My Brother Tried to End Me, Part 1

Pancake Rocks Mountain Trail.

I thought I was going to be carried off this trail on a stretcher and it’s my brother’s fault.

This was the first of two times he tried to end me on a hike in Colorado.

When I arrived late morning on October 22nd, my brother and girlfriend took me to a microbrewery for lunch and a beer. Then we went for what I now consider a “short hike” to Garden of the Gods. Beautiful place, but I had no idea what I would be led to the next day by two regular hikers who had become accustomed to the altitude.

I visited Colorado many years ago, with the ex on motorcycle, but we never hiked and I don’t remember feeling the air sucking altitude of the mountains.

To put things in perspective:

  • The elevation of Appleton, WI, is 790 feet. We breathe easily with 20% effective oxygen.
  • The highest elevation in Wisconsin is Timm’s Hill at 1,951 feet.
  • When I landed in Colorado Springs, I stood at 6,035 feet.
  • The starting point at Pancake Rocks Trail is 9,800 feet.
  • The ending point at Pancake Rocks is 11,000 feet. Effective oxygen is at 13.7%.

Do you see the problem here?

Once we started on the trail, I was grasping for air within 100 feet. Oh boy, oh boy. How was I going to make it to the top?

Brother and Odin the dog led the way up the trail while girlfriend hung back with me to offer patience and support. She told me to keep drinking water, it would help. Meanwhile, my competitive and stubborn (stupid) German attitude showed up. I decided I could do this, I could make it to the top.

The trail is 6.2 miles round trip, which means 3.1 miles of it is going UP. Always UP. I came to dislike UP.

Here’s a little taste of the moderate-rated trail in gallery photos.

I made the UP slow-going. Stop. I need to breathe. Need water. Need to wonder why I’m doing this.

They kept asking if I had a headache or was nauseous as these are signs of altitude sickness.

Nope, I’m just wondering why the heck you thought to torture me on the second day of my trip. At one point, my brother, who was always ahead of girlfriend and I, acted impatient with me and I simply said to him, “Do you want me to make it up this mountain alive or carry my lifeless body down it?” Girlfriend thought that funny.

The trail went on and on and on. When you are climbing UP and constantly trying to catch your breath, 3.1 miles is a loooong way.

Finally, with only about seven minutes (I found out later) to the pancake rocks, I stopped and said, “That’s it. I’m done. You can finish the trail, I’m staying here.” By that time, my body and mind had called it quits. I did not have altitude sickness, I only needed to rest before the journey down, which would be amazingly easy in comparison.

I did feel a bit silly, a bit of a weenie, but an amateur in altitude is an amateur in altitude, unlike the other people who passed me while I sat and drank water and soaked up the afternoon sun. I’m positive they were all natives used to hiking at 11,000 feet. If I had been able to carry on, I would have seen this:

Nice view, huh? Well, next visit I will start slow with altitude and eventually go back to this place to conquer the trail. Maybe.

As I said, hiking down was the easy part. I had to watch my footing, of course (gravel is slippery and rocks are tripping hazards), but breathing on the way down was far easier. I began to believe I would not die before we got back to the car or need a tank of oxygen at the hospital. This was ten times more difficult than biking hills in Wisconsin.

Odin made it to the top, but even he was wiped out by the time we returned to our ride home.

The positive of this hike? A sense of accomplishment (even though I didn’t hike the entire trail) and a beautiful sunset as we were piling back into the car. My brother didn’t end me this time, but he would try again a week later.

Note to prospective frequent hikers: Buy good hiking shoes (they saved me), a decent backpack (not the cheap one I had), a hydration bladder for your backpack (water really is important), bring snacks, wear layers and start easy.

My Brother Tried to End Me, Part 2, coming next Monday.

20 responses to My Brother Tried to End Me, Part 1

  1. Ally Bean says:

    I’m impressed by your tenacity and that you were able to hike as far as you did. Your photos are lovely, showing a part of the world I’d like to visit someday. Obviously your brother took sibling rivalry to new heights. 😉

    • bikerchick57 says:

      I’m not sure if that was tenacity or foolishness, Ally. I will not start that way again on my next return trip. We start easy peasy for the flatlander sister. My brother is a bit competitive like me, but he is also impatient. It’s difficult when you are an avid hiker to keep waiting for your sister. Then again, I’m buying him a book on patience for Christmas. 😉

  2. Dan Antion says:

    You did well to fly out there, lace on your boots and go. 9,000’ is a big change. I’m glad you hung in there with them as long as you did, and it certainly seems like you saw some of the best nature has to offer (although lakes at sea level aren’t bad). Thanks for sharing the beautiful photos.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      That was a tough start to vacation, Dan. I love walks in the woods and jaw-dropping nature, but I love them best when I can breathe. I told brother’s significant other that we will start at the reservoir or lower next time and work my way up. We’ll see if that happens.

  3. dweezer19 says:

    I understand Mary. We are at around 4700 ft here where we live but going further up towards the volcano it is 6000-7000. I hiked a quetzal trail at around 6700 ft. That trail was a gradual slope and we were stopping for views and birdwatching. The first time we moved her I had to adjust to the altitude in general coming from many lowlands residences. But the temperature helps at a pretty constant 72-78 degrees daytime. Congrats on making it as far as you did! I hope you saw some cool things on the way up as well. 🤗

    • bikerchick57 says:

      I love your constant temps, Cheryl. As it’s in the 30’s today, I would gladly take that for one more day on the bike. I was initially naive thinking I could go from WI to CO and immediately hike up a mountain. I had no idea, but now that I do, I’ll be a bit more prepared when I visit again. Enjoy your surroundings, the views and your hikes and have a great week.

  4. lois says:

    Proud that you lasted as long as you did, Mary. That altitude is killer. And they took you out for beer and lunch before the hike?! Oh, yes–he was definitely out for revenge!

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Thanks Lois! The beer and lunch were the day before, when I arrived. Day two was the killer hike and, for whatever reason, we/I didn’t bring enough snacks. I was ravenous by the end of the hike.

  5. Josh Mcd says:

    Way to hang in there! I wouldn’t have made it that far!

  6. quiall says:

    He did it with love? Or are you looking over your shoulder these days… Think of the view you have to look forward to next time.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Well, his kind of love, Pam. He’s not an overly emotional guy, but we have a good relationship. No need to look over my shoulder, only straight ahead!

  7. Beautiful scenery. There are hikers, and there are walkers. I’m a walker and have no problem admitting that right up front. Want to hike? Terrific. I’ll find a place to walk down here, and I’ll meet you at the car or better yet at the brewery. 🙂 👏🏻👏🏻 to you for making it almost to the top. You get huge accolades for that.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Thanks Judy! I would definitely meet you at the brewery and might even choose to walk with you first. Sometimes flat walking is good. 🙂

  8. murisopsis says:

    Having endured and survived altitude sickness I applaud your fortitude. I was in a car and by the time we got to 12000 ft I was dizzy and nauseous. By the time we were at 14000 ft I thought I was going to die. And wanted nothing more than to lay motionless in the fetal position in the backseat of the car.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      I have to say that even though I wasn’t hiking up Pike’s Peak (some people do that), I could feel the altitude simply by standing still. I bet you will never go up there again and choose a lake and flat land over the mountains any day.

  9. KDKH says:

    When I first came to Colorado as an asthmatic from near sea level, I also suffered. It could be that your brother doesn’t remember the altitude adjustment days. We all know to tell people to drink water and forget that water only helps with the dehydration and not the breathing. Many people suggest adjusting for a week or two before trying anything so strenuous. 🤭 Maybe he didn’t know that and just wanted to share the gorgeous views.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      I was warned about drinking plenty of water, which wasn’t an issue because I’m an avid drinker of H2o. My brother may have forgotten about altitude adjustment or he thought because I bike so much, I’d be able to handle the trail. It’s all good, though, I’m still upright and breathing!

  10. I remember how breathless I felt if I exerted myself when I arrived in Cusco in Peru and it’s at about the same altitude as Pancake Mountain so you definitely have my sympathies. You need acclimation before you can be expected to tackle something like that. 5km straight up is hard enough at sea level. I’m seriously impressed at your effort. The highest point in Australia is only 2,228m (7,310 feet).

    • bikerchick57 says:

      That’s one thing my brother learned about taking me to higher altitudes straight away. I told him next time we’re starting low. As low as we can go! 🙂

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