I decided to finish the 14ers on Mount Democrat because I wanted an easy peak that was close to Denver and convenient for everyone. I realize that these are the same reasons most people start on Mount Democrat, but I've always done things a little bit differently. Marcia (marciamallow), whom I met at a 14er Happy Hour in Denver over the summer was near finishing as well. We made plans back in July to attempt a joint finisher together at the end of the summer. As the summer wore on, I was a bit ahead of schedule but Marcia had a few weather delays and had to bust her butt to get back on schedule. We picked Sunday, September 22, a date that most people seemed to be available two weeks in advance. A 2,100', Class 2 hike to the summit would allow everyone to be included and time to enjoy the summit. But nature had her own plans.
A week and a half before our planned hike, the northern Front Range received the most devastating storm in decades accompanied by catastrophic flooding. We watched on the news as entire communities were washed away, highways were destroyed and Rocky Mountain National Park closed its gates. The National Guard was called in to assist with rescue efforts and President Obama approved federal aid for the city of Boulder. Over a 5 day span, the city of Boulder, which receives an annual rainfall of 21" a year, received 17" of rain. At the time of this writing, 8 people have died and a few hundred remain unaccounted for. The floods caused damage across nearly 2,000 square miles of Colorado. I talked with Marcia about the week's events and asked if there was anything we could do or even if anyone would still want to hike the following weekend. Then I asked the people I had invited what they wanted to do and everyone responded the same way. After spending a week inside, watching the rain and the mud, and watching the news coverage of flooding, people were ready to get outside and hike. Marcia and I settled on a solution to our dilemma: we asked everyone on the hike to make a donation to support Colorado's flood victims.
#58 - Mount Democrat
The weather forecast called for a chance of precipitation in the morning and a pretty much guaranteed snowstorm would be making its way into the mountains in the afternoon. The morning of the hike the sky cleared and a weather window appeared. We started the hike in multiple groups with Marcia taking the 6:30am group and I rounded up the remaining hikers for the 7:00am departure. Marcia and I each carried a Nalgene for donations on the outside of our backpacks and collected donations along the way.
Sarah surprised me with matching trucker hats for my finisher. (photo by Dave Campbell)
The group spread out along the trail and I had the privilege of hiking with a number of people along the way. The majority of people I had hiked a 14er with at some point in the past and the rest I had hung out with at the monthly happy hours. As we reached the false summit and the view of the Mount Democrat's summit came into view, I realized my journey was nearly complete. It's funny how I had spent years wanting to finish so badly and now that it was within my reach, I felt a little sad that the journey was coming to an end. I spent the final few hundred feet thinking about the 58 peaks and all they had given to me: the people I had met along those routes, the beautiful parts of Colorado I had visited while climbing the peaks, the close friends I had made along the way and the friend the mountains had taken from all of us.
Mount Democrat awaits.
Reaching my final Colorado 14er summit! (photo by Bill Wood)
The Final Summit
All members of the hike arrived on the summit in less than 2 hours and 15 minutes including Mindy, Marcia's friend who was climbing her very first 14er. We took turns taking photos on the summit, eating cookies from our very own Cookiehiker and drinking champagne. After 30 minutes on the summit, clouds whisked in and darkened the backdrop. A few snowflakes began to fall, followed by more and more. The group members started to head down. I didn't want to leave.
Finisher postcards available in the 14er Gift Shop.
Meanwhile, in a wilderness area...
Yes, we are having a joint finisher party on an abandoned mining claim.
Besides Marcia and myself, a few other folks had memorable summits on Mount Democrat. Wildlobo71 and KushRocks both summitted their 100th Colorado 14er summit. I was also impressed with MountainMedic and theVagabond who climbed Little Bear the day before and drove all evening to join my finisher.
It's not official unless CookieHiker brings the treats.
Competing with HarknessHooligans in a head-to-head, summit dance off competition. Of course you know who won. (photo by Ashley).
ThePhoenix enjoys summit #6. I'm starting to think this girl likes me.
On the hike down it began to snow more steadily. Large and puffy snowflakes fell peacefully in the absence of wind and served as a gentle reminder that today was the first day of Autumn. One thing I have learned form Colorado's 14ers is that every peak is special. This was Mount Democrat's way of reminding me that despite being a short, Class 2 hike, nature is amazing if we just take a moment to stop and listen.
The snow fell peacefully on the descent. (photo by Dave Campbell)
Hot Dogs and Accounting
Back at the camp, the sun came out for a bit and the wind died down. We pulled out the Coleman stove and I brought out hot dogs and buns for everyone as my way of saying thank you for attending. Marcia and I sat down to count the donations we had collected during the hike and we were blown away by what we had received. We walked back to the group of hungry hikers devouring hot dogs and made the announcement: we had raised $450. I didn't think it could get any better, and then it did. A few more people came up to me and said, "By the way, I forgot to donate. Here you go". Quickly, our total surpassed $500. I'll admit, I was a little nervous walking around a campground with that much cash in my pocket.
As the winds picked up and the sky turned gray, it became apparent that the afternoon snowstorm was making it's way into the Mosquito Range. As people exchanged goodbyes, there were a lot of hugs and congratulations, and then as quickly as it had started, the party was over. I sat there alone for a minute in the Kite Lake campground looking up at Mt Democrat and thinking to myself, "we did it". When I returned home from Kite Lake, I had a few messages from folks who were unable to attend the hike but still wanted to make a donation. I called Marcia to share the good news and she reported the same experience on her end. The donation total in one day had grown to over $700.
Never underestimate what people will do for a free hot dog.
Donations to Colorado's Flood Victims
Marcia and I spent a good deal of time researching relief funds before choosing where we should donate the groups money. Many people had expressed interest in helping the smaller towns that were hit the hardest along the northern front range. We did our best to honor these wishes as donations were made to the following organizations in the designated amounts.
To the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado which serves Estes Park, Loveland and communities along the Poudre River, we donated $250 (this donation received a matching grant from the Bohemian Foundation).
Lastly, we made a donation to the Rocky Mountain Nature Association in the amount of $260 which will be used to rebuild hiking trails in Rocky Mountain National Park next summer.
All donations were made on behalf of the "14er Climbing Community".
I cannot say thank you enough to all the people who made donations. I am blown away by the continued generosity and compassion from all of you. In the last few days, a number of people have asked if they could continue to make donations. At this point, Marcia and I are encouraging people to donate directly through the organization of your choice as approved by Help Colorado Now.
MonGoose THE Finisher
Finishing the 14ers feels a bit like graduating from college. For years you just keep on taking class after class with no end in sight but then one day, you wake up and low and behold, you're finished. A day later you ask that awkward question, "Now what am I going to do with my life?" It's kind of a strange feeling to log onto 14ers.com and see green checkmarks all the way down the left side of the screen. But I'm getting acquainted. I've already learned the secret Finisher handshake and I'm enjoying access to the Finisher Lounge portion of the website. Yesterday my commemorative plaque arrived in the mail accompanied by a personal congratulatory letter from Bill Middlebrook himself, although I suspect it was actually signed by his personal assistant.
As much as I've enjoyed climbing the 14ers I'm glad to have them behind me. I've passed up fun trips with friends who were climbing peaks I had already climbed in exchange for the next peak on my list. It's almost a sense of relief to be able to climb any peak I want, which is a completely new feeling. In the beginning, I was limited to a certain skill range. Now I can climb any peak I want and some of them I never have to climb again (although I probably will). I walked past many beautiful places, the stream full of Cutthroat trout at the base of Mount Lindsey, the beautiful Horn Fork Basin, the Maroon Bells Wilderness and so on. I'm looking forward to going back and exploring some of these places without the itinerary of reaching a summit.
I plan to get involved again with Big City Mountaineers, on organization that takes inner city, at-risk youth on week long backpacking excursions in the wilderness. I also plan to spend a week (or two) working with Colorado Fourteeners Initiative. On top of that, I have some close friends who are closing in on finishing the list and I'm looking forward to going back and doing some of the harder and more exciting peaks with them. I'd also like to ski a few more peaks this spring, which is an entirely new adventure unto itself.
As for 13ers, I'll do a few here and there but I'm in no rush to do the centennials, the bi-centennials, or the tri-centennials (do those exist?) and so on.
On September 2, 2007, I hiked my first 14er, Mount Bierstadt with my friend Matt Genuchi.
You never forget your first 14er, Mt Bierstadt.
The following year, I repeated Mt Bierstadt on 7/20/08 and then started checking off peaks.
2 Grays Peak 8/2/08 with Lindsay Kendall, Eric Dwyer, Steve Zakelj and Benji Whitehurst
3 Torreys Peak 8/2/08 with Lindsay Kendall, Eric Dwyer, Steve Zakelj and Benji Whitehurst
4 Huron Peak 8/23/08 with Steve Zakelj and Lindsay Kendall
5 Longs Peak 8/30/08 with Steve Zakelj and Lindsay Kendall
6 Mt Evans 6/21/09 with Bri Spear
7 Snowmass Mountain 8/2/09 with Kyle Trainor
8 Mt Yale 8/23/09 with Steve Zakelj and Benji Whitehurst
9 Crestone Peak 8/31/09 with Kyle Trainor
10 Crestone Needle 9/14/09 with Kyle Trainor
11 Mt Belford 10/03/09 with Eric Hoffman
12 Mt Oxford 10/03/09 with Eric Hoffman
13 Mt Elbert 6/19/10 with Bri Spear and Lyndsay Hazen
14 Mt Massive 7/17/10 Steve & Andrea Zakelj, Benji Whitehurst, Lynn Hazen and Toni
15 Pikes Peak 8/7/10 with Bri Spear
16 Challenger Point 9/12/10 with Steve, Andrea & Benji
17 Kit Carson Peak 9/12/10 with Steve, Andrea & Benji
18 La Plata Peak 7/2/11 with Leadville Beth
19 Mt Princeton 7/4/11 solo
20 Mt Antero 7/9/11 first (and last) CMC hike
21 Mt Sherman 7/16/11 with Beth Russell
22 Wetterhorn Peak 7/31/11 with Eric Hoffman & Beth Russell
23 Uncompahgre Peak 8/2/11 solo
24 Wilson Peak 9/3/11 with Jeff Yoder
25 Mt Sneffels 9/4/11 with Jeff Yoder
26 Quandary Peak 9/10/11 with Jeff Yoder
27 Redcloud Peak 9/24/11 Fall Gathering with Beagle
28 Sunshine Peak 9/24/11 Fall Gathering with gonzalj
29 Handies Peak 9/25/11 Fall Gathering with RJansen77, BenfromtheEast & thevagabond
30 Humboldt Peak 12/26/11 with SurfNTurf, DillonSarnelli, Speth, Brian Thomas and ClayBird
31 Missouri Mountain 6/9/12 solo
32 North Maroon Peak 6/23/12 with MountainMedic
33 South Maroon Peak 6/30/12 with Jeff Yoder
34 Sunlight Peak 7/9/12 with Jeff Yoder, Mark Simms and Matt Karpe
35 Windom Peak 7/9/12 with Jeff Yoder
36 Mt Eolus 7/10/12 with Jeff Yoder, Mark Simms and Matt Karpe
37 North Eolus 7/10/12 with Jeff Yoder, Mark Simms and Matt Karpe
38 Mt Lindsey 7/28/12 with Eric Hoffman
39 Castle Peak 8/4/12 with Jeff Yoder
40 Conundrum Peak 8/4/12 with Jeff Yoder
41 Pyramid Peak 8/12/12 with Jeff Yoder & Eric Hoffman
42 Culebra Peak 8/25/12 with Jeff Yoder
43 San Luis Peak 9/14/12 solo
44 Capitol Peak 9/9/12 with Eric Hoffman
45 Mt of the Holy Cross 9/29/12 Wildlobo71's Finisher
46 Mt Shavano 5/11/13 at Spring Gathering
47 Tabeguache Peak 5/11/13 at Spring Gathering
48 Mt Columbia 6/10/13 with BenfromtheEast
49 El Diente 7/22/13 with BenfromtheEast
50 Mt Wilson 7/22/13 with BenfromtheEast
51 Mt Harvard 8/10/13 with Steve Zakelj
52 Little Bear Peak 8/17/13 with Speth
53 Ellingwood Point 8/18/13 with Speth
54 Blanca Peak 8/18/13 with Speth
55 Mt Cameron 9/19/13 solo
56 Mt Lincoln 9/19/13 solo
57 Mt Bross 9/19/13 solo
58 Mt Democrat 9/22/13 with Everyone
On September 22, 2013, I finished the 14ers with a great group of friends.
It took me 5 years to climb all 58 of Colorado's 14ers.
Unsolicited Advice From a 14er Finisher
Start early, even if your pictures turn out grainy. (Crestone Needle)
What is this, a frickin' finishers thread???
A good climbing partner will always have your back. (Steve on Huron Peak)
Own a dependable 4x4 vehicle and women will ask you to drive them to every trailhead. My '98 Jeep Cherokee took me everywhere I needed to go.
With some good camera work, any peak is attainable (on Crestone Needle).
As a child, I loved the story of Rikki Tikki Tavi.
Bring a helmet for Class 3 & 4 routes, you'll be glad you did. Eric and I checking out Wetterhorn Peak, my favorite 14er.
Don't interpret route descriptions too literally. For example, the Diving board on Pyramid Peak.
Take lots of photographs of yourself ....
... and be sure to Photo Bomb everyone else's. (photo by Ashley)
Take plenty of Vitamin I (Ibuprofen).
Attend a 14ers.com group gathering. At the 2011 Fall Gathering, I met and hiked with Rob, Ben and Corey for the first time on Handies. RIP RJansen77
Despite the urge to knock out the peaks as quickly as possible, remember to relax and enjoy each summit. (on Mt Eolus).
You'll meet some very interesting people along the way. (Maroon Lake)
Don't worry, that wide angle GoPro video makes the Knife Edge look worse than it actually is. (photo by Eric)
Someone is always watching you, so be careful where you pee. (Chicago Basin)
In the winter, avoid cabin fever by hiking a few peaks with some great friends (on Mt Elbert).
No matter how good of an idea it seems don't bring a sled, even on Christmas Day. (with DillonSarnelli)
Never Give Up Part II: ... and then this happened.
Never Give Up: Tebowing on the summit of Humboldt Peak ...
Skiing peaks is a whole new level (Quandary Peak).
Celebrate every accomplishment. Matt, Jeff and Mark on the Narrow Gauge Railroad after a successful Chicago Basin trip.
And always remember: Ladies love a finisher.
In closing, I want to thank 14ers.com for the great information that is provided on this website as well as the opportunity to meet fellow climbers with common goals. The people on this site are awesome and I've really enjoyed being a part of the community. Even better than finishing the 14ers was simply having such a great group of friends with whom to celebrate.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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