I've always been lucky.
You would think that suffering a massive heart attack in 2013 would sway that opinion, but I survived, so I stand by that statement. Good fortune doesn't dispel fear and doubt, however, and I needed to know - "Will I ever be able to get back to doing the things I truly love, such as running and hiking?"
My Cardiologist answered with a resounding "Yes, but not all at once!"
Almost two years have passed since then, and the pieces of my life's puzzle have mostly fallen back into place, exercise, healthy diet, quality time with family & friends, but one piece remained elusive, demanding attention. My desire to stand on the summit of another mountain, and complete my recovery.
The opportunity to do just that came a couple of weeks ago, as a friend & I headed to the Nevada desert to make our first attempt on the state highpoint, Boundary Peak. At 13,140 feet above sea level, it is the second highest peak I've ever attempted, and my first carrying not just a backpack, but also the weight of uncertainty on my shoulders. Determined not to allow my condition to dictate the terms upon which I live, we set off up the trail.
Camped at around 9,200 feet, the air temperature hovered around freezing as we began the day. The trail gained elevation quickly as it found it's way to the crest of a long, gently graded hill, taking us from shade into the early morning sun. We lengthened our stride as the sun warmed us, enjoying the easy walking and magnificent views. Our false sense of security soon caught up, as we came to the end of the rise, and above us loomed the next challenge; a steep hill, littered with loose rocks, gravel, and boulders, the top of which lay 1,000 feet above.
Over an hour later, we sat, breathing hard in the thinning air, happy to have one obstacle behind us, gazing upward with trepidation at what lay ahead between us and the summit. Our route climbed sharply from where we were resting, along an increasingly narrow arete, to the summit itself. The flanks of the ridgeline were, as below, a rockslide waiting to happen. Our progress became slow, route finding among the boulders being the main concern. Slipping, sliding and scrambling, we continued upward.
At 3.40pm, almost 8 hours after leaving camp, we stood on top. Stepping on to the largest boulder on the summit, and letting out a huge roar of joy, I used all the energy and oxygen left in my body. The emotion of the moment washed over me, the tears coming easily. We congratulated each other, basking in the glow of our efforts, spending almost an hour on top, before heading back down.
As momentum helped speed our descent, I felt the last piece of the puzzle fall into place..... and I couldn't stop smiling.