It wasn't that it was actually difficult. It just took time. So much time. One foot in front of the other. The trail went on forever, a steady, winding incline bordered by jagged rocks and sparse alpine flora.
Their breath was ragged, not due to effort, but because the air was so thin this high in elevation. Kal stopped to breathe. "You know, they say we're going to die soonest because of the elevation. We get more radiation than people at sea level."
"But we have so many other good things going for us. This is the healthiest state." Dani replied, taking a sip of water from her CamelBak. "No earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanoes or tornadoes either."
"Yeah, only flash floods and wildfires." Kal agreed, and started forward again.
Their pace was slow but steady. Behind them, the grays and browns of the trail and rocks gave way to dark evergreens interspersed with lighter aspen stands; ahead, only stunning blue sky above the never-ending trail.
They had begun at sunrise, watching the new day touch the peak in golden alpenglow. Down below timber line the hike was actually easy and they had made good time. It wasn't until they left the relative protection of 12,00 feet that the thin air slowed them down. But they were used to this; they'd been hiking peaks all over the state.
Kal glanced at his watched as he trudged. "We'll summit by noon for sure. Not a cloud in the sky."
Dani only nodded, saving her breath for the climb.
The view didn’t change much above 12,000 ft., just more rocks and small tundra flowers. Some pikas yelled at them as they passed through a field of strewn rocks.
"Looks like a bomb went off." Kal chuckled.
They summited just before noon as Kal predicted. As they topped the last rise, the world opened up around them. Dani sat and ate a sandwich while admiring the views. Below them on every side were the broken rocks of the peak. Further out, other mountains rose above tree line, vying for the highest point. They could see the tallest to the west. It was roiling with dark clouds.
"Looks like Elbert is making some weather."
"It looks really dark, will it come this way? Should we head down now?"
"It's not the end of the world. Just a little storm." But as he said it, Elbert grumbled and woke from its dormant state.