Our third and final day climbing the mountain named after Juan Pablo Duarte, one of the founding fathers of the Dominican Republic, began early. Really early. Before 4am in fact.
Despite the relative ungodliness of the hour, and what its existence in our lives would mean in the coming days, we were all up, rabidly consuming coffee and strangely ecstatic at the prospect of claiming this elusive peak.
We donned the necessary headgear, put on our warmest topical clothing and set off with our guide for two hours of corporate darkness. The stories flowed, the feet planted in front of each other and before we knew it glimmers of light started to show. As we drew closer to our summit, the sun drew ever near its rise and, in an effort to outpace that monstrous light, our feet began to move faster and faster, before it turned into an out running race over who would reach the top first; the sunbeams, or us.
As a result of differing fitness levels, half of our little band of misfits managed to pip the sunlight, while the other half arrived slightly behind, but olympic competition aside, we had reached the top. That's right, we beat that mountain! The beast that had threatened to consume us the previous day was now ours. It was a magical feeling; the glory of God's massive creation stretched out before us in an infinite panorama.
We stood there taking it all in; the mountains, the trees, the cross, the flag and Duarte's large bust. Glorious!
And then we began the descent, drenched in the orange glow of morning. We ran our hearts out back to base camp, devoured our plantain mash and then just kept on running; down and down and down and down.
Those of us in front created the perception that we were miles ahead of those behind, and to be fair it was a little bit that way. But after stopping close to the end and expecting to be waiting hours, we were so surprised to find the back half arriving in a matter of minutes that we all had one big laughing, jumping, dancing, hugging episode that was potentially the highlight of the whole dang thing.
This was immediately followed by an Old Spice photo shoot, of which you can see a glimpse of below. You may not appreciate it, but, at least in our delirious state, we found it genuinely hilarious.
Jumping into the supposedly freezing river upon our return to the car park was literally the best experience of my lifetime, possibly even moreso than the summit, but either way the expedition on a whole certainly was. My two and a half missing toenails, bruised muscles and faulty knee shall attest to that for quite some time to come.
Congratulations Mr Miller, you successfully got us all there, marched us to the summit and we all lived to tell the tale (save for Mike, who barely survived that night, but hey, he made it to the wedding!)