| A Long Strange Trip-My 14er Finisher
When I first climbed Mt. Bierstadt as my first 14er on 6/22/2003, I wrote on the summit register, "One down, fifty four more to go." I never really thought that I would actually finish the list at the time, or for a long time afterword. When I first started I never thought I would have the skills. Then I got wrapped up in technical climbing and became more interested in playing in RMNP and Eldorado Canyon. Then I became wrapped up in climbing mountains to snowboard back down them and mountaineering in foreign places and more obscure peaks. Over the years I slowly worked on the 14er list without any real motivation to finish quickly. I summited many 14ers, around 110 including repeats, for many reasons; a climbing route I had not done here, then a couloir descent I had not done there interspersed with trips to different parts of the country, Mexico, Guatemala, etc...It was not until last summer that I realized that I was pretty close to finishing the 14ers. Upon that realization I became conciously aware that I really wanted to do it, to finish the 14ers. After I got back from the Pacific Northwest this spring I focused down and took off almost every weekend for extended trips to the farther reaches of Colorado to climb the last 14ers. Amongst others I climbed Little Bear, the Crestones, and the Chicago Basin group this summer.
I had tried to climb Pikes a few years ago but a thunderstorm said no. As I got down to the last few I decided on Pikes as my finisher about mid way through this summer. That way my family and anyone who wanted could join me for the last one. I set some dates hoping that weather and my last few climbs would work out. They did, after a end of summer trip to Chicago Basin and a solo climb of Conundrum in snow and poor visibility two weekends ago, all I had left was Pikes. Weather looked perfect for the weekend.
My family and many close friends joined me. Thanks to the following people for coming on my final trip; Steve Taylor(my Dad), Jeannie Taylor(my Mom), Mary Taylor(my sister), my girlfriend Summer Roach, and good friends; Ricardo Moreno(Pollo), Joel Paula, Ben Jordan, Kirsten Ehrhardt, and Nick Kelley. Every one of you has shared awesome experiences in the mountains with me. And thanks to many others that I have shared awesome experiences with in the the mountains as well, you know who you are.
Anyway, Pollo and I met up in west Vail and drove down to Denver to pick up Summer Friday afternoon, September 23rd. We drove to the Crags trailhead where Ben, Kirsten, and Joel had already arrived and set up camp. We grilled food, drank beer and wine, and stayed up relatively late for a 14er climb, knowing that the forecast called for perfect weather the following day. My family planned on joining me then.
We got up leisurely in the morning and began the costumed hike up at a bright and early alpine start time of 8:45am. I decided to wear a womens size ten onesy with axe, avalanche beacon, snow picket, avalung, champagne, beer, food for the summit, and many other necessary and unnecessary things. Why not? You can’t make your last one too easy. Needless to say my pack was heavy and I was hot in the onesy. We paraded up the Crags trail with many funny looks all around as we passed other hikers.
We made it to Devil’s Playground and met up with my family for the rest of the hike. My sister and father joined me for their 15th and 2nd 14er hikes respectively as we walked from there to the summit.
My Mom was going to join but had not been feeling good so she drove to the top and met us on the summit. We grilled, drank champagne and beer, and enjoyed the sunshine for several hours. Eventually we made our way back down the mountain. It was a great day.
After finishing the 14ers, I am left with some interesting feelings about it all. After being so focused on finishing the last few this summer, it is quite a freeing experience to have finished the 14er list and be able to move on to climbing whatever I feel like again (even though I do have a few other “lists” too). It is interesting how when I drew close to finishing the 14ers I felt pressure and an obsessiveness that kept me from climbing any other mountains besides 14ers for a few months. I am not complaining about it but I think a lot of people who get close to finishing feel the same thing, and feel the same relief and freedom that comes with finishing. My other lists are much farther from completion so I do not feel the pressure now like I felt this summer to finish. I am just going to climb mountains, with no regard for lists, for a while. Many people malign lists, and they have their detractions, but I think they keep you motivated and give you a sense of accomplishment too. I have spent at least as much time on other non-14er mountains, as I have 14ers but 14ers were the first mountains to captivate me and motivate me to climb mountains.To know that I have actually climbed them all now, leaves me with a smile. They have been training grounds and have supplied memories and fun that I will remember for the rest of my life. I look forward to many other climbs of 14ers and other mountains.