54 Peaks in 19 Years – A Climber's Perspective
I came to Colorado in 1979 as a freshman at the Colorado School of Mines. I'd been to Colorado as a kid on vacation and took a liking to the outdoors when my former reading teacher, a fellow by the name of Ed Lough, turned outdoor store owner and sold me an external frame pack and what may still have been the best pair of boots I ever owned. The pump was primed . . .
I began intentionally climbing the 14’ers, as compared to general hiking, strictly by accident in 1983. My roommate needed to go scope out a mining operation on Mt. Lincoln for a senior project at the Colorado School of Mines and I tagged along. Twenty-five years later, I stepped atop the summit of Culebra Peak, a different kind of climber in more ways than one.
My first trip was as a rank Cottoneer (climbing equivalent of a Touron) and nothing else, ignorant of mountain weather, staying off the tundra and oh so many other facets of climbing knowledge. We wore tennis shoes, jeans, and Carhart sweatshirts and believe it or not, did not even know Democrat was there, not to mention that it too was a 14,000 foot peak! Time, however, passed, and a buddy and I did Antero, with a map, climbing from the hard road far below, to the summit and back, because we lacked a vehicle that could cut off any of the distance (Dan had a
If nothing else, climbing the 54 was a fairly comprehensive course in mountaineering, the end point of which provided me with both a wonderful accomplishment and the body of knowledge needed to be a decent intermediate climber. I also grew to appreciate the peaks not as ticks on a list but individual challenges. I know that I certainly progressed from the awed beginner with 3 peaks to his credit to the bagger with 20 peaks and counting. Later as I neared the goal, I wanted to finish but I had put the bagger’s routes aside and started looking at snow routes, winter climbs, and seeking the tougher peaks with the confidence of an experienced climber.
For me the 14’ers are done, but not done. There are many snow and rock routes left to do on peaks climbed earlier, ridges to traverse and friends to accompany in their pursuit of the goal. There are hapless Cottoneers to pump water for, share maps with, and mention that those black clouds above can mean big trouble. There are good solid climbers to meet and chat with on tougher routes and friends with whom to camp and enjoy meals cooked over the campfire. For we all learn, sooner or later, that there is more to climbing than just getting to the top of them all.
In closing, thanks go to Roger for the first peak, to Dan for the half a dozen that followed, to Gary, Di and Eric S. for taking most of the solo out of climbing, and to all those folks on other peaks with whom I climbed for the day . . . the ministers on Pikes, the two guys on Snowmass, the lawyers on Capitol, the couple on the Needle, and, at the end, Aaron, Eric and the Daves for being the best of company for the climb of the "last" 14'er, Culebra Peak.
Finally, and most importantly, thanks go to my wife, Debbie, who does more than tolerate my weekends in the mountains, she truly understands.