I've completed the CCNP Route exam yesterday. Yes it's just as difficult as you think, but not impossible. I highly recommend the CCNP Simplified series along with their 101 labs, you truly do have to understand why each routing protocol works the way it does.
After passing this exam, I now understand why there is the CCIE. I simply had more questions rather than answers as I progressed through my study material.
Next up is the Switch exam, I previewed the book material I will use which is the Cisco OCG and the CCNP simplified series. I'm at a lost about what I'm going to do for setting up my switching lab. Setting up a routing lab is simple, just use GNS3 but of course GNS3 doesn't support switching yet in their software.
I have one lonely Cisco 3550 at home from my CCNP: Voice studying. I think I'm going to bring my 3550 to work and borrow whatever layer 3/2 switches I can find to setup a lab. Either that or Ebay but I'm trying to avoid that if possible. I'm still on the fence on rather or not I should sell the 3-4 routers sitting in my rack doing nothing, only time will tell.
I plan to contribute to this blog more which I've abandoned for quite a while due to life in general.