During the last three days of the climb, wildfires blazing in the distance add their own sort of hell to the mix. “Every day is as hazy as you can imagine,” Musiyenko says. “Your body hurts. You’re exhausted. And now you’re breathing fucking smoke.”
After ascending another eight mountains on the following day, Musiyenko can barely bend his severely swollen knee. “At this point, I’m getting pretty worried I may be permanently injured,” he says. “Honestly, I just want to be done with this thing.” The near-death march carries on with Mount Powell, Clyde Spires West and then aptly named Crumbly Spire, where rocks higher than three stacked refrigerators can tumble almost just by looking at them the wrong way. “This is the worst rock I’ve ever seen,” says Musiyenko, who then hobbles over the summits of Clyde Spires East, Mount Wallace Mount Haeckel and Mount Darwin.
“At this point, I’m very close to zoning out,” he recalls. Relentless discipline pushes him forward—as well as a long-held belief and observation he won’t let himself forget, especially right now.
“People tend to give up whenever things get really tough and the odds start to feel almost insurmountable,” he says. “When you’re at that point, you just have to keep remembering that this is actually the whole point. It’s supposed to be this hard. You’re meant to face adversity and work through it with every inch of your mind and body.”
On Musiyenko’s eighth and final day, every inch of his body (and mind) aches. With a nub of a Snickers bar and three gummy worms left to eat, he pushes over more mountains—Tom Ross, Lamarck, Keyhole Plateau, Keyhole Plateau North—and eventually the final, nameless 12,600-foot summit of the Goliath Traverse, simply marked “Peak” on the map. It overlooks Piute Pass and the trail that leads him out. He reaches his car, parked there like a mirage, leans against it and sobs for 10 minutes.