I feel old.
It started out promising enough.
We arrived at our campsite by 6:30 p.m. Though we had no view of Twin Lakes, it seemed quiet and private and had a nice pad to pitch our tent on.
A quick trip to Buena Vista for a yummy dinner at the House Rock Kitchen brought a measured confidence for tomorrow’s adventure.
The first inkling that everything would not go according to a plan came when we arrived back at our campsite.
“What a nice quiet campground this is. We should be able to get to bed early and get a good night’s sleep.”
The words had no longer come out of my mouth, when the raucous sound of people laughing and yelling hit me. A group of twenty or more teenagers gathered around a roaring campfire in the campsite next to ours.
There would be no “early to bed” for us.
Even though they eventually quieted down around 11 p.m., I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned. My sleeping bag slid down my thermarest, leaving my feet to hang off the end onto the ground. I tried sleeping on my left side, my right side, my back. Nothing felt comfortable.
The later it got, the more I fretted about trying to climb a 14,075-foot mountain.
I must have finally fallen asleep, because the beeping alarm aroused me. In the dark, I pulled on my clothes, as Bryon started the stove. We took the down the tent, ate a little bit of oatmeal and were off into the darkness.
Though it felt early, it apparently was not early by Fourteener start time standards. The parking lot was full.
We finally squeezed our car in, got our packs together, and grabbed Logan’s leash.
Right away, I felt tired. A series of twenty or so switchbacks ascended steeply through the woods. With Logan’s leash bound to my waist, he literally tugged me up the hillside. The pace felt fast, with my spitting out words to Bryon.
“Wow, this is steep. I hope it’s not like this the entire way.”
Still, I tried to reassure myself. With us going up faster, it would leave us more time to make the summit before afternoon thunderstorms rolled in.
As we broke above timberline, more switchbacks greeted me. Sure, I felt a little tired, but I just needed time to settle into the rhythm of hiking. It would be ok.
A rustic wooden sign marked the junction. To the right, Elkhead Pass and Missouri Mountain.
I had picked Missouri Mountain because I wanted to commemorate my hometown hockey team’s victory this past summer. Donning my St. Blues Shirt, I couldn’t wait to take a photo from the summit.
We stopped to have a snack along the way and drink some water. Climbing to the ridge, my energy seemed to be dropping. As we reached 12,400 feet, I suddenly felt overwhelmed with exhaustion.
What was happening to me?
I thought I could just persevere and get through it. I glanced to my right, seeing the trail steeply ascend to the ridge, realizing another 1.5 miles and 1700 feet lay ahead.
Just taking ten steps without stopping felt impossible. I bonked in the most extreme way possible.
“Bryon, I don’t think I can do it. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s ok. We should turn around.”
“No, you should take Logan and go for the summit. I’ll just start heading down, I’ll be ok.”
“No, Leslie, we should stick together.”
Just like that, our day came to an end, with out making the summit.
I still feel stunned. Sure, there’d been other times we hadn’t made the summit. But it had always been because of weather, or the wrong equipment, or something that didn’t have to do with my fitness.
Susan B. Anthony used to say, “Failure is impossible.”
I’m here to tell you, failure is possible, and oh so humbling.