Well, after 11 years of living in Colorado, I finally accomplished my dream of climbing all 58 of the 14ers.
This actually all started back in 1999 when I had graduated high school (I grew up in Wisconsin) and I went to Montana with a church group on a week long wilderness camping trip in the Beartooth Mtns. After hiking up mountains and being in the back country out there I knew I had to live in the West and climb. I went to college at the University of Minnesota and immediately I started to think where I should live upon graduation.
During my Sophomore year in school I signed up for a hiking trip to Olympic National Park in Washington. I was so excited to go and a week before we were supposed to leave, it was cancelled. I was really devastated, so my sister took me to Colorado to hike and camp instead. It was incredible hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, seeing Garden of the Gods, and driving up Mt. Evans. I even caught a foul ball at a Rockies game. From that point forward I knew Colorado was home...
My focus became to do everything I could to get a job and live in Colorado once I graduated, so I ended up getting an internship in Littleton my Junior year and headed there for the summer. I knew of Longs Peak, but had no idea what type of hike it was. So in June of 2002 I camped at the Longs Peak campground and at 3:00 a.m. my 14er journey began. I reached the keyhole around 5 am and almost turned back after seeing the rest of the route. There was no one else in sight, and I sat there for a while before charging on. After almost turning back a few more times I made it to the summit. It was absolutely incredible and from that moment I was hooked on hiking and climbing mountains. At the Longs Peak ranger station I purchased Roach's 14ers guide book and I was off and running!
Myself as a 21 year old punk on my 1st 14er.
On the summit of Longs Peak, my 1st 14er (6/14/2002)
Completing the Bells
Finished with a solo climb of the Bells and traverse (8/19/2002)
That summer I climbed 34 14ers before I had to go back to Minnesota to finish my Senior year of college. I ran all the calculations and I gained 106,000 ft. in elevation (20 vertical miles) and over 250 miles of hiking. After graduating from Minnesota and moving back to Colorado I climbed 9 more 14ers in 2003 and 5 more in 2004. During that time I did many repeats and other 12 and 13ers as well. I was sitting on 48 14ers, and I was stuck on that number for 6 years. During that time I again did many repeats and 13ers as well as rock climbing and back country skiing.
Climbing Conundrum (again) for some early season turns. This was my first 14er ski/board descent.
Climbing the Conundrum Couloir (11/4/2004)
I got married in 2007 and in 2010 I found out we were having a baby! That might have kicked me into gear, so in July 2010 I climbed Uncompagre and Wetterhorn, 2 new 14ers (finally). In 2011 I climbed Culebra, and in 2012 I headed to Chicago Basin and hit the 4 down there. So I began 2013 with 3 left. Over 4th of July weekend I brought the family down to San Luis and climbed that peak, which was my daughter's first camping trip! That left 2 peaks Wilson Peak and Mt. Sneffels.
Here is the report of the final 2:
My neighbor Dave and friend Tyler (Tfrosh) headed to Telluride at 3:00 pm on Friday to the Rock of Ages Trailhead. We made it to Silver Pick road and followed the signs. There are a ton of great places that are marked for camping along this road. After the long drive and setting up camp in the dark we had a brief sleep before getting up at 4:00 am.
The Milky Way was showing off, so I had to take a few shots
Another view perspective
We met Tyler's dad, John, (Fepic) and friend at the trailhead. I took a longer exposure shot of him getting ready.
25 second time lapse
We started hiking at 4:30 am after a quick breakfast. You initially hike on a trail and then eventually hike into Silver Pick Basin via an old mining road. Here is a shot of Silver Pick at dawn.
The rocky basin
The trail is well marked with signs identifying the Rock of Ages Trail. Even if you get off route in S. Pick Basin, it is obvious where to go as you can see the Rock of Ages saddle almost the entire time. We made it to the saddle around 6:15 where we took a quick break and ate more food. You are greeted with a great view of Mt. Wilson and El Diente from the top of the saddle.
El Diente and Wilson from ROA saddle
It brought back fond memories of my climb of those 2 peaks in 2004 camping at Navajo Lake. The gullies on El Diente looked just as loose and rotten as they were back then... It was one of the nastiest and loose routes I've been on.
From the saddle we went left and joined the Wilson Peak Gladstone saddle where we could see the final route to the summit. Gladstone Peak basking in the morning sun.
Gladstone at sunrise
Tyler is getting excited now...
Tyler Up Close
From the saddle, we stayed high, and took the class 3 scramble to gain the ridge. Tyler and Dave making it to the top of the ridge.
Tyler and Dave
The famous Lizard Head Peak
Up close of Lizard Head
We made it to the false summit and could easily identify the route to climb Wilson's West Face to the top. The route was cairned pretty well, but there are many ways to ascend... Just make sure to test each hold as there are some loose rocks. Here are some video clips of the final climb with a Go Pro.
About halfway up the face looking back at Tyler climbing up.
Tyler making his way up to the summit
Tyler hiking up to the top
Making it to the summit, only one more peak to go!!!
Self shot with the go pro
The reason why the San Juans are the best range in Colorado. If you disagree with me, you are certainly entitled to you misguided, incorrect, and dead wrong opinion
The Beautiful San Juans
Tyler borrowing my CO flag on the summit
Tyler on Wilson Peak Summit
We stayed on the nice warm summit for about an hour. There was no wind, no clouds, and could relax in the nice warm sun. What a great summit. After taking in the views we headed down.
I went down first and took this shot of Tyler and Dave making their way down the face.
Dave and Tyler down climbing from summit
What would a trip report be without a marmot shot???
Once back on the ridge we saw John (Fepic) and friend Willadee making their summit push. Clouds started to build quickly after we left the summit and by the time we were back to treeline, we could start to hear rumbles of thunder. The clouds provided some nice shade for the way back, and right when we made it back to the car it started to drizzle on us. Here is one more shot from the trail on the hike back.
View from trail
We got back to the trailhead right around noon and headed straight to Ouray after finishing our climb. We devoured a few burgers at an Irish Pub, then headed to Irongate Park off Red Mtn Pass to establish a camp spot. There are two camp grounds (both full over Labor Day Weekend) on the road to Mt. Sneffels and there is no camping allowed off the road, which is why we had to make a slight detour and camp off the pass.
We built a fire in the rain and just killed time until dark. We went to bed at 8:00 pm and got up at 3:00 am the next morning. 7 hours was the longest amount of sleep I got before climbing a peak in a long time. We made the drive up the 4 wheel drive road to Yankee Boy Basin and had to stop about half a mile short of the lower trailhead. This was good because it gave us the 3,000 feet needed for an official summit!
We started hiking around 4:30 and then met up with John (Fepic) at the lower trailhead. In my excitement to climb my last 14er, I realized I left my camera in the car, so I just used my Go Pro to take pictures and Dave had the exact same camera as me so I wasn't going to hike back.
Yankee Boy Basin at first light.
Yankee Boy Basin in the morning
Dallas Peak, hopefully my next 13er summit!
Yankee Boy Basin is absolutely beautiful and it was amazing to see all the peaks that make up the Dallas Divide. This is why I love the San Juans!
Teakettle, another mountain that I want to climb very soon!
We made the ridge line at sunrise, and it was a little windy and much cooler than the previous day. We took a short break and took in the views.
Sunrise from the ridge
From here we ascended the shaded 500 ft couloir leading to the summit. Near the top of the couloir you turn left and ascend the V-Notch. This was a really fun move and I would consider it class 3-4. It isn't hard, but slightly exposed and a lot of fun. Here I am climbing the V-Notch.
Climbing up the V-Notch
And here is my Go Pro video from the V-Notch to my final 14er summit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I finally did it. After climbing Longs Peak on June 14th 2002, at age 21, I knew right at that moment I wanted to climb them all. On September 1st 2013 at age 33 I finally completed my 11 year dream. It was an awesome feeling on an incredible summit. I am so glad that I saved Sneffels for the finisher and would highly recommend it to anyone else who is contemplating which one to finish on. Tyler John, and Dave came up shortly after (I had reached the summit at 7:30 am) and brought out a bottle of champagne to celebrate. Dave took a great action shot of me popping the cork!
Celebrating finishing the 14ers!
Here is the video of the celebration
I only took a few sips as 12% alcohol at 14,000 ft can mess with you and I wanted to be sure I'd make it down safely.
After my climb of Longs in 2002, I bought a Colorado state flag to hold up on my final 14er. Well here was the shot I waited 11 year for...
Holding the flag I bought 11 years ago for this moment
Here is Dave on the summit
Dave on summit
We stayed on the summit for over an hour and a few guys joined us for the celebration... We later had a few beers at the trailhead with them as well.
The hike back down was nice and relaxing as we saw many people coming up on the way down. Here is Yankee Boy Basin in the sunlight.
Beautiful Yankee Boy Basin
After a celebratory beer at the upper trailhead, we hiked back to our car a few miles down by the river crossing. I made it down the road without destroying my car which was a huge plus, and headed back to Denver. On our way back we were greeted with a nice rainbow. Wait, a double rainbow!
Rainbow driving home
It has been an incredible 11 years climbing the 14ers and seeing so much of the beautiful state of Colorado. I've always said God took a little extra time when making Colorado!
I have met so many great people while climbing these mountains and loved every experience I've had while climbing (yes even on Columbia and Bross). There are so many people I've climbed with, but to name just a few: Caley, Jerry, Scott, Aaron, Tyler and Mike.
Mike (ChicagoMike) and I worked together and I found out he liked to climb. We have been climbing together since 2004 and have had some pretty amazing times climbing and skiing 14ers and 13ers through the years. I'm a little annoyed that he finished the 14ers about a month before me, but I'm over it
Thanks for all the great climbs and endless Simpsons quotes we spouted off! It has been a blast climbing with you and will continue to be in the future.
Also, big big big thanks to my wife Melanie for supporting my love of the mountains! It is always so great to come home after a climb to her and my wonderful daughter.
I plan to keep climbing and maybe finish the highest hundred, but honestly I'll climb any mountain that I can.
A few take aways:
First 14er: Longs Peak
Favorite 14er: Capitol Peak
Best Rock: Crestone Needle
Favorite Basin: Chicago Basin
Least Favorite 14er: Mt. Bross
Favorite Range: San Juan
Favorite Traverse: Maroon Bells
Have fun, keep climbing, and don't forget to look around and take in the views!
Thanks for reading,
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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