It took the three tries for the legendary, prolific mountaineer Apa Sherpa to summit Mount Everest. Only after hooking up with Peter Hillary, the son of Sir Edmund, and a group of Kiwis was ol' Apa able to reach the rooftop of the world.
But since that first successful ascent up Everest, a lot has changed for Apa. Raised in the foothills of the mountain in Nepal in 1960 or 1962 -- the Nepalese don't keep track of such trite things such as one's birth year -- Apa moved his family from the highlands of the Himalayas to the Rockies of Utah, because, as he once told an interviewer, "the schools are better."
He also summated Everest 17 more times since that maiden effort with Sir Ed's boy. That's more than anyone in the history of mountaineering.
Like Apa Sherpa, I moved from the Philadelphia suburbs to Lancaster, Pa., because "the schools are better." At least that's what I tell people from Philadelphia. This morning on the shuttle bound from the car rental joint to the main terminal of Denver International, I told some Texans I was passing the time with that "Philadelphia is the ugly step-brother of New York, Washington and every other major Northeast city." But as my man DMac says, "Philadelphia will do..." At least for the time being.
Anyway, unlike Apa, I reached the summit of the first peak I aimed for. I also did it without any technical gear other than a pair of Brooks Radius shoes and blue and red-trimmed Brooks running shorts.
Yessir, I ran to the top of Twin Sisters Peak, which is located to the east of the more famous Longs Peak in the Rocky Mountain National Park. I ran to the top of Twin Sisters in 67 minutes, took a short drink, checked out the view where I saw the town of Estes Park, some clouds, what I think was the city of Boulder, and a whole bunch of lakes. I stood there with the view and felt the stiff wind through my flimsy clothes and looked down at the tree line a few hundred feet below the edge of the peak as one of those dreaded altitude headaches began pounding against my temples. That was my cue to get down.
With that, I headed down the same route from which I climbed. Fifty-four minutes later I was at the trailhead where my rented car was parked. Yes, 67 minutes up and 54 minutes down for the slowest nine miles I ever clocked. And yes, unlike Apa Sherpa, I ran up my first mountain on the first attempt...
Of course Twin Sisters Peak (pictured above from the back porch) isn't quite Everest. My run started at 9,000 feet of altitude and rose to a little more than 11,400. Though it's quite a bit of climbing packed into those four-plus miles of trails, Apa's mountain is three-times higher than mine. For a sea level dude like me, the daily runs in Colorado from 7,500-feet up and over 8,100-feet are pretty substantial. Going up to 11,400-plus takes some effort. Apa, of course, probably looks at something like Twin Sisters as a walk in the park. In fact, a walk in the park might have been the best way to describe my pace as the trail became rockier and the wind a little more fierce as I pushed on past the tree line.
If I can run up over the tree line with relative ease, Apa probably would have skipped up while juggling flaming torches. Hey, I'm not exactly Jon Krakauer here... or even CSN's Lance Crawford, who once did a technical climb up the famed diamond of Long's Peak. Lance, our resident Apa, took mountaineering classes in Estes Park, practiced on some smaller climbs, and then took down one of the most famous "14ers" in the Rocky Mountain chain. Legend has it that Lance performed a series of one-armed, fingertip pushups at the summit of Longs. I believe the legend.
And while I was in Colorado running up a mountain and visiting such places as Boulder, Black Hawk and the exquisite Sundance Lodge in Nederland, I also was privy to a few more tales that could be called legends, stories and, better yet, rumors. The fact is stories and rumors are the currency of ball writers everywhere and this is no different in Colorado. In fact, folks I talked to told me that the Colorado Rockies are debating whether or not to trade away All-Star outfielder and 2007 MVP runner-up, Matt Holliday. Because the Rockies were/are beset with injuries all season and Holliday's contract status doesn't exactly give a ballclub much wiggle room when contemplating a move toward rebuilding, the so-called conventional wisdom looks at Holliday's days as a Rockie as numbered. The Phillies, they say, are a team that could package a deal for a player like Holliday.
I'm not so sure. After cornering the market for overweight, right-handed and underachieving Opening Day starters in the acquisition of Joe Blanton, the Phillies cleaned out the cupboards and sent the top-notch minor-league prospects to Billy Beane in Oakland. Therefore, to get a star like Holliday, the Phillies would have to pick up all of the remaining years on his contract and throw in some big leaguers like Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth and whomever else the Rockies fancy. Meanwhile, after being told the Holliday tales, I countered with the idea that the Phillies had long been interested in side-wheeling left-handed reliever Brian Fuentes. The Phillies have just one lefty in their solid corps of relievers and Fuentes has always given them fits. But when I broached the idea of Fuentes being dealt from the Rockies to the Phillies, I was told, “Take him. You can have him.”
From the outside Fuentes seems like a good fit for the Phillies' bullpen. After all, he strikes out more than a hitter per inning, has a respectable 3.23 ERA and has saved 16 games in 20 chances. Plus, Fuentes has not allowed a run since June 30 and is hell against the Phillies. In 16 career appearances (including three playoff games), the lefty has never allowed a run when facing the Phillies.
But Fuentes has whetted his beak in the closer pond and likes it. In fact, he told the Denver Post in last Sunday's edition that if he gets traded, he would like to go somewhere to be the closer. A free agent at the end of this season, Fuentes said he would seek out a gig as a closer during free agency. That kind of eliminates the Phillies right there. Brad Lidge is going to be the closer until at least 2011. So that leaves us with a lot of unfinished stories with plots left to twist.
The non-waivers trading deadline is just nine days away and even though the Phillies already made a move for Husky Joe, it doesn't seem as if Trader Pat Gillick is finished with the wheelin' and dealin'. At least it doesn't seem that way if ol' Pat wants to go out standing on top of the mountain.
 If you ever find yourself in Nederland or on the Peak-to-Peak Highway an hour west of Boulder and Denver, you owe it to yourself to have a meal at the Sundance. The first time I ever heard Ted Leo's song "La Costa Brava" I immediately thought of the little spot just off the road near Nederland. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Sundance; have an ever-changing menu with tons of choices and some of the best fresh-brewed iced tea ever tasted. Plus, the view can't be beat. It's always hard not to stare at snow-capped mountains through large picture windows (or on a sun/windswept deck). My wife and I snuck away for a quiet dinner last Thursday where she had homemade chicken marsala and I had tofu steaks with a citrusy teriyaki that came with grilled veggies and fantastic mashed potatoes. Man, what a place.