The writer is a resident of Delmar.
I just received my Colorado Mountain Club Pin for having climbed all 54 peaks in that state which are officially listed as 14,000 footers.
What’s interesting is that my Colorado number isn’t much higher than the one I received for having climbed the 46 high peaks in the Adirondacks back in the mid-’70s. The 46ers now number in the many thousands and there are only a modest number who’ve done the 14ers; just over 1,400.
As is true in the Adirondacks, some of the Colorado peaks are easily accessible and have nice views and others are much more challenging. As a flat lander, there weren’t any Colorado peaks that I considered really easy. Even though I do acclimatize fairly well and quickly to moderate altitudes, I would find myself sucking wind at about 12,500 feet each time. If I stayed in the mountains and camped high, I would be much more comfortable by the end of my trip, especially when I could spend a couple of weeks out there.
Regardless of the difficulties and logistics to get there and work around my companions’ schedules, it was well worth the effort. Although I don’t tend to sew my hiking patches on my pack, I think I will wear the Colorado 14ers pin and do so proudly. I began this journey in the mid-’90s and finally finished in 2010. What follows is the story of my adventure with those peaks.
Tired and happy, on Aug. 26, 2010, at 11:45 a.m., I stood — well, sat — on top of Little Bear, my last official 14er. I was accompanied by my friend Bill Michels, who is from Colorado Springs. All my other friends who’ve hiked or climbed the 54 high peaks of Colorado opted not to go to Little Bear, either because they thought I was nuts to bother or they’d done the route once and that was enough, thank you very much!
This journey began when my dear friend, Craig Geiselhart, moved to Colorado Springs and sent me a photo of Garden of the Gods. One trip out to visit and I was in love with the area. A few other friends lived in various parts of the state and I began coming out on a regular basis to hike, climb and ski.
Craig passed away in October of 2010 and I was very happy to have been able to call him from the summit of Little Bear to tell him of my success. He was there in spirit all the way with me and still is. He had introduced me to the mountains of upstate New York in the ’70s and hiked with me there for several years, ’till he discovered fly fishing, surf casting and sailing and, as I remained the woman of the mountains, he became the man of the sea.
He never lost his enthusiasm for my crazy escapades, however, and as he sailed the world and I scaled bigger and bigger mountains, we continued to encourage each other’s dreams. It was a bitter sweet call, therefore, that I made to him from the top of Little Bear.
Other wonderful friends helped me scale the 54 peaks of Colorado, some of whom I met on those mountains and others I met on my travels to the Pamir, the Caucasus and Alaska. It was on one of my solo attempts in not-so-good weather to get up Mount Columbia, in Colorado’s Collegiate Range, that I met Bill Michels. He was going fishing at Bear Lake and we chatted all the way up to my cut off for Columbia. We began to correspond and then hike a few of the easier peaks.
Bill, who is a native of Colorado, had been hunting and fishing his whole life, but hadn’t really considered doing hiking as an activity in its own right. Hanging out with me and my climbing friends, however, changed all that. We’ve paid it forward by introducing him to the joys of mountaineering to the point that he’s doing it on his own now, which is so nice to see.
When Mark Cole, whom I’d met in Alaska, came down from Boulder and my friend Ann Parry, whom I’d met in the Pamir, came in from Idaho, I brought Bill with us to go up Longs Peak. Our trip would take us through the famous keyhole route, over the peak and down to Meeker Peak via a rocky traverse and then down to level land via some rock slides.
It was challenging, exposed and wonderful. At the key hole, Bill was a bit tentative but was a good sport and came along. After that hike, he was hooked. Bill’s been my hiking buddy for a long time now and I thoroughly appreciate his support in accompanying me on so many of my climbs of the 54 “14ers.”
Following my first hike up Pikes Peak in 1994, which I did with my lean-to companion, Randy Moore, from Denver, I left the country and went to the Karakoram to climb for about two and a half months. The following summer, I was still making up time at work and didn’t take much vacation time all through the next year, except to go to Colorado and ski with Randy.
Then, in January of 1996, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and lost a summer to treatment and recovery. In 1997, I went to Colorado to visit Craig with my friend, Kefira, who was an avid rock and ice climber. We climbed some great rock routes and began to hike many of the “14ers” within easy access of Craig’s home. These hikes were our aerobic “rest days” from technical climbing. Originally, I had no intention of doing all the peaks, but that’s always how this stuff starts. Plus, I had a base camp at Craig’s home.
In 1998, I had a recurrence and lost another summer to surgery and recovery. After that, I spent as many summer vacations as I could hiking and climbing in Colorado. The only years I didn’t go out were when I was out of the country to go up Kilimanjaro in Africa, and then to trek and climb in South America, in 2004 and 2006, respectively.
So, from start to finish, this was a long project, yet totally worth all the effort.
Since the beginning of my “14ers” adventure, I’ve done some of the more challenging and interesting routes on peaks I’d already been on, hiked in the Mummy Range and explored some of the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Each chance I had to visit Aspen, I’d hike to the summit of the ski area and enjoy lunch at the top. That was always a treat. One more treat I arranged for myself on the day before I went home to Delmar, in September this past summer, was to hike up Pikes Peak again. This time I approached the summit from the west side and rode the train down. That way, I had a chance to relax and soak in the beauty of the mountains which had fist caught my interest so many years ago and reflect, with gratitude, on how fortunate I’ve been.