Taking on the majestic mountain of Sopris
“Living” is different for everyone.It seems that a lot of people who call the Roaring Fork Valley home live here because of the plentiful outdoor recreation opportunities. Leaving Interstate 70 weekend-ski traffic behind and moving closer to the slopes was my reason. But then summer happened.The winter season is when I personally “live” the hardest.Life doesn’t get any better than a relaxing chair-lift ride before carving down a snow-covered mountain in my opinion. And there’s nothing like the frigid winter air to make you feel alive.Ten degrees on a snow covered mountain, blue sky and fresh powder, now that’s livin’: L-I-V-I-N.
Since moving to Glenwood, the view of the intrusive Mount Sopris has taunted me with its beauty every day.Anyone who says that hiking mountains is all about conquering nature hasn’t ever really tried to befriend it. But I’d swear on certain days, when the heavy-gray storm clouds close in on its peak, Sopris can appear angry, as if challenging me to a duel. And other days, it’s so captivating that an hour is easily wasted just looking at its majestic allure.Finally, I accepted the challenge and prepared to conquer the summit of Sopris.
The sun shone bright; there were no clouds to dampen the intensity of sunlight. But at 12,953 feet, the air was still cool enough for long pants on a late-June morning.My heart raced, my lungs inflated and deflated in rhythm with my steps.Breathe in with the left, out with the right. In with the left, out with the right.My legs pumped like hydraulics after nearly two hours and 40 minutes of hiking at the high altitude and the steep grade. I was able to tolerate the leg burning because my mind was occupied on every muscle in my body working together to propel itself to the summit.My body was at the point of exhilaration where every working part fed on the pain and burn; a natural high of accomplishment with a side order of majestic beauty.It was amazing.I couldn’t have stopped if I’d wanted too. I was going to make it even if my mind no longer cared.Retreat was not an option.I must win. I mustn’t let the mountain beat me.Thanks be to one idea, sprouted by the mere sight of the imposing mountain, that wanted me to stand atop the summit of Sopris.And so it was.On June 30, 2007, around 8:50 in the morning, the battle of the summit was over. Me and two companions had conquered the mountain.
As a front-ranger, born and bread, I’ve enjoyed hiking since I was a young. I’ve never hiked to a summit exceeding 14,000 feet and have only done a handful of shorter peaks like Sopris. I’ve always insisted that hiking up anything that can’t be ridden down on a snowboard is no fun.Definitely not “livin’,” in my opinion.
That’s the magic of the Rocky Mountains. They constantly change and always hold new adventures among the wilderness to experience.No line in the winter is the same twice, just as a trail hiked in the summer is never the same hike.The challenging hike up the steep slopes of Sopris made it more enjoyable than reaching the destination and made the summit all the more beautiful.So cliché but it’s true.The summit, a desolate place where a relatively small amount of people visit, is calming in its solitude. Resting atop the mountain I felt a sense of accomplishment that is unparalleled through any other type of sport or exercise.That moment will forever be with us three.But why?Was it the challenge or the victory?Uphill was a battle between me and mountain. I struggled to maintain composure as sweat drenched the shirt on my back and fought with thoughts of why in the hell I was doing this.
The way down was easier on the lungs, but just as tough on body as the way up. It was then I realized that over the past year, Sopris wasn’t taunting me, but instead was encouraging me to live.Encouraging me to challenge myself.Back at Thomas Lakes, at the base of Sopris, I was at ease. There were no feelings of defeat or of victory over the mountain.There’s no winning or losing when you summit a mountain, big or small.It’s all just livin’: L-I-V-I-N.John ardner is a staff writer for the Post Independent.
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