The View From a False Summit Can Change Your Course

I thought I was at the top.

I glanced with pride at the view of the long staircase disappearing down the mountain. It’s been a dream of mine to climb the Pikes Peak Incline, the steep, mile-long staircase at high elevation. I was glad to have scratched that off my endurance sports “bucket list.” Just as I climbed the last few steps, a voice came out of nowhere, “It’s a false summit.”

I quickly turned around and saw a fit guy sitting on a rock sipping from his water bottle. He smiled, “you’re only about two-thirds of the way up.” I climbed a few more steps, and stared over the boulders that had been blocking the view. He was right and he seemed to enjoy delivering the news, “but you have choices. You can always head back down now on the Barr Creek trail or keep going that way to the summit.”

The sun would be setting soon. I was hiking alone, and I had a 3 hour drive ahead to an important conference.

I stopped to consider the view.

We’ve all been there. We set a goal. We work hard to achieve it. And, just when we think we are done, the view changes. New circumstances, new information, and unanticipated disruptions lead us to reconsider. Is this was I wanted to accomplish? Do I still want this, or is there something bigger? Are there other paths to consider?

When life gives you false summits, stop and consider the views.

View Your Accomplishments

Don’t get discouraged. You’ve already accomplished a great deal. Just because there is more elevation to climb, don’t discount the steps you’ve already trod. Take time to breathe and celebrate what you have accomplished. Every plateau is an opportunity to rest and reflect.

View Your Options

Continuing to climb along the same path may be the perfect choice. There is also value in considering what’s available on the alternate routes. What’s for you on the switchbacks, or behind those other boulders? What and whom did you leave behind? Should you consider heading back down? What are the opportunity costs of each decision?

View Your Heart

What does your heart say? What feels right? How’s your energy? What are you climbing for? Which path will offer new experiences and growth?

View Your Resources

Who’s walking with you on this path? Who would (or could) join you on the alternative routes, who might you meet along the way? Do you have enough resources? How can you best prepare for the journey you chose?

The Journey Continues

Sometimes when we get where we think we are headed, the view changes. What we thought was the end-game offers new beginnings. Don’t just keep climbing without consideration. Each path offers different rewards.

On this particular journey, I did keep climbing and the summit was spectacular. Well worth the trip. I took the 4 miles of switchbacks down, also meaningful.

Are you standing on a false summit?
See Also: False Summits: The Hike Towards More (Huffington Post)

Posted in Authenticity & Transparency and tagged , , , , , , , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, Founder of Let’s Grow Leaders, helps leaders around the world achieve breakthrough results, without losing their soul. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she has over two decades of experience in sales, customer service, and HR. She was named on Inc's list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers and American Management Association's 50 Leaders to Watch. She’s the author of several books: Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates (Harper Collins Summer 2020), Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul, Overcoming an Imperfect Boss, and Glowstone Peak.


  1. Sometimes you and I post related topics. This week mine is on a 30 day challenge.

    Pikes Peak is something I’ll need to put on my bucket list.

  2. This is a great post and probably one of my favorites. The beauty if life truly lies in the journey and the experiences we accumulate on the way. Our greatest gift is our ability to appreciate all things positive and negative along the way as part of the divine plan. The key is seeing the value in the sum of the parts not just the whole. Thanks for an inspiring post today!

  3. Thank your for linking to my Incline blog post. Interestingly enough,the falls summit has become somewhat of an ‘initiation’ for newbies. Yes, it teaches you about overcoming, pushing on and pushing through. I love it!

    I also noticed that the incline has a reputation of ‘only for the really strong ones”, “too hard for little old me” and there are a lot of folks that WON’T try it because they HEARD it’s hard. You are correct: Its all in how you look at it… 🙂

  4. Great post, Karin! I have plenty of false summits. The challenge for me is allowing myself the freedom to choose from the different paths. It’s not a failure to change course. Something rewarding awaits on those paths as well. Thank you for your insights!

  5. The incline nearly killed me the first time I did it…and I KNEW the false summit was coming! Nicely SCORREd post Karin…always good to see such a clear application so quickly out of the shoot!!

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