Princeton was electrifying!

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In Colorado, we are surrounded by the beautiful Rocky Mountains.  Fifty-four of the mountain peaks here exceed 14,000 feet in elevation.

Many people set a goal of climbing all 54 “fourteeners” during their lifetime (or shorter period of time) and do so.  The hikes up these peaks vary from a relatively short , easy walk to a long, challenging, climbing gear required, ascent.

All of the peaks have this in common: very thin air, many rocks, and exposure to the elements.

This past summer, I hiked up one of Colorado’s prominent fourteeners, Mt. Princeton.  Coming in at 14,196 feet, Mt. Princeton is not the tallest fourteener in Colorado, nor the most difficult.  It does sit in a spectacular position overlooking the headwaters of the Arkansas River near Buena Vista, CO.  The views on the way up were breathtaking!

We started out early on this July morning.  The five of us drove up a rough jeep road to get as close to the trailhead as possible.  My friend has done all 54 of Colorado’s fourteeners and some he has done twice.  Together, he and I have a reasonable amount of hiking experience.

We brought three of his children as well.  Each of the children have summited over seven of the fourteeners each, so they knew what they were getting into.  We were all enthusiastic as we started off on this sunny, calm morning.

Princeton start

We set off at a good pace.  Our packs were supplied with the day’s essentials: water, food, extra clothing, and camera.  The trail was not too crowded, and we met a few other hikers along the way.

After about two hours on the move, the children began to drag their feet.  We spoke words of encouragement to them as well as selectively motivating them with pieces of candy.  Starbursts seem to do the trick!  We progressed steadily, but slowly along the trail which faded into a rocky path.

The terrain became rough.  There was not a well-defined trail, rather just a course through rocks and boulders marked infrequently by cairns.  Cairns are small piles of rocks laid out by hikers to mark a hiking route.  We were now above timberline, the air was thin and environment so harsh that trees could not grow.  Only small vegetation and ground cover could survive at this height, above approximately 11,500 feet.

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At one point we completely lost the trail.  A faint, steep path led directly up the mountainside, but it was hard going – two steps forward and one step backward.  Our group gradually spread apart, more than what was safe.

The youngest stopped in his tracks; he suffered a headache caused by the high elevation and thin air (a symptom of altitude sickness).

The oldest child had sore knees and breathing difficulty.  Her father coached her onward.

The middle child was doing fine.  She and I remained close at the lead.  All of sudden, she looked pale, sat down, and breathed deeply.

This wasn’t going well.  We still had some distance to go, but the summit was in sight.  Could we muster the collective energy and motivation to press on?  Should we just turn around and head back to the truck?

Princeton rock pile

This is a challenging decision for a father.  He wants what is physically safest for his children – to protect them from injury.  Yet, a father also wants his children to learn perseverance – to press on despite the obstacles, despite the tiredness and pain, to strive to finish an objective.  Perseverance is a quality we all want to instill in our children and serves us all throughout the ups and downs of life.

We rested, regrouped, and pressed on.

We all made it to the top despite the exhaustion, soreness, thin air, slight headaches, and blisters.

It was a great triumph for all of us.  To strive to finish despite the adversity.  To complete a worthwhile objective that we set out to accomplish.  To work together as a team, feeding off each others strength and walking alongside in each other’s weak areas.

This was a good summit!

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  James 1:2-4

This last photo shows us at the top.  Please notice the darkening clouds in the background.  Shortly after this photo was taken, we headed down in a hurry.  A slow rain started making the path slippery and a few bolts of lightning streaked the skies, their thunder making all of us a bit anxious for lower terrain.  The descent was a whole new adventure – the subject of of another post!

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About John Forrest

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