A baby boomer shatters his fears at new heights

At its core, BoomerCafé is about baby boomers with active lifestyles. And they don’t come more active than they did one day for freelance writer Kurt Buss of Loveland, Colorado. His daughter pushed him to shatter his fears, and climb a 14er … a 14,000 foot high mountain.

“Come on, Dad. You can do it!” My twenty-something daughter’s voice was bouncing in my head. She had been saying that for years whenever we talked about “climbing a 14er,” which is a peak that rises above 14,000 feet, and she was saying it now, as I struggled beneath the summit of Grays Peak (elevation 14,275’), the tenth highest peak in the Rocky Mountains, right in the heart of the Colorado Rockies.

Kurt Buss with his grown kids.

Kurt Buss with his grown kids.

Then my voice entered my head. “What the hell am I doing here? Do I really think I can accomplish this? What if I have a heart attack? Or a stroke? Is there even cell phone service up here? Are my kids going to watch me die on the side of this mountain?”

Finding balance and falling into the zone

My daughter, son, his girlfriend, and I were at the trailhead at 7:15, early in the morning, which would give us enough time to summit and descend before the afternoon storms hit. They were in their early- to mid-twenties. It was my 54th birthday.

buss_up

We got underway and I quickly realized that I had overpacked. I was starting out of balance.

We shuffled through our gear and grabbed only the essentials: energy snacks, water, a rain jacket. Everything else went into my backpack and was stashed in a marked bush. We began to climb.

The trail started through an open meadow filled with explosions of wild flowers. A verdant landscape that wouldn’t last. I thought of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz when she began her journey from Munchkinland. “Follow the yellow brick road!” sang in my head.

buss_trail

But soon all sounds stopped except the wind as we otherwise trekked in silence. The flowers and grass faded away, replaced by rock and dirt. Breathing became the focus, and putting one foot in front of the other. Hours passed, and the higher we went, the air grew thin. My lungs felt like two small flames, about to go out. My mind cursed my daughter for talking me into this.

Then … I made it!

I didn’t see any other Boomers on the summit, but I felt in good company. I was no longer worried about “what-ifs.” The burn would go from my chest to my hamstrings, and a cramp would put me down once. But by the time we reached our vehicles back at the bottom I felt rejuvenated, transformed. I still feel that way, two years later.

Challenge yourself today

Climbing that mountain didn’t just enable me to conquer fearful thoughts; it showed me what my body can do if my head is clear.

buss_down

Now, hoofing it is a part of my daily life and I couldn’t imagine otherwise. I take long, brisk walks with my dog to keep us in shape. My current goal is 15 miles a week.

So target your next bucket-list challenge, and prepare to crush it. You don’t need to overdo physical training. Your confidence is gaining strength. Your body will follow. Once you start getting the buzz from shattering your fears, the world becomes a richer place.

6 Comments

  1. Hey Aleta! I would suggest starting with mountains closer to the ocean for the first one, or else spending enough time out here to acclimate to the altitude. Sounds like a road trip!

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