My triple climb up Mt. Washington to honor those stricken with Alzheimer’s

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Yes, I was dealing with some rather large numbers on The Longest Day — numbers that seemed a little extreme to anyone who heard them. But, in the end, a very small number proved to be the biggest of all. The number three.

There were three families I honored with my triple-climb of Mount Washington, each impacted harshly by Alzheimer’s disease or Lewy Body Dementia. And, in a way that really amazed me, those three families made all the other numbers pale in comparison. They turned the Northeast’s tallest mountain into a molehill.

One climb for the Humes. One climb for the Murphys. One climb for the Fitzgeralds. Each family has inspired me far beyond my daily work at the Alzheimer’s Association. In a very profound way , these families embody strength through adversity and courage in the face of loss. In their honor, I sought to make my Mount Washington challenge especially difficult, perhaps even too difficult to complete. From my understanding, that was the whole point of The Longest Day.

Individuals were asked to partake in a sunrise-to-sunset activity that would honor those who face Alzheimer’s with strength, endurance, and passion. My hike was designed to test those very qualities in myself. Would I have the strength to conquer such an exhausting challenge? The endurance to push my body beyond its limits? The passion to continue when I wanted to quit? I wanted to face the questions of the caregiver.

During the hike, I kept waiting for the sheer exhaustion to set in. I was sure that the fatigue would paralyze me at some point. It was only a matter of time before I “hit the wall” and struggled to take another step. But, to my disbelief, that point never came.

For all 16 hours, my determination remained unbroken. For all 26.4 miles, I hiked with an intensity I’ve very rarely experienced. For all 12,750 feet, I was driven by love. In fact, I was so driven by love that my third climb of Mount Washington was my fastest of the day. And my final quarter-mile ended with a euphoric sprint to the parking lot. On The Longest Day, I simply never got tired. When I finished, I felt like I could have gone back and hiked the mountain another 3 times.
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