Out of shape, but made it!
I'm a guy that used to spend every free weekend hiking somewhere in the Southern Appalachians. Actual responsibilities changed that in a hurry. I had already done a few high points, but only 3 in the last 7 years.
So fast forward 7 years and 50 extra pounds, and living in a lower elevation in Pennsylvania.
I decide, on a trip across the country, that I'm going to do some high pointing. Started with killers in Ohio, Indiana, then Taum Sauk in Missouri where actual hiking was part of the trip (in 100 degree temperatures, no less) and then the ever daunting Mt. Sunflower.
After a few domestic microbrews in Colorado Springs, the next day I found myself in Taos. At 7:00am, I was getting water and food, then it was on to attempt Wheeler Peak.
I was determined to make it, despite being out of shape. Perhaps a bit irresponsible of me, but the mental will overcame any physical limitations I might have had.
The day began easy enough with a brisk walk to the Williams Lake trail. There were plenty of other people that were attempting this hike today as well. You couldn't have asked for more beautiful weather. I somehow missed the turn to take the trail up the mountain, so I ended up at Williams Lake. I doubled back and then began the scramble up the steep hill (along with 3 other hikers who had apparently missed the turn as well). After a good half hour of scrambling, I reached the newly fashioned trail.
I was actually feeling pretty good, and it felt great to be out in the mountains again. Hiking along the way, I encountered a man who was a retired Army vet, who had recently had his knees replaced, and his doctor had just given him the approval to go hiking. He was a little more out of shape than I was, but we became fast friends and hiked with each other for about an hour. As we got above the tree line, and on to the scree, he had to slow down, and I decided to press on. It was difficult for me as well, and I found myself taking 50 steps and then stopping and resting and breathing. 50 steps, rest, breathe. 50 steps, rest, breathe. It almost became a mantra.
I recall on many occasions looking up towards the peak and feeling how daunting it looked that there was, seemingly, another 2000 feet of elevation change ahead of me. But I vowed to press on.
I observed a herd of bighorn sheep, about 8 of them, about 1000 feet away from me.
After just shy of 4 hours, I had finally made it to the saddle. Thrilled that I had made it that far, but I knew that there was still just a bit more hiking involved to make it to the summit, where I could see that there were at least 30-50 other people already there.
Finally summited, and joined the rest of the hikers for lunch and water on top of New Mexico. Signed the log book, took some pictures of the amazing scenery and enjoyed the satisfaction that this fat boy had climbed his first 13K mountain, and hopefully not his last. Hung out there for about 30 minutes, talking with some of the other hikers as we passed cameras around to take pictures of each other at the peak.
On the down climb, I encountered my Army friend, who was still pressing on. I offered him some water and some words of encouragement. He only had about 1/2 hour to go before he made it to the top. I'm sure he made it, too.
7 1/2 hours from start to finish. I'm sure many have done it in much less time than it took me, but for an overweight flatlander, I'm going to put that in the "not too shabby" category. Looking forward to many more high points this year, and much more practice hiking leading up to them!
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