A great hiking and climbing friend of mine, Rick Peckham, comes down from Alaska for several weeks to visit me in the summers for some fun camping, hiking and climbing.
A few days after his arrival this summer of 2019, we drove to the top of Independence Pass for a favorite hike up to two peaks, topping out at 13,050’ to get acclimatized to higher altitudes. I took one of Emme’s grand-daughters, Harlow, an Australian terrier who has turned into an avid hiker.
We met a solo woman along the way near the first 12,800’ peak. She was struggling a bit but was pushing up effectively. As she hiked with us we learned her name was Marthe and that she had traveled from Kansas City to do this climb.
At that first summit, Marthe asked me if we were going on to the second, higher summit. I said yes. I could see the doubt on her face. I explained that the only challenge was a brief, exposed rocky patch that people find intimidating, but that if she wanted to come along, we would stick with her and help.
All the while, Harlow was excited to continue on. We went up at Marthe’s speed, taking in the 360-degree view of famous fourteeners, deep valleys and all the beauty that is Colorado.
Harlow needed a boost up only once. At the next big boulder, she used her Aussie strong hind quarters and jumped a good three feet up all on her own. Shades of Emme.
At the second summit, Marthe, teary-eyed, asked me: “Can I tell you my story?” I said, “Sure.”
She proceeded to tell us that in 2015, she and her son came to Aspen and tried this very climb. They didn’t make it to the first summit but were taken with the beauty of what they did see before them. Soon after that trip, she learned she had Stage 3 breast cancer that was life-threatening. She underwent five surgeries, chemo and radiation and then needed to get back to physical health.
She worked on improving her physical condition with this climb being the very motivator to get fit.
So on this day, she returned and was determined to get to the first summit – which she did all on her own. The second summit was only a dream – and then she met us.
Unbeknownst to me, by inviting her along and helping her to the second summit, we were fulfilling her dream. Upon hearing her story, the only dry eyes on that summit were Harlow’s.
This is one of the many reasons I love hiking: you never know who or what you will encounter on the trail. An ordinary hike with my friend and my dog turned into a dream come true for a fellow hiker!
Email note from Marthe:
It was such a pleasure meeting you and your friend Rick the other day, and I was truly honored that I was able to hike up the summit with you both. Thanks for being patient with me. I will never forget that day. I know I couldn’t have made it without your encouragement and company.”