Hands throbbing and torso dirty and scraped from two days of crawling up Pikes Peak, Mandy Horvath seemingly had no reason to be smiling somewhere near 11,000 feet Tuesday afternoon.
Since starting her quest on the Manitou Incline late Sunday, the legless student at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs said she's had times when she's thought, "Crap, why did I decide to do this?"
"At the same time, it's really remarkable sitting on a mountain right now," she said in a brief phone call Tuesday, her spirits high.
At 1:30 p.m., she and a support climber were about 1½ miles from the A-frame shelter at timberline. They expected to get there by nightfall, camp and complete the final 3 miles to the 14,115-foot summit Wednesday.
So far, the mission has not gone according to plan. Less than two months since becoming the first known double-amputee woman to conquer the Incline, Horvath again completed that trail, which gains almost 2,000 feet in less than a mile, during Sunday's "Butt Scootin' Boogie Birthday Bash."
She celebrated her 25th alongside an experienced local, Daniel Pond, planning to reach the peak's halfway point later that night. From Barr Camp, A-frame was the goal for Monday night, not Tuesday night.
Its series of steps lending a rhythm, the Incline "is much easier than (Barr Trail) for me," Horvath said. "Here, I'm bouncing around and playing rotisserie chicken with my muscles."
As Pond totes her pack, she said, she has done no piggybacking and has no intention to do so the rest of the rocky way. He hasn't dared offered a ride.
"I knew Mandy wanted to do something crazy," said Pond, a trained mountain guide who was a sergeant in the Marines. "I knew people were gonna tell her she couldn't, and I've known way too many people like her who've been told that. I just wanted to jump in and help make things safe."
They stopped Tuesday to take in views of the city where Horvath became an instant celebrity in April. Raising awareness for Limb Loss Awareness Month, her first Incline trek got international attention.
For this climb, she's raising money for the Battle Buddy Foundation and Operation Ward 57, two nonprofits dedicated to veterans.
To donate, go to lifeproofbionicwoman.com.