I awoke to the sunlight colouring the eastern sky. I was the first one in the A-frame to rise. The last to start the final three miles to the top. I had to pump some air into the World. Then, up we went.
Altitude and fatigue still were a problem. Now the rocky mountain loomed over my little speck of a world. When the trail, with bushes and tree trunks, gave way to alpine flowers and grass among the stones and boulders, I could see the small figures of the runners and hikers far off above. The thoughts from the previous days magnified. How will I get there?
A runner offered help. He was one of those who they called "the one, two, three runners". These athletes run to the summit then back to the three mile mark, up again to the summit and down to the two mile mark, up again to the summit, then back to the one mile sign and back to the top again. To say I was out-classed is an understatement. This man pushed with ease as I heaved and scrambled with the pack on my back and Nice (the dog) in tow. He helped bring the World higher and higher, patiently allowing me to stop and catch a breath. At one point when I was falling over from the leash getting tangled on my back pack, I saw the Spaniard smiling and encouraging me as he ran down past us. Finally the runner said he would help later and ran on. I was spent. I had not made it to the sign indicating two miles to the summit. I rolled upward.
A group of young men from Nebraska who were cross-country runners volunteered their help and off I went again. They were much slower than the man before, and I was able to last longer between breaks. One of the young men was like a mountain goat and held the leash as he ran along the boulders on the high side of the trail. I was amazed and grateful for the help. When others would pass, I, being the heaviest and most experienced at handling the World, would often hold the World over the edge of the trail. My young friends would answer the question of "why" which most everyone asked as they passed. I could hardly talk at that point. I was more than twice these young mens' age and carrying a pack on my back. One of them was the designated "dog walker" while the others switched-off pushing next to me where space allowed. At one point, Mr, 1-2-3 came back to help but was much too fast for even the boys, and he soon went on training like a gazelle, up the mountain. I was sometimes left holding both the leash and pushing on my own impressing myself at my ability to forge ahead with five boys bounding around me. They did let me rest often. I was out-classed by these young athletes as well. They helped me for a long while until one of the young men's parents impatiently called from the summit to "get up here!". I took a break longer than a minute then.
I looked down at the terrain they had helped climb and was grateful beyond words. Without all the help I had to the summit I would be camping on the mountain-side at thirteen thousand feet that night. We were close enough to see the overlook structure and the passing of the "cog railroad".
The last part of the climb was the "16 Golden Steps", the steepest and most narrow "switch backs" of the climb. My legs were giving out, my balance was failing, the weight of the pack made climbing the steep rocks difficult at best. The turns were so sharp, as were the rocks and boulders--not having been rolled and polished by millennium of erosion--tore holes in the fabric of the World while I, alone, had no choice but to drag it up at times. I was overwhelmed. The altitude and fatigue from the help had drained me. I was about to give in to the thought of deflating the World and honouring my Uncles 82nd birthday with a pile of canvas at the summit. Then a man came and offered to help the rest of the way and a woman took Nice (the dog) by the leash. Not long after, she offered to carry my pack; I was unable to manage the steep rocks and swing the World around the ledge without knocking myself over on the rocks. I fell several times. The trail was too narrow for such acrobatics and a pack sticking out behind me.
The man and I worked together swinging the World around boulders and up the "switch backs", holding it over the side as others still had to pass. He stayed with me as I lost my balance and my will up the "Golden steps" and then we were in sight of the top.
A few more jagged "switch backs" and we made the summit. I stopped several times and gratefully shook his hand. When we got to the top the crowd cheered and applauded. I let them know I could not have done this without help from good and friendly people like these two who helped me get to the top.
People came to ask me why and I quickly was speechless, the reality of what Nice and me had done over the last 90 days and the altitude made me a bit of a mess. I could only lower my head, raise my hand and cry for a moment while I struggled to get my composure.
I was able to get across that I had walked over 500 miles in memory of my Mother and had gotten to the summit there in honour of my Uncles 82nd birthday. A symbolic gesture to his surviving so long with diabetes.
Emotion still sweeps over me, and it is nearly seven days-to the hour since that moment.
Tomorrow is my Uncle's birthday, and I wish him well.
I hope I have done some good.