| After over 10 years...our 14er Finale!
I've waited a bit to file this trip report because it was Debby's and my finale and because we've been working on it for so long. Many have asked questions like "How's it feel?" or "What're ya gonna do now?" and I wanted to let my feelings catch up with me and to sort them out a bit. The result? Nothing seriously profound but I have learned a few things.
On Tuesday, August 7th we boarded the train and headed up the Animas River gorge to Needleton where we loaded up and started the hike in to Chicago Basin…
We were accompanied by 14ers.com members del_sur and Jeff_F as well as by my good friend Jim. After hiking about a half mile, it started to rain. After hiking about a mile, it started raining really hard. It continued to rain heavily for the next 3 hours. Oh well, it kept us cool on our hike in. It did stop raining as we reached our camp site and eventually revealed a beautiful sunset…
Although we didn't know it at the time, that would be the last rain we'd see for four days. We need to convey a special "Thank You!" to USAKeller, her father and her whole group. My friend Jim was carrying an immense load...
He did not get up to Chicago Basin until 2 hours after we did and the first camp he ran into was theirs. They looked after him, helped him get warm and dry and let him camp in their site for the night. Thanks guys…it sure meant a lot to us!
The next morning, Jeff_F, del_sur, Debby and I set out in perfect weather for Mr. Eolus. With a steady, but leisurely pace, the "Sidewalk in the Sky" catwalk was soon upon us…
Shortly after that, we set foot on the summit and were congratulated by all members of a group that was up there. We felt tremendously blessed to have the weather we did (especially for the Chicago Basin peaks) and were able to spend almost an hour enjoying the summit...
After descending back across the catwalk, we decided to do the quick jaunt up North Eolus where we enjoyed the best rock quality of the entire trip.
While we had others plans for this trip as well, we decided to take the next day (Thursday) as a rest day. Jeff_F and del_sur went up Sunlight and Windom. Great job guys…this has been a huge season for both of you. That afternoon, we were enjoying doing as little as possible when Debby spotted 14ers.com member Aubrey and his wife Jen coming up the trail in to Chicago Basin. We had been expecting them and had joked about how they'd be the first to arrive in CB of that day's train riders. The next hikers didn't show up for almost another hour!
On Friday, del_sur and Jeff_F headed out, while Aubrey and Jen went up to climb Sunlight and Windom. We ran into them coming off of Sunlight as we were approaching our other objective…Sunlight Spire…"that little 5.10 sliver in your side" as Skasgaard so nicely put it (I think "needle" would be a more appropriate word than sliver, Kiefer). I'll have a link to more info on that climb soon.
On Saturday, Aubrey and Jen ran up Eolus and North Eolus in the morning and got back to camp while we were packing up to head out to catch the train. They sure made quick work of the 4 CB peaks. You guys have been on an absolute tear this year! Back down at Needleton while waiting for the train, we had the privilege to meet Bill Middlebrook himself and on the very day of his finale on Eolus. As I approach half a century in this life I am still amazed at how things happen.
This trip represented a bit of a transition for us. Debby and I have learned throughout the years to make our 14er adventures more than just "peak bagging" trips. We've tried to take the time to learn about the history of the mountains and the towns which they surround. By today's standards, we've never been notably prolific…I think somewhere around 8 or 10 was the most new 14ers we ever climbed in a season. On this trip however, we planned 4 nights and 4 days for less than what most people do in two. We thoroughly enjoyed our "rest time" and often thought of going backpacking just to go backpacking or to go fishing or panning for gold. The talk was about the quality of the next adventure, not the check mark on a list.
Just some more CB scenery…
I've learned that climbing 14ers or any mountains with a list as a goal is a very personal endeavor. This is an activity that is really not mainstream. 14ers.com has created a wonderful community of supportive members who share the same interest. Out in the "real world" however, most people either don't understand it or just don't care. There is no trophy awaiting you after your completion other than the one you fabricate in your mind.
More importantly, I've learned that like with any goal, the importance of the experiences you accumulate along the way far outweighs the importance of achieving the goal. It's about the journey…not the destination. In fact any time I try with intent to revel in my success, my mind quickly wanders back to some great climb I had along the way. Then I just get excited and want to get back out there again.
One of those who call Chicago Basin home…
Up until this climb, we'd pretty much done all of the 14ers alone…just the two of us. Together, we've developed a very functional and efficient climbing style. On this trip however, we thoroughly enjoyed the company of others…both at camp and on the summit. I've only personally met a small handful of 14ers.com members but I seem to have either been incredibly lucky or have a remarkable talent for picking friends.
As I write this report, I find myself at a loss to come up with a worthy picture of Aubrey and Jen so I'll have to do my best with words. On the train ride out, Aubrey riled up a bunch of 14er enthusiasts by telling them he'd climbed 49 (or thereabouts) of Colorado's high peaks. As I walked through the car, he emphatically proclaimed "Here's the guy you really want to talk to…he's climbed all of them!" Thanks, Brutha! Debby and I have now shared both climbs and camps with him and Jen and feel blessed and fortunate to have done so. After the adventure, he and Jen treated Debby, Jim and me to beers and a wonderful dinner at Gazpacho in Durango. His congratulatory post to Debby and me is a testament to who he is.
Although Matt (del_sur) is over 10 years my junior, he has shown me many inspired paths on and off the mountain in the short time I've known him. Anyone would be privileged to call him "climbing partner" or even more so, "friend". ¡A muchos mas cumbres, mi amigo! Here he is enjoying a solo moment on North Eolus…
My most important choice however, was the one I made almost 20 years ago in my life's partner who unknowingly at the time, also became my climbing partner. Neither one of us could have done this (this?...the 14ers?...life?...EXACTLY!!) without the other. It is my most sincere wish that everyone finds this kind of happiness in life!
Debby in her element…
So after all is said and done, the best I can do is…..
"How's it feel?"…Great!
"What're ya gonna do now?"…Keep on playin!