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No summit is without challenges
Managing Editor James Burns is pictured with Kyle Kilat atop Mission Peak. - photo by James Burns

The mountains in our lives are much more challenging to summit than Mission Peak, that’s for sure.

But there are parallels to be made about each climb. Take Kyle for instance.

The Stanford grad hopes to grow his startup into a multi-million dollar software company, live and play in a choice Bay Area community and create the best possible future for his young family.

None of these goals are possible, he says, without a go-get-it attitude and a little dust on your boots. “You got to want it so bad that it’s the only thing you think about,” he said of raising a startup. “It’s the only thing you want.”

True to form, Kyle was up before the sun this past weekend writing code in the dark, keeping one eye on a snoozing newborn and the other on his computer, when a text message interrupted his flow.

Let’s go climb that mountain, I wrote. Not the figurative kind that drives this tech-savvy whiz kid, but the real thing. Mission Peak.

Mission Peak might be the most popular day hike in the Bay Area. That’s not scientific fact. Just an observation.

Parking along Stanford Avenue and adjoining streets was at capacity on Saturday morning. Walkers, runners and mountain bikers dressed in neon turned this seemingly quiet, up-scale neighborhood into a parade.

With trail entrances just off Interstate 680 and promise of sweeping views of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Mount Hamilton and the Sierra Nevada, the climb calls on visitors near and far.

Including Kyle.

“Alright, I can do it,” he texted back.

The three-plus-mile hike isn’t for the weak spirited. The journey is covered in switchbacks, steep grades, cow grates, rocks and loose dirt, a false summit and a granite staircase.

Along the way, your lower half will beg you to stop. Beg you to turn back. Beg you to jump in your car and never return.

The mountains in Kyle’s life are equally as treacherous, but during our climb he assured me the risk is worth the reward. “You can’t be afraid to hit a home run,” he said.

You can’t be afraid to miss, either.

Kyle left a lucrative position with an established software company to chase his own entrepreneurial dreams – and potentially bigger paychecks.

With a young family, there is an overwhelming pressure on him to succeed, so he keeps hustling. He keeps grinding. He keeps climbing.

He climbs through tired eyes, diaper changes, the 45-minute commute to Mountain View where he’s employed at another startup, and the still of those early morning coding sessions.

He’s become adept at holding the baby in one arm and using the other to write code.

Kyle only asks for a breather once on the climb to the lookout pole atop Mission Peak.

The beauty and bear of Mission Peak is that the buy-in is immediate. Visitors that park along Stanford Avenue literally hike just to start the hike, where a series of slippery switchbacks link vista points – prime locations for cell-phone selfies, stretching and water stops.

We power through each vista and keep a steady pace for the first 30 minutes, but eventually slow. “Let’s rest over there,” Kyle says pointing to a shady stretch on the right side of the trail.

You can detect the elevation gain in his breathing. Silently, I wondered if he had regretted his decision to wear pants and a black T-shirt. The sun is warm and merciless, except in the shade, and we’ve only covered half of the mountain.

He takes a pull from his water bottle and catches his breath. Two ladies pass by. “C’mon, boys, don’t stop now.”

Roger that.

Kyle didn’t just sacrifice his career to tackle his mountains.

He uprooted his family. Kyle and his wife left the culture and cool vibe of the Inner Sunset in San Francisco to be closer to family in the East Bay. There is a comfort, he says, in knowing his daughter will grow up around her cousins and that his grandmother is only 10 minutes down the road.

In time, he hopes to move the family to Palo Alto, where he and his wife met in college. He raves about the education system, downtown life and the beautiful homes.

He realizes his dreams are made of gold and that his best shot of making them a reality is to launch this startup. “My window is closing,” he says.

We reach the summit in an hour and soak in the view. He squints and tries to make out the windmills atop the Altamont. “So is that you?” he asks, pointing in the direction of Manteca.

The journey up Mission Peak means something different to each of its visitors, but the message can be applied to whatever mountain you climb.

No summit is without its challenges. Keep moving. Breath. Pause if you have to, but never stop reaching.