Part 2… The Descent.
The climb to the summit of Longs Peak definitely kicked my butt (previous post, Part 1). That became more than obvious as I started my descent. For me, most of the way down from the summit, until I reached the Narrows, was walking on my butt. I fought for grip as the rock wall seemed to be twice as slick than on the way up. This was mostly because of everyone over the years slowly polishing this portion with their butts as I was now doing. And if the slick rock wall didn’t put the fear of falling in my head, the fact that I was facing the direction I could fall certainly did. When I would stop to let my knees rest, I would look at all the rocks I might bounce off if I did lose my grip.
The Narrows didn’t seem to be as difficult the second time through. This might be due to the fact that there were not as many people attempting to come the other way. Once I reached the top of the Trough, I knew my knees were going to be aching by the time I reached the Ledges. Aching became an understatement. My knees were killing me halfway down the Trough. Rest stops became more frequent as I longed to be in my hotel room with ice packs on my knees and a beer in my hand.
Navigating through the Ledges felt like it took hours. My energy was drained. I would get about 50 feet and need to stop for 30 seconds or longer depending on how challenging that section was. BUT, once I reached the Keyhole it felt like I escaped death. I painfully climbed down the Boulder Field to a section where everyone was going to meet and rest. It took 2 hours to get back down to the Boulder Field.
The hike from here was filled with images of the unreal climb I just completed. That’s not to say the hike down was easy. The hike up was jam-packed with a couple thousand feet of nature’s imitation of a stairmaster. Now, we had to go back down that same path. As we headed back, the views we were still being blessed with did NOT disappoint me. In fact, they helped take my mind off of the pain I was in.
As we reached the tree line, a huge smile was plastered on my face. We were almost there! Just another hour and a half and we should be in the parking lot. That was a very misleading feeling as we walked through the trees that seemed to never end. The smell of pine was intoxicating as we put one foot in front of the other and begged for this to now end. Slowly we walked down until we could start hearing the sound of cars leaving the parking lot. WE WERE CLOSE!!! That put some pep in our step and before we knew it we were there.
14 hours and 53 minutes from the time I started the hike, I exited the trail. Food, all I wanted was food. Food that was not in the shape of a bar or fruit chew. We sat down at a picnic table and ate as we talked about our experiences. Every one of us just completed the same hike, but it was the personal journey we each went through that we talked about. It was great to listen to others talk about how they felt on certain sections of the hike and climb. We were all thankful to be safe and back down from Longs Peak. It was a very surreal feeling as we piled into the van and drove back to the hotel. All the pain I was feeling seemed to not bother me as I melted into seat. I finally started to look at the pictures I took along the way. I couldn’t stop smiling. I was so thankful and blessed to be able to do this.
I have been very fortunate in my cancer journey to have the people in my life that I do. Many of them have been there for me and helped me through some very difficult times. It’s through those tough times that I found a desire to do my part in the fight against cancer. That desire is what brought me to hike Longs Peak. On the day I flew into Denver to start this next chapter of my journey, it was exactly 1 year to the day I was informed that my cancer returned. I was also 8 months out of my last surgery…but who’s counting?
These are some random pics from the hike.