren’t any views of the peak. It is with reason that a person has a moment of jubilation when exiting the conifers. The very point of triumph is within view.
But, is it the point of triumph?
No. Much like life, there is further to go. Nothing has been decided.
Kind of funny how we have the capacity at times to tell ourselves exactly what we want to hear. I knew that the hike would take about 3 and a half hours of steady walking. With two children, my son on my back and my daughter (8) hiking along with my wife and I, we stopped a bit more than a three or four hour pace would allow.
So why did I tell myself that the peak was in sight after two hours?
For one, it was the highest thing evident from my vantage point. The other thing is that I wanted it to be.
“…I wanted it to be.”
Continuing on our hike we struck up a conversation with a fellow who was making his descent. I said hello and then made a comment about us almost being to the peak. In a kind and gentle way he said, “That’s a false peak. There are two more false peaks to go after that.” I thanked him and moved on.
Keeping it real – The oddest thing is that I didn’t believe the guy. Seriously. I was thinking to myself, “Yeah, okay. Sure. Funny.”
Again, I wanted that to be the peak. After all, we had hiked two strenuous hours already. Wasn’t that enough?
My wife stayed back at that point with our youngest.
My nine year old and I plodded on.
As we neared the top of this peak it became evident that another awaited us. It was at this time that I became a believer. I hadn’t happened across a secret passage that allowed a short cut. I didn’t get instant access. If I wanted to get to the top, I had to do it like everyone before me. I had to do the work.
My brave daughter decided painfully that she could not go on even after another break. I proudly watched her make her way down to the plateau below where my wife and son were peacefully napping.
After seeing her reach the resting place, I continued.
Keeping it real – The little voice in my head let me in on a few secrets: “You aren’t going to make it. It’s only going to get worse. What is the point anyway? You won’t be the only quitter. Other people have quit also.”
I listened to every word the voice was saying. And, I kept hiking.
And, I kept hiking.
About three-quarters up this false peak, another came into view. At the same time I spied this peak a gentleman was descending. As he approached I asked him how the view at the top was. He didn’t look at me or even slow up. He just said, “I don’t know” and kept walking. That stayed with me as I continued. Had he gotten hurt in a way that wasn’t evident? Were the false peaks too much? How far had he made it?
I finally caught a glimpse of the real peak nearing the top of the third and final false peak. I kept walking, only with a little more pep. I could now clearly see the true pinnacle of my effort before me.
Keeping it real – I felt like asking if the mountain itself had thought the false peaks were humorous. I wanted to reverse kick a few feet off the mountain top and lower its ranking a notch or two.
Instead, I kept going.
After roughly four hours of hiking, I reached the summit of Mt. Elbert. As I looked around the mountain seemed to be saying, “Here.” That’s it. There wasn’t clapping and yelling, but just, “Here”.
As if to say, “You’ve gotten exactly what you deserve. No more, no less. You decide if it was worth the effort, because that’s what I offer. But, I won’t congratulate you, it wouldn’t be honest.”
No one else atop the mountain congratulated me either. And I, no one. We said hello and made eye contact. That was enough. We understood each other. We arrived the same way.
I sat for a while as the wind touched my face. It felt good. I started down as the clouds rolled in.
There are many false peaks in life. There are times when we believe that our effort was enough. There are other times when we just want to believe our efforts were enough, but know they weren’t.
We will know our efforts were enough when we reach the top.
There are people that want to sincerely help. They want to shorten our learning curve. They want to ease growing pains.
We must be willing to listen.
That little voice will put the hammer on us when we least expect it. When looking for encouragement, we may not get it, especially from ourselves.
We must, must, must press on. We must do this because or in spite of what we hear.
It takes effort to reach any goal. There are some places in life that don’t offer shortcuts. We must take the only way available.
You can only decide if the effort was worth it, when the proper amount of effort is applied and the destination has been reached.
Are you ready to fight through the false peaks offered by life? Are you ready to keep climbing even as your mind and body say no?
I hope this is your time. I hope this post inspired you to start climbing or to just keep on climbing. I hope you enjoy the view at the top.
I want you to know that today really does have power. If, you want it to.
Remember, you are the only you, you have.
So, live it.