If you are reading this, consider it some silly, small token that your current situation has landed upon. I am determined to find some privacy through this thing we like to call the internet. So if you found this post buried amongst all the other 58, well then I would say it’s meant to be.
It’s liberating going into repeats and actually finding more than a summit after each mountain. With each connection toward nature, not to mention the people along side this brutal insanity, I feel a step closer to something bigger than me. And with each hike now comes this familiar comfort that I am home and I don’t have to look any further.
Flash forward and it is Thanksgiving 2021. I just got off a plane to what feels like some other place in time. Either I am in some matrix that is simulated with yet another airport flight, or I am constantly out of place. Anyway, I AM GRATEFUL to be off that plane, and out of that airport full of sea-blob-staring, anxiety-ridden souls. Currently in the living room, distracted by Chip purring across my laptop begging for attention, something you can only appreciate from a furry friend.
I find it comforting that the mountains are the most reliable thing in my life.
Guess I still hate the holidays and this time of year. It comes around like clockwork and I always find myself packing and moving. Everything must go. HUGE BLOW OUT SALE. Wanted: new routine, new confidence, new love. I can’t help but feel bittersweet this time of year, not to mention so incredibly alone in this entire life-journey thing. Trying to find a more positive spin, but the truth remains that I am skeptical about a soulmate.
Back to Mount Sherman. If you even care to hear about this mountain. It is in fact my favorite little slice of 14ers that I introduce people to. It is close enough to the city that you won’t be exhausted driving and running on little sleep. It is the shortest of all the fourteeners, not to mention, considerably less vertical gain than the rest. Naturally, it is the mountain I chose for my friend Lisa, who is looking to get back out there!
Climbing Mount Sherman feels like climbing into the new year. Where am I even heading? Suppose I no longer care for the top – the views will be nice, but nothing I haven’t seen before. Yet I don’t think I particularly care for the bottom either – I know what awaits me when I return back to the city and am doubtful about how it serves me.
Nope, here right now, walking this snowcapped mountain in my mind, I choose to be optimistic curiosity and thankful for the people next to me, that are quietly going through their own little mental mountain. The howling wind is a great excuse to keep to ourselves as we trudge on. Even the success of summiting is short-lived in this cold, and we find ourselves enjoying the quicker hike down.
Anyway, what I’m really saying is that I know exactly where am I right now (if you only knew how much of a broken record it is), but equally feel lost. I would like to place this promise to myself into the metaverse. I want to, need to, promise to, spend a year actually taking care of myself for a change. I often take on too many humanitarian projects (often with the people closest to me) and wonder why I lose myself in helping them achieve greatness. I have given far too many years building up others who put my needs on the back-burner. Ultimately, I become frustrated and spontaneously rip the informal contract into tiny littles pieces. It may take some time, and hopefully the shortest of all seasonal changes, but I think I will reach this new height.
At least once a year, some unfortunate climber sends the local search & rescue office into full gear. It is actually crazy to see the data! Luckily, fate was kind to me as I embarked across climbing from Crestone Peak to Crestone Needle, otherwise known as one of the four Great Traverses in Colorado.
Backpacking into South Colony lakes was unreal. It felt like the world was closing in on me and I was safely protected within the bosom of this range. The Sangre de Cristos, and specifically Crestone mountains, have been very influential in my climbing experience. They have left me battered, afraid, hopeful, satisfied and all emotions in-between. The evening light rain showers welcomed me, refreshing me for the night ahead.
Awoke at 2am with more eager anticipation than usual, after-all, today I would climb my last first Colorado 14er. There was something bittersweet about knowing this will be the end of an era. However there was equally something comforting in the perspective of how far I’ve come throughout this journey.
Found company around 3am in the darkness of moonlight. The headlamps of two older men would shine yards away, and I knew we were both chasing the same thrill. We sling shot on the switch-backs, exchanging awkward hello again’s, and eventually resolved to just climb together as we were clearly able to keep up with each other.
Chris and Wade surprised me when they took out their ropes and harnesses going up the first summit, Crestone Peak. While I confidently hung behind, without a rope or care in the world, I found it useful to pick up some basic partner ropes skills while watching them climb the loose terrain. One does not simply climb these mountains.
The sun was breaking across the mountain range, and each peak greeted us with a soft, yellow smile. I was in awe of the rays of sun striking the side of the red gully. It was so inspiring that I needed to feel it. I spontaneously removed my approach shoes and climbed into the light. The rock was smooth and numbing, swallowing my stomach while I basked in the sun. I only recently starting removing my shoes at random points along the 14er hikes, simply to feel the earth, or rock, beneath me. Feels silly, but don’t knock it until you try it.
After the endless scramble of the red gully, we made the summit, just in time to watch the peaks light up. I typically don’t bring coffee past 13,000ft, however I really wanted all the cozy comforts to simultaneously stimulate my heart with emotion on this last climb. Made a cuppa and watched the sand dunes in the distance. From this vantage point, one could see all of the San Luis Valley, and if you squint just right, the mystical magic it held.
It was during our climb down and toward the traverse cairn that we began to see people. I typically prefer less people around for these more technical climbs, however I embraced everyone with the biggest grin. Practically hugging strangers on the mountain. Not really.
Anyway, we made our way across the rocky face of the traverse with one route in sight. The famous black Gendarme rock pinnacle stared us in the eye. I knew it was all fun and games until this point. Based off Saguache Search and Rescue data, this upcoming approach is where most deaths occur.
I had no doubt in my mind that every mountain I climbed over the past two years has led me to this very moment. Fear subsided into ecstasy, and every bone in my body told me I was ready. A truly rare feeling for me to feel so certain about something, when life has always held so much doubt.
We made our way across the rocky face of the mountain with one route in sight. Then, finally, the famous black Gendarme rock pinnacle stared us in the eye. I knew it was all fun and games until this point. Based off Saguache Search and Rescue data, this upcoming approach is where most deaths occur.
It began with a small class 5 move into this narrow bulge. Yes, I am aware as I am typing this how sexual mountain climbing can be. It is probably best that all the research led me to believe this 5.2 move would be the most difficult, and distract me from the later crux. I conquered it with ease, and felt like it would be smooth sailing after. There was an exposed, fun climb across a mini rib which allowed you to see the entire back west side of the mountain – it dropped down for over 4,000 terrifying feet.
Little did I know how steep the approaching 40 foot rock wall would be. The same rock wall that sits on the edge of this 4,000 drop ridge crest. This mountain crux is Crestone Needle’s way of slapping you one last time. You are merely 300 feet away from the summit, and if you can pass this one last, potentially fatal test, then you can enjoy the panoramic views. It is so fitting that there are 3 paths you can take up from this point. If it weren’t for the constant reminder of the breeze, I would have thought I was in a video game simulation.
I watched Wade go first, desperately wanting the ropes he has been utilizing this entire time. Chris followed, certainly intimidated, but with the safety net of knowing he was harnessed in. Matt and I looked at each other and he asked me which I would prefer, going third or last. I knew that he was a strong indoor climber, despite this being his first 14er climb of the season, however I wanted to know everybody was safely above me versus looking below in fear.
So I watched him accent upward, and quickly turn into a faint speck. I was at the final pitch, all alone with a racing heart. My hands reached above me, and chose the path less traveled. The far left route that would force me to see the entire backside of the mountain below. There are no words to describe this mental fuckery. I bit my lips with each hand hold, focusing on each rock. While my hands felt great, I kept having flashes to what would happen if/when my foot would slip beneath me. The hand holds weren’t large enough for my feet to find stability.
About half way up the climb I realized I was completely and utterly alone. Not even my helmet would protect me from the deadly fall should I mess up ONE move. The group was well into safety, as I tried my best not to look left, down or up for that matter. One rock at a time. Just one more rock.
My legs began to quiver and I had to stop to control my breathing. I was having flashbacks to the blizzard on the nearby mountain Kit Carson. I could see my death below me and had to ask myself how badly I wanted this life. Some of you can easily relate to this type 2 fun that shakes your bones and leaves you on another high afterwards.
My hands were beginning to lose circulation and I knew I had to climb on, for fear of my fingers losing grip. At one point I even attempted to call out to Matt. He obviously had no control, nor could really talk me out of this sticky situation. The only option I had was to climb up. So I did.
Eventually I reached the top of the ridge and held back tears – I imagine this is how someone cast away deep in the ocean would feel once reaching land after fearing for the end. Perhaps I’m being dramatic but this certainly was the bang I was looking to go out on.
I didn’t realize how great that final summit would feel. My final 58th mountain. Damn. I did all that. Too excited to eat my protein bar or drink water, I paraded around in a silly rainbow poncho – LIFE WAS GOOD.
Rah, rah, rah, I climbed down the other side of this mountain and made it safely to camp where I packed my things and lived happily ever after as a Colorado 14er Finisher.
🚨 My voice echoed throughout the gullies as I shouted for @sturgeon.dan – my hiking bud had been missing for 30min. 🌨 We were last together on Kit Carson, our attention on the clouds. They were unlike anything I’d seen, playful pillows hiding behind the summit. I saw another cluster in the distance. Were they closing in on us? I warned Dan that we had about 30min – whatever was coming, we would be in the eye of it. 🌪 I paced the avenue as 1/2 blizzards dumped, debating on if I should go back to search for him. The snow was hitting from all directions & I lost vision. My heart pumped as a memory of my CapHill 1BD entered; Matt and I playing rummy in front of a fireplace. I could hear the fire cracking as my toes soaked through a 2nd set of socks. I could feel the purr of Chip as my fingers became numb from scrambling. I wanted so badly to be on the couch with them.
🚁 The 2nd blizzard hit & the reality of the situation settled in. Dan may not get off this mountain. If he is in need of help, rescue could take over 12hrs & the snow could cover him. Screw the fees, how can you put a price on someones life? My hands shook as I held down the SOS button on the Garmin InReach. Then watched the 20sec countdown commence. 🆘 Better to search for 1 person than 2. I marched across the ridge line, bullied by wind. It blocked all sound, except for the GPS device, which synced morbid beeps to my heartbeat. I constantly looked behind me for a silhouette. BREATHE. Finally saw a figure & broke down in tears. HE IS ALIVE! I quickly cancelled the call for emergency rescue. 🗻 3/20 hikers summited this snowy class 3. The other guy began at 2am. 15mi post-holing over 14hrs. Looking back I am not regretful nor wiser. We had the energy & skill to accomplish, but losing a hiker is unspeakable. A truly remarkable, memorable hike that left my bones rattled and mind full of gratitude. 🤯 𝟷𝟺𝚎𝚛: Challenger + Kit Carson 𝙴𝚕𝚎𝚟𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗: 14,081’ + 14,165’ 𝙻𝚘𝚌𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗: Westcliffe, CO 𝚃𝙷: Willow Creek 𝙳𝚒𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚗𝚌𝚎: 15 miles 𝙴𝚕𝚎𝚟𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗 𝙶𝚊𝚒𝚗: 6,250’ 𝙲𝚕𝚊𝚜𝚜: ♦️♦️♦️