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Longs Peak Essay, Research Paper


Deep in the heart of the Rockies lies the small

mountain village of Estes Park, Colorado. Estes Park

borders Rocky Mountain National Park and it was my summer

retreat. Never in my life had I seen someplace taken

directly out of a fairy tale. The mountains swallowed the

town. One particular mountain immediately caught my eye.

I knew that it had to be the tallest, for it was the only

mountain that was still covered in May snow.

I later learned that the enormous mountain was

Longs Peak. Longs Peak happened to be a fourteener”, a

Colorado mountain over fourteen thousand feet. The mountain

could be seen from every corner of the park as well as from

distant cities such as Denver or Boulder, which were well

over fifty miles away. The mountain held an intense

mystification for me. It reminded me of a Cardinals game,

which I saw prior to my visit to Estes Park. Mark McGuire

was coming up to bat, and shocks rippled down my spine

when I saw him. An atomic power radiated from him. Even

though there were several other players on the field I

simply could not keep my eyes off him. Longs Peak also

stood head and shoulders over the other players.

I had to climb Longs Peak before I left Estes Park.

I felt a call that told me if I failed to climb the

mountain I would be missing out on a life changing

opportunity. Perhaps I wanted to climb it because everyday

when I went outside, it was the first thing I saw. Maybe I

wanted simply to prove to myself that I could do anything

that I set my mind and body to. I am not sure what it was;

all I know is that it was constantly in the back of my head

pushing me.

Longs Peak is an extremely difficult and technical climb.

It offers challenges to every level of climbers, especially

to a slacker like myself. The trail is only a little over

eight miles long. It has a very steep elevation gain of

over four thousand feet. The climb takes over two days of

intensely strenuous hiking. Water is the most important

thing in climbing; the body must remain fully hydrated at

all times in order to maximize best performance.

It is extremely unsafe to climb alone; therefore, my

friend Bobby accompanied me on the expedition. We started

our journey at midnight; the night air was cold, causing

goose bumps to stream through my body. The first part of

our pilgrimage up Longs Peak would take place in the dense

woods. It was pitch dark and for hours the only things I

could see were my partner s legs moving quickly in front of

me. We had to bundle up in thermal gear just to stay warm

and I knew that it would only get colder as we gained

elevation. I could hear a distant stream trickling down

the mountain, and the heavy wind whistling through the

trees. I began to feel butterflies in my stomach in

anticipation for what lay ahead of me.

Our initial goal was to reach the tree line where we would

take our first little break. The tree line usually occurs

somewhere around twelve thousand feet. The first three or

four hours passed very quickly, with no sign of the tree

line. Had I misjudged how long it would take, or had we

taken a wrong turn somewhere? We hiked on with increasing

speed in silence. We must have hiked for fifteen extra

minutes before realizing we were above the tree line. It

was revitalizing to know that our work was not futile.

We were quite exhausted and needed a break. How marvelous

it was to sit on the cool rocks and remove the burdensome

packs from our backs. An artificial surge of energy pulsed

through my body. Upon looking up, an overwhelming joy

filled my soul. I did not feel the heavy wind or the chill

in the air. All my attention was immediately focused on

the slumbering cities below. I felt the omnipresence of God

gazing from the heavens. Yet it left me feeling sad. Sad to

know that the majority of the people below would never

experience such satisfaction.

After crossing the tree line we would begin tundra hiking.

Tundra is a delicate ecosystem, which takes thousands of

years to mature. To the common eye it appears simply as

dried up weeds. Upon closer examination I noticed the

thousands of tiny flowers preparing to bloom. How similar

this is to the real world. People today would rather judge

you based on your appearance than to really take the time

to get to know you. The trails going through the tundra

were extremely underdeveloped, which proved to be –

counteract our advancement. We lost over a half-hour of

precious time trying to recover the trail.

We reached the boulder field, our second goal right before

sunrise. Stars once bright began to drown in a deep blue

ocean. The mountains on the eastern horizon exhibited the

first signs of the coming dawn as fiery gold light framed

each peak. At the Boulder field our hike began to

intensify. The boulder field is located directly below the

majestic summit of Longs Peak. No longer would we be hiking

over a smooth trail; we didn t even have a trail to follow

only a destination; up.

Climbing the boulder field proved to be an extremely slow

and painful process. Every muscle in my body began to tense

up from over use. The air began to get thin forcing

repeated breaks. My body ached to be home in my bed. This

last stretch of the hike took hours, and it seemed like

days. When my partner finally pulled me over the edge the

only thing I could do was lie flat on my back. The last

thing I had to do before heading down was to look over what

I had just climbed.

Nothing could quite prepare me for what I was about to see

when I looked over the summit of Longs Peak. The mountains

captivated me and left me completely and totally awe struck

by their sheer size. Never had I been through such a

humbling experience. Directly in front of me I could see

the heavens, or my interpretation of what heaven was. The

continental divide twisted and turned

majestically at my feet, crashing against the mountain as

waves would crash upon the seashore. Large lakes, which I

knew, appeared to be small blue dots.

I am not sure if it was the rising sun or the whistling

wind across my face, yet at that moment everything in my

life seemed so insignificant. The mountains stood for

everything that was solid in life, the important things.

They are the pillars of existence. We should all be so

lucky to be like mountains, all knowing, ever patient, and

rock solid in our beliefs. To see mountains of this

magnitude made me almost ashamed of having nothing in my

life permanent or solid to cling to. I realized that

people are not mountains, and we will not be here forever.

This trip made me focus on what was important in life and

why we are even here in the first place. Selfishness has

no worth in forever. Nourishing our minds and souls does

affect forever, just like mountains.

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