08 April 2014

Getting High

Once upon a time, I wanted to write a book about being the first to do something noteworthy atop all the 14ers. A fictitious book. A fantasy. I'd just undergone emergency back surgery to remove a dime-sized bone chip from my sciatic nerve, and I instinctively knew the likelihood of me ever reaching some of the more difficult summits had just taken the same exit stage left as the bone chip.

I still had a dream. I wouldn't be first, but I could photograph every 14er. I wouldn't even be the first to capture all the big guys at sunrise or sunset. I could be the first, however to quilt photos of all the 14ers.

Mission accomplished in 2006.

Half of my 14er Quilt in front of Mount Princeton

Still, my goal wasn't quite the splash I envisioned. After all, climbers were doing some amazing things out there, but no one had come up with the book idea brewing in my head.

Mary Cronin was the fourth person to climb all the 14ers, but she was the first woman to do it, way back in 1934. In 2005, her accomplishment finally was officially recognized when a peak was named after her.

Megan Emmons, at age 7, was the youngest known child to have climbed all the 14ers until last summer, and Tyle Smith completed them a generation earlier at age 8.

Aron Ralston made international headlines not when he was the first to solo summit all the 14ers in winter but when he lost his hand while on walkabout in Utah's red rock slot canyons. Nevertheless, his solo winter climbing project continues to inspire.

Jim Gehres climbed each of the 14ers a dozen times.

Speed records ascending all the 14ers in one foul swoop were set by Cave Dog Ted Kizer (male), 10 days, 20 hours, 26 minutes, and Danelle Ballengee (female), 14 days, 14 hours, 49 minutes. Andrew Hamilton set a little record of his own, self-powering himself up all the peaks in 19 days, 10 hours, 40 minutes, traveling in between peaks via bicycle. WOW!

Andrew's son Calvin carried on what his father started; the youngster completed the 14ers at age 8. His son Axel completed the 14ers on September 14, 2013, at the age of six, now the youngest person known to have finished them all. Andrew's website includes a history of speed records for Colorado 14ers.

Now the records are stacking up like hotcakes.

Luke DeMuth and Junaid Dawud six months ago walked all the 14ers with no vehicular support whatsoever. They thought they were first, but then found out another duo, Patrick Renworth and Mike Whitehurst, had done it 35 years earlier and with 300 more miles of walking.

Lou Dawson was first to ski all the 14ers, and he set imaginations on fire, as many more have attempted to follow in his tracks. Christy Mahon is the seventh person and first woman to ski all the 14ers. Her husband, Ted, was third. Chris Davenport was first to ski all the 14ers in less than one calendar year.

Jarrett Luttrell was first to climb and snowboard off the summit of all the 14ers.

With every conceivable record already set, you have to come up with a new way to do the 14ers in order to make headlines. Jon Kedrowski spent a night atop each of the 14ers in just over three months.

And recently, the piece de la resistance... Some climbers, including my friend Ken Nolan, are attempting to fill "The Grid." Climb every 14er in every calendar month. That's 708 14er ascents!!!

Just when you think you've heard everything, someone comes along and knocks the dust off the old news.

Now there's a new list circulating. For fun, I punched my done list. I've finished 17 so far, and that earned me two yellow stars. This list is interesting, but I'm not sure it competes with a 14er checklist. There are some things on this list I won't be doing at all, and my favorite of all time has been finding my favorite "fun thing to do in Colorado" and keeping it a secret. Oh, and there's still that book idea lurking on the back shelf of my mind. Big, big grin!

Uncompahgre Peak


  1. Hope you complete your dream. I had emergency back surgery in 2007 to remove an epidural abscess and now I'm not as active as I once was.

  2. I'll bet you're the only one who's designed a crochet snowflake for every fourteener....

    And what a very mysterious post, taken all in all. What could that book idea be? :)


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