Random thoughts on #CouchTo14er

"I Have Decided," by Mary Oliver [dropcap custom_class="normal"]S[/dropcap]ee if you can follow along my afternoon contemplations...

For one of the items on my #40Before41 list, I decided to climb Pikes Peak. I've been somewhat training — mostly walking a lot with the dog and hiking longer local trails when I've got the time. (On a different, but related note, I've also been practicing yoga asana daily for 23 days now, so I can feel myself getting stronger in that sense.) I've not gotten to any higher elevations so far, and so I'm wondering if I can make this still happen by late August.

Do I actually have the stamina to do it safely?

Partially these thoughts come up as a result of a situation that occurred last weekend. A friend of mine, who's quite active, has climbed numerous 14ers and has lived in the area for almost 20 years, went for a mountain bike ride. He and his ride-mate trekked up a trail that started at around 7,900 feet, and rose in elevation more than 2,300 feet. Right before they hit their destination, he started feeling dizzy, fatigued and headachy — signs of acute altitude sickness. The two turned around and headed down as fast as possible, concerned about high altitude pulmonary oedema and/or high altitude cerebral oedema, aka fluid on the lungs or fluid on the brain, both of which can be fatal within hours. (In the end, it took him a few days to recoup but he's fine now.)

Still...see why I'm concerned?

I know I need to get in some training hikes at higher elevations, and there really is no telling who will or will not get hit with altitude sickness (even Olympic athletes have issues with it at times). But I wonder if there are ways to offset the possibility? And/or can you ever really train enough?

At the same time I've been considering all of this, I've also been trying to figure out my hiking companion situation. Originally, my husband agreed to hike with me. But he sprained his ankle during a mountain bike ride a few weeks back and he's just now in physical therapy and starting to walk without a limp. We've pretty much agreed that he's not going to be able to make the climb. (Not to mention he's been missing prime mountain biking season, and when he's healed, will want to be out doing that, which I completely understand.)

I've had numerous friends offer to come along — both friends who've done the hike before and friends who, like me, have never hiked a 14er. But I'm starting to feel an itch to go it alone.

That might be because I saw this awesome trailer for the upcoming film version of Cheryl Strayed's Wild (with Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl). And it could also be because I finally picked up the book to give it a read. (Way-Off-To-The-Side note: I'm half way through A Game of Thrones, which is 800 pages, and I'm feeling like I've got to get something else read from start to finish much quicker, before I go back to it. I'm an obsessive reader, what can I say?)

In both the trailer and the book (and in many ways, the last book I wrote about: I Promise Not to Suffer), there is such a sense of overwhelming loneliness and a sense of overwhelming power in being able to come to a place of acceptance of such loneliness. And, perhaps oddly, there's something appealing about accessing that type of experience. (Granted, Pikes Peak is not the Pacific Crest Trail, but I know it will be a physical, mental and emotional challenge for me.)

On top of all that, I'm an introvert and I'm not sure I could take anyone with me who was super extroverted. I might just push them off the mountain. (No offense, dear friends. I do love you all.)

I think (those of you in the know, correct me if I'm wrong), the Pikes Peak trail (particularly if I take the main route) is so heavily travelled that if I do go alone, and were to have altitude sickness issues, there would be people nearby to help. And yet, and yet... I might just be begging for someone to talk me through those final miles...

It's a lot to think about.