MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. -

Anyone who's climbed The Incline once will tell you it's a feat in itself, but only three people are known to have climbed it 500 times in one year. Joseph Monger is the third climber.

You could say The Incline is a second home for Joseph Monger. His 500th climb came two years after his wife passed away. Quite a feat, but it wasn't Joe's original plan.

"I came here to join her," said Monger. "Nothing other than the people here has kept me alive," he said.

Joseph never thought he'd reach the top of The Incline again. The memories were too difficult after losing his wife, Deanna.

"She would do Barr Trail and I would do The Incline," said Monger.

However, a year after Deanna died, Joe saw The Incline a different way.

"I wanted it to take me with her," he said.

After a few hikes, his daughter began to see through his plan.

"She said dad, I know what you're trying to do. That day, I promised her I would try to do it just twice a day," said Monger.

Since then, Joe has met countless climbers who, like him, have found clarity in the climb.

"God put a lot of crazy people in our life and I need them," he said.

"And we all come here," said a fellow climber.

Two years to the day after his wife passed, the climbs Joe began in despair were marked by one of triumph, his 500th.

"The meaning to me was a tribute to her," said Monger.

"A goal that I never thought was ever possible," he said.

Monger joins two other hikers in the "500 climb". Greg Cummings is one of them.

"I couldn't think of a better guy to join the club," said Cummings.

Fellow climber Vance Hewuse has found a friend in Joe.

"He's a great, great guy. You couldn't ask for better companionship," said Hewuse.

With every step, Joseph knows his wife is right there with him.

"I get to come here and hold her hand every day and go for a walk," he said.

To think, Monger has a trail to thank.

"It has saved my life," he said.

Monger has climbed The Incline 519 times as of Dec. 13. Many people say he's an inspiration. He says on his worst days, those kind words keep him going.

An added bonus, Monger has lost nearly 50 pounds since he started climbing The Incline a year ago. He also fights asthma. His "500 Club" pal, Cummings, has Type 1 Diabetes.