When I hiked the Grand Canyon for LLS, choosing my trail was easy. I picked the toughest one. Done.
This time I’ve been having an internal debate that would drive you batty if you could hear it. (Be glad it’s internal). My instinct, like last time, “Go for the toughest one!” But it isn’t quite that easy. The toughest one is Longs Peak, a two-plus diamond difficulty hike to the summit at 14,259 ft. It’s a nearly 4,900 foot elevation gain from the trailhead up into the altitude. The total hike is 17.4 miles. And you have to summit by noon to avoid dangerous afternoon thunderstorms, meaning a 2 a.m. start time. Oh, and it includes scrambling over large boulders near the top and hiking on a very small ledge called the Narrows that is only about 3 ft. wide near the top as well. It’s considered one of the more difficult 14ers out there.
As if that weren’t challenging enough, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is only allowing 10 people total from all chapters across the country do the hike. It means even after I select it, I will have to go through an interview process with the outfitter that is leading the hike.
And it’s not like the other selections are pieces of cake. Next toughest: Flat Top Mountain & Halletts Peak, a 10.2 mile hike to more than 12,500 feet with an elev. gain 3,263 ft. Or Mt. Ida, 9.8 miles, 2,122 elevation gain, to a height of 12,889 feet. All of the choices at the top end of the spectrum are tougher than anything I did in the Grand Canyon considering the elevation factor.
So the conversation I’ve been having with myself goes something like this:
Positive Jodi: “Sooooo cool! Longs Peak would be amazing. It’s the climb of a lifetime.”
Negative Jodi: “Wait, that’s at elevation. I’ve never climbed 5,000 feet in one day at elevation.”
Positive Jodi: “But then again, I can hike forever, I just might be a little slower at altitude, but I don’t have a problem with distance”
Negative Jodi: “What if I make the selected 10 and I’m the one person in the group who has a bad day and gets altitude sickness… I don’t want to hold back the group considering what a small team gets to go…”
Positive Jodi: “You’ll regret it if you don’t at least try. So what if you don’t make it to the top, you’ll at least know you pushed yourself and that trail is sooo cool looking.”
… and so on…
Then I got myself in trouble thinking I’d do research to see how other people did on it. First one I read about it is a blog from a guy named Mike. Highlights include “His head was splitting, and he didn’t know whether he wanted to vomit, have diarrhea, or both” and “the woman promptly dragged herself over to the nearest rock and began throwing up with great enthusiasm. ” I don’t know about you, but the idea of pushing oneself to the point of puking isn’t appealing. And elevation sickness is not something to be taken lightly. I want this hike to be fun.
Then a fellow hiker shared this far more inspiring tale of the hike. Ok, now that’s more like it. They did the hike in 13 hours. No one got sick. And the exhausting day ended with pizza. Sounds great to me.
… back to the debate with added arguments….
Positive Jodi: “Those guys that had problems clearly weren’t prepared. They ran out of water at the keyhole near the top!”
Negative Jodi: “But altitude sickness can hit anyone. I don’t want to feel ill, that’s not fun.”
Positive Jodi: “If you can’t make it to the top for any reason, who cares? You tried.”
I needed a tiebreaker. This argument could go on forever and I wasn’t going to be able to talk either Jodi out of her viewpoint without some help. I contacted the coach. With her vote of confidence (and the reminder that I could always change my mind later before the big day), I decided to go with Positive Jodi. The reality is that if I didn’t at least try, now, when I’m in my best hiking shape ever, I would probably always regret it. The irony is in the end, they could just not select me and all this debating would be for naught. ha.
So Longs Peak it is for my first choice. Now to pick my No. 2. It’s between Flat Top Mountain/Halletts Peak or Mt. Ida. Anyone have suggestions? 🙂 It’s getting too late tonight to even think about going into that internal argument. Be glad you aren’t in my head these days.