What a summer it was for three Scripps Ranch children! Ten-year-old Samantha, 8-year-old Danny, and 6-year-old Zachary Podraza accomplished an amazing feat--climbing Longs Peak, a fourteener as they say in Colorado!
Longs Peak is in the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. It is the highest in the park and one of the most challenging. Longs Peak is 14,255 feet to be exact. Mountain climbers from all over the world are challenged to climb Colorado's 15, 14-thousand foot mountains, one of them being Longs Peak.
What makes Longs Peak so challenging is that the easiest route is rated a Class III climb. That is the most difficult without using ropes. What makes Zachary so special is that he is one of the youngest ever to climb the mountain!
Zachary turned six in July and is a kindergartner at Jerabek Elementary School. I, his mother, grew up camping and backpacking with my family. I made the climb to Longs Peak when I was 9 years old. The memory made such a significant impact on my life that I wanted to share the experience with my children.
So, in late August, I woke up Zach, Sam, and Danny at 2:10 am to start their adventure! Our family was camped at the base of the mountain, near the ranger station and trail head. My husband, Tim, stayed with our 4-year-old, Alexa.
Equipped with jackets, rain gear, snacks, flashlights, and lots of water, we signed a trip log at the ranger's station at 2:45 am and we were on our way. As we zigzagged our way out of the forest and above tree line in complete darkness, the adrenaline kept us going!
Finally, the sun began to rise when we reached the boulder field, a place where the path disappears and the kids had to scramble over large boulders. We could see all of Denver miles away. At this point, the climb became more technical.
The "keyhole" route is the most popular and easiest one. However, we met many adults turning around at this point. Once we climbed through the famous keyhole, we slowly crept over two-foot ledges, traversed over large slabs of rock, pulled ourselves up cracks, and finally, after two miles of exhilarating rock climbing, reached the peak.
Samantha and Danny reached the peak first, while Zach took many breaks to catch his breath and hug the mountain. At one point, he looked straight up at his sister hundreds of feet above him and almost turned around. However, he never gave up. Taking little steps at a time, he reached the top of one of the greatest climbs in America. Once at the top, we were able to sign the peak's log and take in the breathtaking scenery.
All of us were tested on the last four miles. Our bodies were aching and felt heavy. Zach's brother, Danny, experienced altitude sickness and just wanted to lay down and go to sleep. But with my encouragement and a drive they didn't know they had inside, they kept going.
By the time we descended below tree line, darkness approached again. Our bones ached, our muscles were sore, and our minds were foggy. We reached the ranger station about 9 pm. Tim was anxiously waiting for us at our campground with a bagful of cheeseburgers and fries!
Somehow, a surge of energy entered the kids' bodies and they were able to rehash their experience to their dad, not leaving out one detail. They crawled into their sleeping bags around 10:30 pm and were asleep by 10:32 pm, too exhausted to eat their cheeseburgers and fries!