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Peaking the Maroon Bells

There isn't any air at 14,000 feet. Not really. It hits you somewhere around 12,000, and then the next two thousand are hell. My brother didn't seem to notice. But he'd been out there all summer. He'd gotten used to breathing with no air. But there I was, two days removed from the sea level Georgia air that is thicker than afternoon drinking water, grasping for air that wasn't there. Barely noticing the log in front of me as I climbed over it and made my way up the last few hundred feet. The photographs told me that those last few hundred were covered in rocks, fallen limbs, and burst of knee-high prairie grass. But I didn't notice. All I knew was there wasn't breathable air blowing through the clumps of grass.

The funny thing is that I don't remember any of that. I know I couldn't breathe. And I remember the sensation of what it felt like to not be able to find air. But those memories are based out of recollections of the ends of long runs and brutal workouts. But this trip - the trip to the top of the Maroon Bell, the only memory that I have is sitting in the shade of a dust covered boulder with my brother, sharing a Nalgene bottle of water that had a Free Tibet sticker plastered across it, eating a bag of homemade peanut butter coated trail mix, and looking out into the indigo blue sky.

But that is enough.

Story by:

William Garland

submitted at 5:55am

15 December 2011