This week I have been on vacation with my extended family in Breckenridge, Colorado. When we got to Colorado, we made an ambitious goal of hiking one of the mountains that is higher than 14,000 feet. Colorado natives refer to these peaks at 14ers. We chose Quandary Peak. At 14,265 feet, it is the tallest mountain in the 10 mile range that includes Breckenridge. It was categorized as “difficult” on the Top ten hikes around Breckenridge web page that we found. The hike is long and very steep, gaining 3450 ft in around 3 ½ miles. We had just come from sea level and knew we were going to need to acclimate to the high altitude before we made the attempt.
In order to get ready, we planned a couple of warm-up hikes that were marked “moderate.” We realized that a mid-westerner view of moderate and a western view of moderate are different on the first hike that we made to Mohawk Lakes. It may have been the extra two miles from the parking lot to the trailhead that are not included in the distance quoted for the hike. Or that we wandered off the trail and ended up scaling large rocks next to a waterfall. The waterfall ascent was too much for our youngest daughter and niece, who both opted to wait for the rest of us to return. Impressively, my niece’s husband completed the climb with his 7-month daughter strapped to him in a front pack. Luckily we found the trail on the way back down and didn’t have to try to climb down the same way.
Our daughters opted out of our second warm up hike, so Mark and I went with my brother and his wife. It was a beautiful and rewarding hike to McCullough Gulch. It gave me confidence that we could do the Quandary Peak hike the next day.
The only takers for the Quandary Peak hike were Mark, me and our two daughters. We were on the trail by 6:10 in the morning wanting to be off the mountain before any afternoon thunder showers rolled in. Most of the hike is above the tree line and on loose, granite rocks. It was difficult, steep, and long. We encountered our first of a family of mountain goats on the first ridge which was unexpected and interesting.
As we started the long final ascent, it was necessary for me to change my focus and goal setting. Instead of focusing at the top of the peak, I started focusing on walking fifty steps before needing to stop and catch my breath. Hikers who were on their way down were encouraging and motivating by telling us we were close and that the view was well worth the climb.
They were right. The view from the top was spectacular and it felt great to have accomplished such a challenging feat. It was also very satisfying to see the excitement and sense of accomplishment in my husband and daughters.
The most difficult mental part of the hike was the descent. I probably should have anticipated this, but it surprised me. We endlessly picked a path through the rocks, trying to minimize the jarring and not sprain any ankles or knees. We all ended up coming down at our own pace and spread out down the mountain. After the hike we were all tired and very satisfied that we had accomplished such a hard and rewarding goal.
Growth happens when we push outside of our comfort zone and try to achieve something that is worthwhile and hard. Do you have any goals that are stretching you out of your comfort zone? If not, think of how you might challenge yourself in the coming week.