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Lito Tejada-Flores once said, “You never climb the same mountain twice, not even in memory. Memory rebuilds the mountain, changes the weather, retells the jokes, remakes all the moves.” Well, I tried to climb the same mountain twice. In the end, I found this statement to be true. Let me explain.
Every mountaineer will tell you about that one trail that eludes them. For some, it is the great Everest, or Kilimanjaro. For me, it was the stairclimber from hell, known by the people of Colorado as the Manitou Incline.
The Manitou Inline trailhead is at 6,700 ft. (just over 1 mile above sea level). Over 3.25 miles, the trail gains 2,200 feet in elevation with no shade, and few convenient places to take a rest. This creates the perfect storm for dehydration, sun overexposure, and altitude sickness. Plus, the trail’s proximity to the US Olympic training center and the US Air Force Academy means that hikers see some of the world’s most fit people blow by them on the trail – in weighted vests.
The last time I stood at the trailhead of this beast, it was late August, 2010. It was the second time that I had accepted the challenge of the trail, looking up at what seemed to be a momentous task. The first time I failed. In May, I stood in the very same place, only to be kicked off the mountain thanks to a combination of my naiveté (not drinking enough water and hiking with dark hair, fair skin, and no hat) plus the rocky mountain elevation. Lucky, I came down the mountain thanks to my own volition, and not in a stretcher.
This time was going to be different.
I had one word on my mind as I approached the trailhead of the Manitou Incline: revenge.
“Do you have your hat? Your sunscreen? And do we have plenty of water?” asked Chris.
“Yep. It won’t be like last time. I have to make it to the top!”
I was ready for anything that the trail was going to throw at me.
Then, I heard an ambulance pull up a few yards away and a rescue team jumped out, poised to run up the trail. I suspect another hiker had succumbed to the heat and altitude.
The first time I tried to climb the Manitou Incline, I did not respect the 3 Rules of Mountaineering:
- It’s always further than it looks.
- It’s always taller than it looks.
- And it’s always harder than it looks.
But it can always be done.
Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 2. That’s the part where I wrestle a mountain lion and rescue a kid before sprinting to the top. Just kidding.
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