Date Posted:  11/15/2020
Modified:  11/17/2020
Date Climbed:   11/15/2020
Author:  bmcqueen
 A 2020 Thanksgiving Message   

This is going to be a different kind of trip report. If you are after peak beta or a .gpx file, you'll be disappointed. If you could use some Thanksgiving perspective for the crazy year that 2020 has been, perhaps you'll read on.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of year. I love the reminder to take a look around and think of all I have to be thankful for - my parents, my wife, my children, by brother, my in-laws, my friends, my work colleagues, my health, etc. Even in 2020 when so much of our world has been turned upside down by the pandemic, we have many reasons to give thanks.

It's always darkest before the dawn.

For many, 2020 has been a year where we have spent more time alone with our thoughts than we are accustomed. That may be good or that may not be good. Thoughts are a powerful thing. I have found myself coming back again and again to a few key pieces of advice that mentors provided to me over the past few decades of my adult life. I thought I might share them with the community in case any of them bring you needed perspective as we fight our way through the rest of the pandemic.

Christian, Annalise, Shannon and me wearing masks on Evans in February 2019 - long before masks were cool.

The things I keep coming back to you this year are: 1) The Three Things, 2) The Big Rocks, 3) The Five Balls and 4) The Stockdale Paradox. I thought it might be fun to share them intermixed with a big shout out of thanks to my Top 20 hiking partners for the first 22 years of doing 14ers. My partners live these lessons well.

It took eight 13er or 14er summits with me to make the Top 20 list. Here are the first few partners in reverse order:

20 - Ian Brogden - 13ers (6) & 14ers (2)
I met Ian through a mutual friend, Tony (who you'll meet a little later). We have an annual hike together that is always calendared a year in advance. Next year's is August 14, 2021. Ian is a Canadian and he talks like it. He probably has a decade on me in age, but that doesn't slow him down one bit. His technical skills are top notch as is his perseverance. I never have a doubt when I'm with Ian as to whether he will come prepared or whether he will have put in the work to make sure his legs will carry him to the summit.

Ian topping out on Eagle's nest in 2015.
Pyramid with Ian Brogden and Ryan Chase - July 2010.

19 - Nicole Leonard - 13ers (6) & 14ers (3)
I met Nicole on a winter Mt. Columbia climb back in 2016, then we shared the summits of Browns & Huron to kick off winter 2017. You can count on Nicole to always be wearing purple. She is the Purple Prancer. Nicole and I share being strong introverts. In large groups, we're probably the ones sitting in the corner by ourselves. But when we find ourselves hiking together, we have nice conversations. Nicole is both mentally and physically tough. If she has her mind set on something, she has the ability to push through harsh conditions to succeed (most would not have launched on Huron in winter with the cold temperatures showing on the thermometer!). She is safety conscious and has her priorities in order. Her commitment to her family is strong - something I really admire about her.

La Plata - January 2019.
San Juans - 2020.

The Three Things

Before we go further into the partner list, here is the first of the topics I think about often during the pandemic - The Three Things. A co-worker back in about 2003 shared this with me. It is pretty simple. She told me that to be happy in life, you need three things:

a) Something to do
b) Someone to love
c) Something to look forward to

Over the last 17 years, I have come back to these simple three things often. If I am down, one of them is missing. Something to do speaks to having a sense of purpose in your life. Something that gets you out of bed. It might be a big climb (or training for one) or it might be as simple as putting "balance checkbook" or "write trip report" on your to do list. Having something to do, then going after it with a sense of purpose is healthy. Today's "something to do" has been getting this written after a quick lap on the Castle Rock stairs this morning.

Someone to love sounds a bit like if you don't have a significant other, you may be out of luck here. Far from it - I take this one much more broadly. I recall from a sermon a long time ago the three types of love - eros (romantic), philos (friendship/brotherly) and agape (unconditional). Doing loving things for someone in your life is healthy. Having a grateful heart and seeking out opportunities to serve others are great examples of finding someone to love. Me writing about the nice things I think about my top 20 partners is showing them my brotherly love (except for Melissa - that's both eros and philos).

Finally and perhaps most importantly for me, having something on the calendar to look forward to is key. When Ian, Tony and I put our annual climb on the calendar, it gives me something to look forward to. Scheduling a trip like Denali gives me something to look forward to (and also something to do - TRAIN!!!). No matter how small the thing is, it is healthy for the mind to have something to look forward to. It could be a haircut, it could be a massage, it could be dinner with a friend, it could be a call with your mom (I guarantee you that your call TO your mom is on her list of things she's looking forward to).

As we go into the dark days of winter in the pandemic, make sure you always have your Three Things. Onward with the brotherly love for my top partners.

18 - Britt Jones - 13ers (5) & 14ers (4)
Britt is one of the best servant leaders our community has. Though I never knew Steve Gladbach, I gather that Steve really wore off on Britt, who continues to keep Steve's legacy alive and well in the community. My first climb with Britt was October 30, 2015 on a crappy zero-visibility day when he, Kiefer Thomas, and I did Peaks 9 and 10. I don't even remember how Britt and I came to climb together that day, but I'm certainly glad we did. Britt was born to be a CMC HAMS instructor. He so enjoys passing on his knowledge and skills to others. He continues to carry on the Winter Welcomer to introduce new people to colder weather mountaineering. I learned a lot about the winter peaks camping and climbing with Britt. I admire that he is so much more focused on others than he is on himself. He trekked in an awfully long ways to join me and Ryan for our Centennial finisher on Jagged despite having already done the peak himself. He simply wanted to be there for me and Ryan as we finished. Thanks for your servant leadership Britt.

Britt & Kiefer - 2015.
Britt and Tara heading into Blanca - January 2017.

17 - Annalise Grueter - 13ers (5) & 14ers (5)
I met Annalise the same day I met Ryan Richardson - in the Mt. Yale parking lot on February 21, 2016. One of my favorite days was our sunrise summit of El Diente in Aug 2016 before the traverse to Wilson. Annalise is a balanced person. Balanced from the perspective of thinking vs. feeling; balanced from the perspective of risk vs. safety; balanced in communication - oral & written. I had done more peaks than she had in total, but our winter journeys were in about the same place when we met. I appreciated how safety minded she was on Yale and later that winter on Ellingwood Point. It was also so cool to see Annalise break through the doubts she may have had to achieve more than she believed she safely could. In summer, I admire the big days that Annalise can put in. Our July 2016 day doing a good chunk of the Longs Peak Grand Slam was one of the biggest days I had ever done at the time. I also admire her willingness to try new things, like the day in July 2017 we rappelled off of The Citadel to head over to Pettingell - something she had never done before. She writes beautifully and willingly puts herself out there when she does so - even when it's scary.

Annalise on Citadel - July 2017.
Annalise & Britt heading up Ellingwood - March 2016.

16 - Tim Brogan - 13ers (4) & 14ers (6)
Tim is an Army Ranger, serving our country so well. Tim and I connected on the Facebook group one evening in October 2014 and he decided to join me for a Kelso Ridge climb the next day. Little did he know that I would have a strange request for him that day. I was fighting with the publisher over what would be the cover photo of our book. I just didn't have any high-resolution images, and she understandably insisted. I showed up for Kelso Ridge with a digital camera and asked Tim if he might be willing to get a few shots of me that day, hoping maybe one of them would placate the publisher. And so it was that Tim Brogan is credited with the cover photo of Exposed. Tim and I did the Crestone traverse the next summer together (where he carried something like four gallons of water up to South Colony Lakes in August to make sure he was prepared) and he joined us on our winter Ellingwood Point summit along with the big day on Longs and friends with Annalise. Sadly Tim got transferred to Germany a few years ago and is still stationed there. Thanks Tim for being one of the badass front line military people for our great country. I appreciate your service so much and look forward to climbing anything you want with you once you are back stateside.

Tim on the way to Lake Como - March 2016.
Tim almost to the top of the Crestone traverse crux - August 2015.

15 - Morgan Mahoney - 13ers (1) & 14ers (9)
I met Morgan in 2015 and he was my trusted partner in May 2016 for what is still one of my favorite trips - Chicago Basin in spring. You can read more about Morgan in that trip report. What sticks out for me about Morgan is his positivity. He is always smiling, always excited to see you, always interested in you and always ready to share an adventure with you. He developed his skills in the mountains very quickly from no crampon experience to being quite comfortable on them. I think he may have just acquired a backcountry ski setup, so I'm sure there will be more to come from Morgan. I'm sorry the weather forecast didn't work out for you to finish up the 14ers this summer as planned. I was excited to join you for your planned finisher and will still do everything I can to be there whenever that comes around again. I'm also going to have the privilege of serving on the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative board of directors with Morgan in 2021. His positivity and passion for the 14ers made that a super easy nomination for me to lead at our meeting last week. Thanks for your youthful enthusiasm Morgan - you energize those around you.

Morgan & Tim after the Cristo Couloir - May 2016.
Morgan on the ridge to Eolus after climbing the E Couloir - May 2016.

14 - Mark Golden - 14ers (10)
Mark was one of my early 14er partners and unfortunately left us way too soon in a fall off of Snowmass Mountain on June 26, 2004. Mark was a co-worker at my first job out of college. He joined me and my dad on a number of 14er hikes. Perhaps the highlight of my short time climbing with Mark was our August 2002 completion of the Crestone Traverse. That is still the only time I have ascended the NW gully route on Crestone Peak. I haven't been back there because I climbed up to the right too soon and led us up one of the steeper gullies before the red saddle. I remember sending a rock down that I was pretty sure was going to kill Mark. I was so relieved when it missed him. I wasn't with him on Snowmass the day he passed away, but he and I had talked about the route the Friday before he went. It was like getting punched in the stomach when I got the phone call on Monday that he had fallen and died. I still miss you Mark and think about you often. The saying, "Just because you love the mountains doesn't mean they love you." rings true and is a good reminder to stay safe out there.

Harvard & Columbia with Mark back in 2002 when I was beardless and had to wear knee braces.
Mark on Crestone Peak before the traverse - August 2002.

13 - Jeff Shafer – 14ers (11)
Jeff and I used to work at the same firm, but never really knew each other there. After we were both gone, I heard he had finished the 14ers, so I reached out to congratulate him. He asked me if I rock climbed, to which I replied that I had not, but was willing to try if he was willing to teach. Soon, Jeff had me on the 1st flatiron in Boulder, terrified out of my mind. Jeff was one of the early people who pushed me that it was possible to do the Kelso Ridge grid. He joined me for many of my colder months on Kelso. On one of those climbs, he asked if he could invite that friend of his, John Balciar, (that I had met once before on the North Face of Longs) along because John was always “up for a little suffering”. I think it’s safe to say that it was Jeff that really pushed me to expand my comfort zone, doing more cold weather peaks and learning some rock climbing skills. Jeff also pushed me to take my fitness to the next level. He insisted once that we were going to go get me a new PR on Kelso Ridge. He stayed just out of reach in front of me like a rabbit at a dog track. That September 2015 day I chased you is still my PR. Thanks Jeff for giving of your time and talents and for pushing me. Everyone needs a push now and then; your pushes were well timed. Thanks also for introducing me to that guy John Balciar.

Jeff Shafer & John Balciar on Longs August 2013 after they made me lead my first rock pitch. First time I met John.
Jeff's attempt to push my limits again by teaching me to ice climb didn't go as well. Pumphouse something or other above Vail.

12 - Ryan Gosney – 14ers (13)
Ryan transferred from an office in Texas to the Denver office in 2001. He was a better, more experienced mountaineer than I was, yet people in the office pointed him to me as the guy who did 14ers. Ryan was trying to get as much climbing in during 2001-2002 as he possibly could because he planned to hang up his hiking boots for a while after he and his wife started their family. I was more than willing to oblige. It was with Ryan that I bought my double plastic mountaineering boots, crampons and 30 meter rope. We had big plans. He wanted to do Little Bear in May 2002 and Dead Dog Couloir on Torreys in June. Little Bear was my first Class 4 peak and Dead Dog was my first couloir climb. Ryan led both, gave me a belay down the hourglass on Little Bear and taught me a lot of my early crampon and ice axe technique. Thanks Ryan for your early tutelage and hopefully we can get back out on a mountain again someday when the kids are off in college.

Ryan Gosney on Little Bear - May 2002.
Ryan leading me up Dead Dog Couloir - June 2002, my first couloir climb.

11 - Shannon Phares (aka MOP) – 14ers (14) & 13ers (2)
Melissa and I met Shannon on Kilimanjaro back in 2009. She is a Colonel in the Air Force and finally got her dream transfer to Colorado in 2018. Our first 14er together was Longs Peak in late-September. Shannon’s pack was bigger than she was that day. Our military definitely teaches its members to show up prepared! After convincing Shannon to dump out some of the many, many, many liters of water she was carrying, we got to the summit. We shared a few cold and windy summits in late 2018/early-2019 together, but have really hit it hard in summer of 2020. Shannon is trying to finish the 14ers before her next transfer and the clock is now ticking. I joked with her in June that she better quit doing easy peaks and get some of the hard ones done. She has been working me ever since! Crestone Traverse, Bells Traverse, Capitol, North Maroon again just for good measure, Chicago Basin. I admire her drive and toughness. MOP stands for Mistress of Pain and it is a good name for Shannon. She can handle anything her environment doles out. Wind, cold, blisters, heavy pack – all no match for her once she puts her mind to something. I’m confident you’ll finish before you leave Shannon – because you’ve decided to. Thoughts are a powerful thing. Thanks for being relentless in your pursuits.

Shannon on the Bells traverse - October 2020. We biked to the trailhead because we didn't have a parking permit :-)
Shannon joined me on Clark in September 2020. Package deal with Capitol the next day.

10 - Tony Jensen – 14ers (6) & 13ers (12)
Tony and I have been doing an annual climb together since 2010. Before he retired, Tony was a CEO with extensive international travel and work commitments. His time is limited, but I always appreciated how much of a priority he made our annual climbs. Occasionally, he would be on a board call while I drove us to a trail head, but we have always gone on our climbs. Tony is another of my partners who has a few years on me. I have looked up to him, seeking out advice on both work and parenting teens. Seeing how well Tony and his wife raised their children gives me hope for my own. I admire Tony’s work ethic, commitment to fitness and commitment to family. Thanks for all the advice over the years and for always making sure we get next year’s climb scheduled on the calendar nice and early. You make sure I always have something to look forward to.

Tony & his son, Tucker, at the start of the Red Gully before the Crestone Traverse - August 2010.
Tony on "East Thorn" September 2020.

9 - Andrew Gagnon – 14ers (2) & 13ers (17)
I met Andrew and his wife Jess at a happy hour. Melissa and I are often in the minority as a married couple at those events. Andrew and I haven’t shared a pleasant 14er summit yet – both our December 2017 Mt. Elbert summit and our February 2018 Culebra summits have been bordering on Type 3 fun. We’ve had some great days out on 13ers. I enjoy how well Andrew knows the 13ers from his extensive research. It has been awesome to join him for types of climbs he has not done before (snow, technical, winter, etc.). His eagerness to learn is something that I admire. Andrew is also wise, especially on all things weather (he was a weatherman in his prior career). He has good judgment in the mountains and is a fun guy with whom to share a long drive and some time in camp.

Andrew joined me on Culebra for my birthday - February 18, 2018 despite the brutal conditions.
A much nicer day out on Rito Alto - August 2020.

8 - Ryan Chase – 14ers (17) & 13ers (2)
Ryan is the guy who talked me into trying Denali the first time around. Most of our outings have been training for bigger objectives that we have had over the years. Of all the partners I’ve had over the years, I’ve been out with Ryan the least in the pleasant summer temps. Ryan is a cold weather, snow-loving creature. He longs to have skis on his feet and is always dreaming big about future adventures. Ryan is full of energy and possibility. Despite not getting our Denali summit together just yet, it was awesome to share a tent with you on that amazing peak. Hopefully we will share a tent again up in AK and perhaps even the summit of North America.

Ryan Chase descending Peak 1 - May 2016.
Ryan stoked to be on Denali - May 2014.

7 - Rob Norris – 14ers (19) & 13ers (3)
Rob and I used to work together. He was a frequent partner when we were both closing in on finishing the 14ers the first time around. Rob makes me look like as much of an extrovert as Ryan Richardson is. Rob doesn’t say much. He is, however, a rock solid partner. Rob’s comfort with more difficult terrain was significantly better than my own back then. Rob was key in me standing atop Mt. Wilson, El Diente, North Maroon and many others. His quiet confidence inspired my willingness to give tougher terrain a try. I had mostly lost touch with Rob after he left our firm, but given how small a world the climbing community is, it wasn’t all that surprising to bump into Rob and his cousin Jeff at the train station in Silverton as we launched for Vestal Basin. Rob & Jeff climbed Vestal’s standard route while Ryan and I did Wham Ridge. We topped out about the same time, descended together, then all did the Trinity Traverse together the next day. How great to see an old friend again!

Rob leads the way up North Maroon - August 2005.
A chance encounter in Vestal Basin in September 2017 - atop one of the Trinities with Ryan R. and cousin Jeff.

The Big Rocks

Here's another piece of advice from my mentors. This little parable goes like this:

A professor brings a 5-gallon bucket into his classroom. He then produces large rounded river rocks and begins dropping them into the bucket until no more will fit. He asks the class, “Is the bucket full?”

“Yes”, they reply. “Wrong”, he says. He pulls out a bag of pea gravel and slowly pours it into the bucket. Gravity does the work and the pea gravel works its way down into every nook and cranny in between the big rocks until no more will fit. Again, the professors asks, “How about now? Is it full?”

This time they are more skeptical, with some saying yes and some saying no. The “no’s” are of course correct. The professor pulls out a bag of sand. The fine sand crystals he pours in take up every ounce of space in the bucket until the top looks like smooth sand at the beach. The professor asks again. This time the class is confident – yep, it’s full now!

Wrong again. A pitcher of water comes out and is poured into the bucket – magically it all fits. Finally, the professor says, “Ok – now I’ll grant you that it’s full. What point am I trying to make?” Before you read on, think about it for a minute. What is the moral of the story?

A bright student in the back of the class offers an answer.

It is the same answer many of you probably came to on your own.

“The moral of the story is that you can always fit more in. You know, you can always do more, take on more, put more on your plate, etc., etc.” Was that your answer?

It’s not correct.

“Wrong!” says the professor. “That’s not the point I’m making at all.”

“The moral of the story”, he continues, “is you have to put the big rocks in first.”

Think about that a little - we have so many things competing for our time and attention in life. There is family, there are friends, there is work, there is health (mind, body and spirit), there are hobbies, there are texts, there are social media notifications, news alerts, etc.

The trick to keeping yourself in balance is to think about what the big rocks are in your life and make sure they go in first. I'm not personally a fan of New Years' resolutions. Sure the calendar year is a convenient time to set and measure goals, but if I ever feel like my priorities are out of alignment, there is no sense waiting until the following New Years to fix that. Today is a much better day than January 1st if you need to re-think what your big rocks are and re-prioritize. You will be quite amazed at how well all of the other stuff in your life will magically shrink down to fit around your big rocks, just like the gravel, sand and water did.

6 - Chelsea May – 14ers (16) & 13ers (8)
I met Chelsea when our kids were in a kindergarten class together. It is a humbling experience to hike with Chelsea – she is FAST! Although a Texan, we joke that she is part mountain goat. Her kryptonite – snow. She just doesn’t care for the stuff. Quite the opposite of Ryan Chase, Chelsea and I have exclusively hiked together in the warmer months. When we encounter snow on a trail, I know I’ll finally get to catch my breath as we work our way VERY carefully across that scary white stuff. In addition to her amazing fitness (she regularly wins marathons in her age group), I admire how involved she is with her kids and her work. She is a great example of how things magically fit when you know what is important in your life.

Chelsea on our Shav/Tab day - June 2020.
Grays summit - July 2012 after Chelsea smoked me up the mountain. You won't see my shirt that sweaty very often.

The Five Balls

Another metaphor a mentor shared with me a long time ago goes like this:

In your life, you have five balls that you must constantly juggle. Four of the balls are glass, however, and cannot be dropped. If dropped, they will break and you don't get that ball back. The fifth ball is rubber. It's ok if you drop that one because rubber bounces and you'll have another chance to grab it. The trick then is to constantly juggle the balls, hoping you don't drop any, but being certain that if you do need to drop one, it is the rubber ball that is dropped.

The metaphor comes into focus when you find that the balls are labeled. The rubber ball is called "Your Work". The glass balls, which are much more fragile, are called "Your Family", "Your Health", "Your Friends" and "Your Integrity".

Keep juggling my friends and be sure to keep those glass balls from hitting the ground.

5 - Ryan Richardson – 14ers (14) & 13ers (27)
I felt like I knew Ryan before I met him. We were both active in the 14ers Facebook group and he stood out to me early on as someone who knew his stuff, gave thoughtful advice and had the appropriate focus on staying safe. Ryan is an encyclopedia about all things mountain plus most other topics other than sports and pop culture. Ryan takes his mountain preparations very seriously. He would be voted least likely to be unprepared on a mountain. In Ryan’s company, conversation will never be an issue. I’ve heard stories about Steve Gladbach talking your ear off as he pounded out vertical feet. Ryan may not pound out the vertical as quickly as Steve did, but he’ll definitely keep you company while you are climbing or camping with him. Something else I admire about Ryan is how seriously he takes integrity. If Ryan says he will do something, you can take it to the bank. I would put him very high on my list of partners I would trust with my life. Last month, I was in terrain I wasn’t sure about and Ryan happily helped me navigate down safely with some quick research and InReach messages. Thanks for being one of the most knowledgeable and reliable members of the community Ryan.

Ryan topping out on Dallas - July 2018.
Ryan and Britt on winter Sneffels - March 2017.

4 - Joel Quevillon – 14ers (26) & 13ers (17)
Where Morgan brims with positivity, my good friend Joel brims with gruffness. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard Joel’s first words in the morning lean towards pleasant. His on-line persona can be equally gruff. I think he was a bit surprised when I invited him to join me for the Crestone traverse in late-September 2016. He was skeptical. Why had I invited him? We weren’t friends. We hadn’t ever met. What was my motive? I told him I was simply curious. I had seen him on both the .com and the Facebook group and saw that he had not done the Crestones. In the last four years, Joel has rapidly climbed my list of most frequent partners. I love that I always know where I stand with Joel. If he disagrees with me, he’s just going to tell me. If he appreciates something, he’s going to tell me. For a guy with such a tough on-line persona, I would put Joel up very high on my servant leader list in our community. He and his wife, Staci, are constantly looking for ways they can do nice things for others in the community. Food tends to be the way they do that. Joel and Staci open their home to friends and even mountain strangers on a frequent basis. They feed them amazing food. They do this also at things like the Fall Gathering, offering homemade cobbler to people they’ve never met. Joel is such a reliable partner and I thoroughly enjoy our deep-diving conversations on all topics at camp and on the trail.

Joel & Staci Q on the logjam - June 2018.
Joel on Music - August 2020.

The Stockdale Paradox

For those who haven't read Good to Great by Jim Collins, it is a great business book. He studies traits that the most successful companies seem to all have. He describes the Stockdale Paradox as one of those "good to great" attributes. In a nutshell, it entails maintaining an unwavering hope and long-term optimism that everything will eventually be ok while confronting the brutal realities of each day. Take three minutes of time to watch Jim Collins describe it to you better himself.

Throughout the pandemic, I have come back to the Stockdale Paradox most frequently. I hope we are on the downhill slope of this pandemic now, but we still have some tough months to go in the cold and the dark. Maintaining that devout long-term optimism that we will beat this while confronting the brutal realities of today is going to be a key perspective to have in the months ahead.

3 - Melissa McQueen – 14ers (34) & 13ers (14)
What can I say about my dear, sweet wife? Quite simply, she is amazing. She doesn’t love the mountains like I do, but has been nothing but supportive over our 20+ years of marriage. She is an excellent base camp manager when she doesn’t feel like summiting, but still wants to come along on a trip. Any day I get to spend outside with Melissa is a special day and I feel fortunate to get to share the great outdoors with her. Far more often, she is at home keeping the house running, children fed and on-time at their activities and just generally being an awesome person. Melissa taught me so much about perseverance and resilience during the frostbite accident. When I think of the Stockdale Paradox – maintaining that long-term optimism while confronting the brutal realities of today, Melissa comes to mind. During the pandemic, she has made over 300 masks for people, brightening their days with a variety of patterns, colors and themes. She has shared her frostbite story with countless students over her years of being an educator, sharing with them that they don’t have to be defined by physical limitations of any kind. The influence she has made on the world is a huge net positive. I love you.

Melissa's first 14er - Massive - July 1999.
Melissa's feet in 2001 shortly before amputation surgery.
Melissa on Rainier - June 2008.

2 - John Balciar – 14ers (34) & 13ers (15)
The amazing person that is John Balciar is beginning to be understood in this community. John’s superhuman strength, speed and endurance are phenomenal. He backs it up with his technical skills and good judgment in the mountains. John is the one who got me started on the Front Range monthly grid and he was an early person with whom I discussed the idea of the Seasonal Grid. He of course finished that with the solo Bells Traverse last March. I don’t know of anyone else who has done the Seasonal Grid. John may well become the first known person to finish the monthly grid also. We’ll see. I admire all of the things that John can do in the mountains for sure. Perhaps more so, I admire John as a father, grandfather, husband and friend. His humility is astonishing when coupled with his natural gifts. He has his priorities in order. When I think of the Big Rocks and how things will magically fall into place in the rest of your life if you know what’s important to you, I think of John. He is a hard worker and a family man, but has also put up an astonishing number of summits, seemingly without effort. You continue to amaze me as a completely superhuman human John. Thanks for being my friend.

John topping out on Castle - December 2018.
John leads the way to our purple snowflake on S. Maroon - September 2016.

1 - My Dad (Rich McQueen) – 14ers (68) & 13ers (3)
From our first ever 14er (Mt. Belford) on July 15, 1998 to our last one together (Kelso Ridge) on September 21, 2007, my dad was my favorite and most frequent hiking partner. He retired on me after that last Kelso Ridge climb because his fused ankle was continuing to get worse and worse. He will be 70 here this month. We still reminisce often about all of our amazing time we spent together on our 14er journey. Our first climb was not long before I met Melissa. He offered timely fatherly advice on our long drives and camping trips about relationships, marriage and eventually children/parenting. I can’t imagine my early adult life without all of that time spent with my dad. He was absolutely my best friend during those times until Melissa eventually nudged him out for that title. I sure hope that someday my kids will want to spend some time with me like I did with my dad.

El Pico de Orizaba summit - November 2002.
My dad on Capitol - August 2004.

Closing Thoughts

The world will get better again. The pandemic will end. Somewhere out there, beyond all of the clouds that obscure it, there is a bright future.

Oh so many clouds

When our brighter future arrives, it will be a thing of beauty. We might even look back at the simplicity of life during 2020, all the time we spent at home, all the time we spent in the outdoors, and miss those times.

Yale sunrise April 2016 after hiking to the summit alone in the dark.
And the magnificent view to the northwest, lit up by that flat morning light.

Until then, keep things in perspective and maintain that steadfast long-term optimism that things are going to be ok despite the need to confront the brutal facts in front of us each day. Stay happy and stay well.

Thanks again for being such an awesome community, and to Bill for providing the platform.

Thanks for reading and Happy Thanksgiving!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
11/15/2020 21:13
Best trip report ever...

Very cool
11/15/2020 22:05
Nice to see some of your history.

11/16/2020 00:35
Brad, I love the concept you communicate here and the wisdom that you share. The lessons are valuable reminders to all of us.
I am so grateful to have had your mentorship in the mountains, from your calm leadership in situations I found challenging to sharing stoke on big days with you, Morgan, Tim, and others. You and Melissa are such great advocates for our wild spaces and for the outdoor community.
I look forward to the next time we get to share a summit (perhaps me finally cracking 20 14er snowflakes could align with a needed grid slot of yours?)

Very Thankful
11/16/2020 06:11
For this write up and the insights it contains for all of us. Look forward to meeting you out there someday, Brad.

Thank you!
11/16/2020 07:53
This is the best!

I have always enjoyed the CFI gathering and to get to know everyone.

May you, Melissa and your family have a great Thanksgiving!

What the world needs now . . .
11/16/2020 09:43
Is more of this. (and more Cracker) Thanks, Brad, for putting things into perspective and being an inspiration to many.

Good words
11/16/2020 09:59
Good words, my friend.
Let's get a peak soon.

Great Trip Report, Brad
11/16/2020 11:33
I appreciate you putting together this informative read.

Cool. Excellent perspective, too:

"you need three things:

a) Something to do
b) Someone to love
c) Something to look forward to"

Keep adventuring. There are so many Colorado summits. All quality in their own way

Excellent report
11/16/2020 15:16
What a wonderful report.
Thank you for posting this.

11/16/2020 15:18
for the great write-up. Lots of quality advice!

Thanks for the writeup
11/16/2020 15:51
Was fun to learn more about your life philosophy and climbing partners. A lot of well-articulated gems in what you wrote. Let's actually do a peak in calendar winter on a nice weather day!

11/16/2020 17:21
This is such an endearing tribute to your partners, and I am mutually thankful for having you as a climbing partner over the years! It's nice for us introverted soloists to link up once and a while Your continuous encouragement and positivity means a lot, and I look forward to sharing more summits with you. Thanks for being a good human and for all that you do for our community. Happy Thanksgiving to you, Melissa, and your family!
~Purple Prancer~

Thankful indeed!
11/16/2020 21:14

Goodness. Thank you for your kind words! As someone who is rarely without something to sayI was actually fairly speechless when I initially read this last night. It‘s a beautiful tribute to the partners you‘ve had over the years. I am honored to have joined you on climbs with quite a few people on this list and you have managed to capture what makes them each special, very well. I also have very much enjoyed all the adventures we‘ve had together over the years. That said, I look forward to joining you on many more peaks in the future. Thank you again for sharing.

Masks are still NOT cool
11/17/2020 06:11
...but this is a wonderful report full of inspiration that many of us need right now. Thank you so much for sharing this positivity with this community.

Thanksgiving Indeed.
11/17/2020 15:55
Thanks so much for posting this Brad! You and Mel are amazing and inspiring (and the kids)...
In these times, this is exactly the kind of thing we need to see more of... and I know we'll see
more from you guys. Thanks, again. I don't mind admitting this gave me more than one moment
of tearful joy. -Robert.

Inspirational Messages
11/17/2020 17:31
Really enjoyed the thought provoking messages provided by your mentors and learning the fun history of your many partners. You truly are a great ambassador for our community and I am very thankful to have you as a climbing partner and friend. Hope you, Melissa and family have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Well said
11/17/2020 19:52
Thank you Brad.

Thank You!
11/18/2020 09:37
Beautiful! Thanks Brad! Happy Thanksgiving to you, Melissa & your family!!!

Thank You
11/18/2020 17:23
What an uplifting and thought-provoking message. Thank you for taking the time to offer the sun when it's so tempting only to see clouds. What a gift you have given to all of us. I am very grateful.

Very nice
11/21/2020 14:19
Nice read Brad, thanks for posting all of this.

KSU Wildcat
Outstanding, Brad!
11/24/2020 21:45
Brad, thanks for putting your thoughts and advice into words for all of us. Certainly a different kind of TR, but you identified how you could help lift us all up. Thanks!

Mike drop
11/16/2021 12:16
That was a fantastic read! Can't wait to share with my wife and kids!

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