Finishing vs. not finishing - why?

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Finishing vs. not finishing - why?

Postby Brian Thomas » Mon May 13, 2013 4:55 pm

This is a question I've been thinking about a lot lately, whether to go for it and try to "finish" the 14ers. The summer season will be here soon, and my weekends are filling up with plans for various climbs. This will be my fourth summer living in Colorado.

Here is the question, for three different groups of respondents, 14er finishers, aspiring 14er finishers, and aspiring 14er non-finishers: Why?

I met most of the people I hike/climb with through this site (thank you Bill!), and what I noticed with many is that once their checklist gets above 40-50 or so they get finisher tunnel vision. Just getting together to spend time in the mountains and have fun takes a backseat to "the list", which means spending less time with people I want to hike and climb with.

And I'm not anti-checklist (I take my checklists very seriously), I'm just losing interest in "finishing" as the be all, end all to this hobby/sport/addiction. Some people try to finish for specific reasons, i.e. will be moving out of Colorado, having their first child and knowing they will have less time for this. Neither of which apply to me today, which is why I don't feel the urgency to finish that I may have had when I first got summit fever back in 2010.

An accomplished and well-regarded forum poster, who has finished both the ranked 13ers and the winter 14ers checklists, told me a while ago that back in the pre internet, pre color photo guidebook days that many people who set out to finish the 14ers took around seven years to do so, and that now that has shrunk to about 2-3 years.

Finishing will not take me to the top of the pyramid of Maslow's hierarchy of needs (maybe it did/will for you?). Finishing will not make the hair on my bald head grow back. Three some years into this I am realizing that what I really want is to go play outside and have fun. Finishing feels limiting, and that feeling isn't fun. I may or may not try to finish the 14ers this year, next year, or ever. Or I may get bogged down in Lists of John dorkery like LCW, RMNP, county highpoints, prominence peaks, et cetera.

As I work through this existential crisis (which is rather admittedly, a first world problem) my question for all of you is: Why?
"I try my best to be just like I am, but everybody wants you to be just like them" - Bob Dylan

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Re: Finishing vs. not finishing - why?

Postby Derek » Mon May 13, 2013 5:11 pm

Brian Thomas wrote:Or I may get bogged down in Lists of John dorkery like LCW...

Welcome friend. We've been expecting you. Please accept this ceremonial white robe and cup of punch.

I'm not finishing. (Probably.) Why? Boils down to something pretty simple: I go/climb where I have the most fun. Where I have the most fun isn't on 14ers. (That being said, I'm in no way ANTI 14er, I just enjoy other things more.) I like solitude, scrambles and navigational challenges. For the most part, that isn't on 14ers. I'm also not anti-list. I love a good, hot list. Hell...I just climbed a random 10er yesterday to finish up a quadrangle that had been gnawing at me for a while.

Some people like 14ers, some like lower peaks, some like beer and cricket matches. Whatever floats their fancy.

Mr. Major- admit just don't want anymore boring climbs like 10926, right? :wink:

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Re: Finishing vs. not finishing - why?

Postby BillMiddlebrook » Mon May 13, 2013 5:15 pm

Brian Thomas wrote:An accomplished and well-regarded forum poster, who has finished both the ranked 13ers and the winter 14ers checklists, told me a while ago that back in the pre internet, pre color photo guidebook days that many people who set out to finish the 14ers took around seven years to do so, and that now that has shrunk to about 2-3 years.

It took me 8 years! :lol: It wasn't that I couldn't do it faster but that I got bogged down with lots of repeats and other stuff along the way. As I was building "guidebook" content for this site, I found myself repeating peaks to make sure I could provide useful information to others. Then, I moved to Breckenridge before finishing the 14ers and like an ADD kid walking into a shiny knife factory, I was distracted with so many other peaks and activities. Had it not been for my desire to complete the online guidebook, it may have taken me even longer.

Take your time and climb what you want. If you feel like your hitting a peak just to get it done, go fishing instead. :-D

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Re: Finishing vs. not finishing - why?

Postby screeman57 » Mon May 13, 2013 5:24 pm

I began with no thought of completing the list, but eventually the list compelled me to visit areas I otherwise might not have seen.

I hate the idea of "finishing." Who finishes them, and then quits? Anyone? How about "completing," or even better, "commencing?"
"Never measure the height of a mountain until you have reached the top. Then you will see how low it was." -Dag Hammarskjold

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Re: Finishing vs. not finishing - why?

Postby MatB » Mon May 13, 2013 5:25 pm

Just start working on the 13ers. They give you so many options which is helpful when trying to go with friends who don't necessarily have the same ambitions but still have other hobbies that revolve around the mountains. You will still finish as some point and then you will already have a head start on your next list.

I've been out here roughly the same amount of time and had the exact goal as you. I still want to finish the 14ers at some point, I just don't care when that happens. Plus there are so many 13ers I may never complete my list but will spend a lot of time trying (which is the ultimate goal:spend as much time as possible in my favorite environment).
"Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived,'"
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Re: Finishing vs. not finishing - why?

Postby Chicago Transplant » Mon May 13, 2013 5:27 pm

Why I finished: The timing just worked out. I of course wanted to climb them all, but never really would say I had a true timeline. There was no "deadline" associated with the goal if you will. I climbed the first pair still living in Chicago in 2003. At that time coming back for vacations for peaks was my idea of a "list". I moved here about a year later, and for me moved with the intent of doing the Highest 100. I knew people who were interested in the 14ers, but not really the 13er part of the high 100 list, so if I couldn't find partners for a 14er, I would solo a centennial. Eventually I found more and more partners and more and more like minded individuals. The 2008 climbing year came along and I had 7 of the 14ers left, so I bought Chicago Basin train tickets for 4th of July and made arrangements for Culebra in June, climbed Longs on Father's Day and Wetterhorn 2 weeks after Chicago Basin. That left me with one (Pikes) and my family coming to visit in August, I had hoped for Pikes to be the finisher and I made the hike up, they drove up, and we had a good time. I had been up Pikes as a baby via the train, so it felt appropriate!

At that time I had only 12 of the highest hundred left, I picked up 1 more in 2008, and 5 in 2009. That left me with 6, all rather on the remote side. 4 more in 2010. Dallas was #98 in July of 2010. #99 was Jagged in July 2012, 2 years to the date later, then finished on RGP over Labor Day. As you can see the list slowed down towards the end. Why? A number of things, one being the San Juans are far and getting time off for backpacking trips is not always easy. Two being a desire to finish with Papillon and Wooderson on RGP as we had talked about on Pigeon in 2010, three was as you say "backseating" the list due to other things in the mountains worth spending time on. I certainly didn't hang up my hiking shoes in the time from August 2008 to September 2012, sure it took 4 years to climb 12 peaks on a list, but in those same 4 years between Pikes and RGP I climbed 652 total "ranked" peaks (according to my LOJ profile). I guess I found enough to keep me busy without worrying about finishing a list.

I can see where some get the tunnel vision of finishing a list, "I only have "X" # left, I have to finish!" - but you don't need to put that pressure on yourself and make it less fun to pursue other mountains (or other things in general). You don't want to be the guy who gets an invitation for an awesome adventure with great friends and says "I can't, I have to climb "such and such" 14er this weekend if I want to finish this year!". Enjoy the journey, the list isn't the end, its just a milestone along the way to a full life of enjoying the outdoors :-D
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Re: Finishing vs. not finishing - why?

Postby taylorzs » Mon May 13, 2013 5:33 pm

Yeah, I have similar feelings to Bill's. I finished in 8 or 9(?) years. I did a lot of repeats and slowly ticked 14ers off amongst lots of other peaks. One summer I realized that I only had a few left and that I wanted finish. So I went around to the last few in a somewhat methodical manner and finished them in a summer. I wanted to finish them when I started, then I lost interest, and just climbed to be climbing. When I realized I was close I realized I really wanted to finish. Now I have several lists; finish riding the 14ers, finish riding the Cascade volcanos, finish climbing the centennials. I am somewhat pursuing all of those and along the way climbing whatever looks fun. Do what you feel like. If you are feeling that nagging in the back of your head that it is time to finish, do it! If you feel like your mountain fun would be better suited by drawing it out and climbing other peaks, do that! It is all fun when you are in the mountains right!?
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Re: Finishing vs. not finishing - why?

Postby Oman » Mon May 13, 2013 5:35 pm

Don't you already have one job? Why take on a second job on the weekends if you don't want it?

People climb 14ers for a lot of reasons. When I started in 1985, the people I met on the peaks were mainly backpackers and mountaineers. Today, at least on this forum, there's been an increase in people interested in the physical challenge. Thus the recent emphasis on intensity and finishing times.

If that's not for you, then don't do it! There's a reason the book is called The Freedom of the Hills.

P.S. The only person who thinks John Major is a finisher is Edwina Currie.

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Re: Finishing vs. not finishing - why?

Postby GeezerClimber » Mon May 13, 2013 5:38 pm

I don't think people fall neatly into your groups, nor do I think trying to complete "the list" has to be limiting in any way. Let me explain.......

I started in 1983 and bagged five in 83-84. Lack of a good partner, other hobbies, etc. caused me to stop until 1991 when I met my second wife who is tall, lean and fit. We began climbing together and have many cherished memories. But she does not like exposure, so hard ones were out and we did a lot of other hiking as well. I always thought I would like to climb some hard ones but never had a suitable partner. To be honest, I did not look very hard either. Like you, I was happy to just be with my wife in the high country. For a variety of personal reasons, we did not climb from 2001-06 when we moved to Buena Vista. We took it up again in 2007 at the age of 56 and we were both nearly in tears when we returned to a summit. But I had no plans to climb all of them. I did vow to climb Princeton (which has personal significance) every year until I can't. Then in 2008, a business friend who is 12 years younger got the bug and since he knew I climbed, he asked if he could join me. I think finding a compatible climbing partner might be harder than finding a suitable spouse, so I was skeptical. But I gave him a shot and after a few, we found we made an excellent team. His goal was always to climb them all. I told him he'd have to find other partners for a few of them. Beginning in 2010, we climbed a bunch, often with my wife and I found the discovery of new places became addictive. My partner asked me in 2011 how I could get over 40 and not want the rest. He was right. I now have 44 (plus 26 repeats) and I do want the rest but I'm not obsessive about it. Many of the best memories in my life have come on climbs and that is what I want most---more memories. I do feel some obligation to help my buddy finish since, without him, I would have missed many great days. We climbed Capitol last year and I found it to be an intensely satisfying, emotional experience. I think my age helps me to appreciate great days more as well. Capitol had intrigued me for decades. Trying to finish will not limit me. I am climbing 13ers that intrigue me at the same time and I have a long list of mountains to reclimb as well. I will run out of days long before I run out of mountains literally and metaphorically.


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Re: Finishing vs. not finishing - why?

Postby ChrisRoberts » Mon May 13, 2013 5:40 pm

I havent finished, I only have seven or eight done. Since I dont feel like driving to go climb mountains when there are perfectly good small mountains nearby, I'm in no rush to finish though at some point...I'll probably knock them out.

To me, 14ers are a bit of a novelty. If I'm sick of the local stuff and feel in need of a little road trip, 14ers are a good way to check out some new areas. Or, if I'm sick of remote, deserted stuff I'll go find a mountain with a crowd on it, I think people are fun. For me it's all about balancing the many attributes of Colorado's mountains. Bushwhack and trail walk. Class 4 and Class 1. Alpine and scrubby. Crowded and deserted. Bag 4 in a day and walk 20 miles for one summit. Keeps things interesting. 14ers appear to offer many of these qualities in a 50 something subset of the thousands of peaks mountains and hills of Colorado, which I think adds to the appeal of finishing. But, in order to keep the level of interest up you'll have to mix in the best of the 14ers with the worst so you aren't left with a list of a bunch of Sawatch talus heaps while more attractive summits draw your attention.

Sounds like your thing is that you're looking to start rather than finish, which is good. A list should leave you hungry for more, not tired with mountain climbing. So go ahead and climb what calls you, and later if you decide that finishing is an accomplishment you'd like to hang your hat on, go ahead. Otherwise enjoy the places that the 14ers havent taken you to
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Re: Finishing vs. not finishing - why?

Postby ChrisRoberts » Mon May 13, 2013 5:44 pm

Derek wrote: Hell...I just climbed a random 10er yesterday to finish up a quadrangle that had been gnawing at me for a while.

Ah quadrangles, the new frontier
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Re: Finishing vs. not finishing - why?

Postby Scott P » Mon May 13, 2013 5:48 pm

Take your time and climb what you want.


Since moving to Colorado 12 years ago, I've done about 600 peak climbs in Colorado. Even so, I still haven't finished the 14ers, but am getting fairly close and probably will finish them sometime. Other than Snowmass, the other 14ers I have left are on the opposite side of the state.

There's nothing wrong with the 14ers, but there's a lot of other interesting mountains in the state too, not to mention other states and the rest of the world.
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