Alison Berkley: Bagging peaks for bragging rights | AspenTimes.com

Alison Berkley: Bagging peaks for bragging rights

My friend John left me on the side of a mountain last weekend.Of course I was pissed off! You do not go around leaving little girls behind in the middle of a mile-wide sawtooth traverse at 13,000-some-odd feet just because I (temporarily) lost track of my dog. Our brilliant plan was to climb not one, but two fourteeners in one day, as if one fourteener wasn’t enough. I guess that’s why we were in such a big fat hurry and it was every man (woman and dog) for themselves – or every woman and dog by themselves, which is how it turned out for me and my beloved chow/lab mix, Sebastian, when we just couldn’t keep up the pace.I have to disagree with my shrink and say that I am not competitive! I would rather not compete at all than have to lose. Colorado people, on the other hand, have this need to go a little higher, a little faster, or a little longer so that your accomplishments are always going to be one-upped by yet another overachiever who has not quite found an outlet for all the ambition they left behind in the real world. Whatever miraculous feat you think you have just conquered, the guy sitting next to you at the bar is going to undermine you by telling you he did it (or better yet, knows someone else who can do it) faster, longer, or better.These Ego Measuring Sticks are all around us, and if you try real hard, you can put a few notches in your belt by conquering new heights: Ahhh, the mountain air, the views, the bragging rights. Just don’t expect anyone to be impressed.Ego Ruler #1: SmugglerSmuggler was the first hike I did in Aspen, and should be considered easy. It’s perfect for sweating out a hangover or for women toting their newborns in those crazy baby backpack things. I went with three other girls who are all nine inches taller than me and made me feel like a penguin trying to keep up with gazelles. I have hiked it, ridden it and run it and am ashamed to say that it takes me about the same amount of time either way. Yes, it takes me longer than 20 minutes.Ego Ruler #2: The Ute TrailI love the Ute Trail because it makes me sweat in a way that I’m positive I’m burning tons of calories. It’s short and difficult and you can do it during your lunch break, convinced that the steep, loose terrain is going to give you the finest ass in the Roaring Fork Valley. You don’t need to get all technical and geared out to do this hike – shorts and a jog bra work just fine, although the first time I did it in my running shoes I slid and fell right off the trail down one of those ravines. I scraped up the very same rear end that was so fine in my mind only minutes earlier. Instead of being round and firm, it was now bruised, scraped and covered in a layer of dust and dirt. Yes, it takes me longer than 20 minutes.Ego Ruler #3: AjaxI’m sorry, but the first time I walked up Ajax, it kicked my California butt! I thought it was long and steep, with very little in the way of traversing or flats. Well imagine my surprise when I met a girl at the coffee shop who nonchalantly told me she “ran up Ajax this morning,” as if running up Ajax was a walk in the park. I’m sorry, but I do not see how you could possibly run up that mountain. Ajax taunts me ever since, like a big, mean older brother who I’ll never be able to beat. Just try running up me, penguin legs, it says. Just try.Ego Ruler #4: Mt. SoprisNow I realize there are a gazillion mountains higher than Mt. Sopris, but how many are taller? What compelled me about this mountain is that you can see it from almost anywhere. It stands out in the valley like the guy in the room who has the squarest jaw and the finest features. It’s so beautiful and impossible to ignore that you just want to climb on top of it and claim it as your own.I woke up around 6 a.m. (a huge effort for me – I am definitely not a morning person) and made it to the summit by 10 a.m. Now I thought that was something to brag about! Then everyone at the top of the East Summit wanted to know if I was planning on continuing on to the West Summit, as if only reaching one summit on one of the tallest mountains in Colorado was somehow totally lame.Ego Ruler #5: The FourteenerThe way I see it, the whole 14,000-foot peak thing is kind of like owning a Beamer or dating a super hot guy. The price is high, but the combination of aesthetic beauty and status are too much to resist. It’s always going to be more painful than practical, and almost, but not quite, out of reach. Because we have so many of them right here in our own back yard, it’s impossible not to be drawn in by them – like living next door to the dealership.When I finally dragged my haggard (but now very firm) body and my 80-pound dog back to the car 10 hours later, John was there waiting, looking sheepish under the brim of his baseball hat. I’m not sure if that was because he was tired or felt bad about leaving me behind, but either way, he didn’t let on. The first words out of his mouth were not: Are you okay? Is Sebastian okay? No, this Aspenite clearly had his priorities straight:”So … did you make it to the other peak?”[If you’re claiming you can actually run up Ajax, email the Princess at aspenprincess@msn.com.]

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