Stop the Madness: My final 14ers

Part 1: Crestone Needle, 14,197′, Aug. 31, 2013

The time had finally come. It was Labor Day weekend, and my plan was to make a run at finishing the 14ers if the weather held and my legs didn’t give out. I had 4 peaks left, Crestone Needle, Crestone Peak, Ellingwood Point, and Blanca Peak. Overall, I was 54 peaks in, with 23 climbed this year. Plan A was to knock out the Crestones on Aug. 31 and then go for the Ellingwood and Blanca and Sept. 01. Plan B was to split up the Crestones and finish the last two some other weekend in the Fall, but I really didn’t want to go down that road. So, on Friday, we battled traffic down to the Crestones. Of course it was madness at the 4 wheel drive road leading up to the trailhead and the parking lot was full. We found a pull-out a little further down and slept in the truck. Linnea was plumb worn out from the first week of school, so I would being going solo for the ~16 mile trip. I departed at 3:30a with my mountain bike to assist me up the first 2 miles of a very rough closed 4×4 road. Yes, there was lots of walking it involved. A couple miles later at the Wilderness boundary I ditched it, and it was back to the conventional hiking. I made my way past South Colony Lakes and up Broken Hand Pass in the dark. It was decision time — descend down the other side and go for Crestone Peak, or knock out the Needle first. I went with the Needle. I made my way over to the East gully, only after missing the the entry in the dark and traversing over a more exposed ledge. From what I’ve read, most of the accidents on this peak happen when people go off route, so I took a break at the bottom of the East gully and waited for the sun to come up. Finally, I traversed over to the West gully and made the final push to the top. I was rewarded with solitude and one pretty sunrise. The climb was easier than I had expected and all those 14ers most have payed off. I was on strict orders from Linnea not to do the traverse by myself. I thought about sneaking a rope in my backpack but resisted the temptation. On the way down, I almost missed the entry to West gully, but after that, was okay. I cut down another lower gully and descended to Cottonwood Lake to begin the climb up Crestone Peak.




Part 2: Crestone Peak, 14,294′, Aug. 31, 2013

Past Cottonwood Lake, I could see the Red Gully, which would be my route up Crestone Peak. By this time, there were others on the trail, but must of the people were higher up as they were doing the peaks in the opposite direction. At the top, I enjoyed views of the Avenue on Kit Carson and of course looking back at the Needle. Near the top, my legs were really feeling it, and I was glad to put that Red Gully behind me. Weather was still looking clear and it was only 10a. So, I made the descent, back past Cottonwood lake, and back up Broken Hand Pass. Grueling. Especially with the sun beating down. At the top of the pass, I took a quick lunch break. I had a couple miles back to my bike, and then the real adventure began. The 4×4 road was filled with big rocks everywhere. My mountain biking skill is really low and somehow I managed to make it down in one piece, barely, amid lots of grunting and hollering. At the bottom I let out a final whoop and flew through a big stream just avoiding a final fall and splash. My front tire was destroyed with two flats.








Part 3: Ellingwood Point, 14,042′, Sept. 01, 2013

After Crestone Peak, we made our way down to the dreaded Lake Como Road. Linnea braved the driving and made it up to our normal camping spot a couple miles up. I whipped up a quick fire and fueled up on 4 hot dogs. Hopefully this would be the trick to get me up my final 14ers. Maddy was persistent on coming, so I made sure to give her one too. The next morning, the alarm went of at 2a, and Maddy was panting in nervous expectation. By 2:30 I was off, hiking up the blasted Lake Como road. Around 4a, I was nervous I missed a turn b.c. things weren’t looking familiar in the dark. Plus I had only previously been up here in the snow. Luckily, 15 minutes later, Lake Como appeared, and I was in the clear. I had 2-3 miles to go up to Ellingwood. The most challenging part was finding the small turn-off trial, but after searching for it for 5-10 minutes in the dark, I found it. At the saddle between Ellingwood and Blanca, I was again rewarded with with an amazing sunrise. Maddy was doing great too, hopping over all the rocks, and her energy level was doing fine too. I was a little worried since it was a solid 16 mile day with lots of elevation and it had been a while since I had taken her on one of these, but she did awesome. We were the only ones at the top and I more amazing views of Little Bear, Mt. Lindsey, and my finisher, Blanca Peak.





Part 4: Blanca Peak, 14,345′, Sept. 01, 2013

While not as “cool” as a finisher as Capitol or Pyramid, the prominence of Blanca is something to behold as it soars 7,000′ above its valleys and is considered Ultra Prominent. It is Colorado’s fourth highest peak, the highest peak in Colorado outside the Sawatch Range, and the highest peak in the Sangre de Cristo Range. So, from Ellingwood, Maddy and I took the traverse over, staying somewhat high. Maddy did great on the Class 3 and was in her element. On the ridge to Blanca, I could see the end in sight. We stayed on the ridge, and I was surprised at the shear dropoff on the other side. At the top, there were a few other groups, and I took a whole bunch of pictures. It felt great to be done, and I soaked up my final summit. Maddy of course sprawled out, shut her eyes, and put her nose up in the fresh mountain air. On the way down, the long weekend caught up with me and Lake Como road took its tool on my feet. The sun was out in force, and I was hoping all those storms I worked so hard to avoid would roll in and cool us down. Maddy decided the best defense to the sun was to pick up the pace, so we did a quick trot down the last 2 miles. Back at the truck I collapsed and enjoyed a nice nap. I woke up only long enough to make it to the Texas Road House in Pueblo for a big 18 oz steak. I felt great to be finally finished with the 14er madness.








A Look Back

Who would have guessed that three years ago I would be starting my 14ers quest. That really wasn’t the plan when Linnea, Maddy, and me skinned up Peru Gulch, slept out in a snow storm, and were denied the summit of our first 14er attempt the next day on Grays Peak. I didn’t care, and had ski turns on my mind. But, it didn’t take much to suck me in and a few weeks later we made our first summit, and more good skiing, on Mt. Lincoln. After that, it was on, and we hit many of the classic Front Range climbs as well as more skiing in the Sawatch and a classic Longs Peak climb up the Loft with my friend and former college band director Derald. The next year, we took advantage of long holiday weekends to knock out summits further away. Of course we made time in August for a backpacking trip in Alaska. Again, we capped off the summer with another classic Longs Peak climb up the Northwest Couloir. This past year was the big year, with 27 summits, and many of the more challenging ones. I really didn’t think I would finish this year, especially after throwing Hood and Rainier in the mix in July. The secret was taking ones where a backpack would normally be necessary and dayhiking them and of course playing the cards right with the weather. This gave some really long days, including a 21 mile, 1a start for Snowmass Mountain, by far one of my more grueling endeavors. Of course the bigger secret was using every trick in the book to convince Linnea to follow in the madness. There definitely was a natural progression with exposure becoming less intimidating. The highlight of the summer was capping off the Elks with the Bells traverse and then Pyramid with out any incidents. These were near the top of my “most feared” list, and I actually enjoyed them. By that point, the Crestones, Ellingwoood, and Blanca were just icing on the cake and I could see the finish. Now, I am enjoying more relaxing weekends without the pressure to gain the summits. I am of course looking forward to checking out new routes, repeating others, and helping Linnea finish off her last 10.


Mt. Lincoln, May 11, 2011, our first summit

Finally, my Grandma asked me what song I sing at the summits. Well, the answer is simple — none! I usually just collapse and take some video or pictures and eat some candy. I did however notice that one song would often replay itself in my head, usually when the sun was coming out during the early morning ascents, and this definitely was no coincidence:

How Great Thou Art,

Verse 1:
O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

Verse 2:
When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

My 14er List

Grays Peak, failed attempt, 04-17-11
Mt. Lincoln, 05-07-11
Mt. Oxford, 05-28-11
Mt. Belford, 05-28-11
Grays Peak, 06-11-11
Torreys Peak, 06-11-11
Mt. Bierstadt, 06-18-11
Mt. Evans, 06-18-11
Mt. Democrat, 06-25-11
Mt. Cameron, 06-25-11
Mt. Lincoln, repeat, 06-25-11
Mt. Bross, 06-25-11
Mt. Sherman, 06-25-11
Mt. Missouri, 07-09-11
Huron Peak, 07-10-11
Mt. Massive, 07-23-11
Mt. Harvard, 07-30-11
Mt. Columbia, 07-30-11
Mt. Elbert, 08-27-11
Mt. of the Holy Cross, 09-04-11
Longs Peak, 09-11-11

Year 1 = 19 unique peaks

Quandary Peak, 03-24-12
Grays Peak, repeat, 04-07-12
Torreys Peak, repeat, 04-07-12
Redcloud Peak, 05-26-12
Sunshine Peak, 05-26-12
Handies Peak, 05-26-12
Uncompahgre Peak, 05-27-12
Wetterhorn Peak, 05-28-12
Mt. Shavano, 06-09-12
Tabeguache Peak, 06-09-12
Mt. Antero, 06-10-12
La Plata Peak, 07-15-12
San Luis Peak, 09-01-12
Mt. Sneffels, 09-02-12
Longs Peak, repeat, 09-09-12
Blanca Peak, failed attempt, 12-24-12

Year 2 = 12 unique peaks

Mt. Yale, 01-20-13
Mt. Princeton, 03-02-13
Humboldt Peak, 03-16-13
Pikes Peak, 04-06-13
Mt. Lindsey, failed attempt, 04-14-13
Little Bear Peak, 04-28-13
Mt. Lindsey, 05-04-13
Snowmass Mountain, 06-15-13
Castle Peak, 06-16-13
Conundrum Peak, 06-16-13
Wilson Peak, 07-13-13
Mt. Wilson, 07-14-13
El Diente Peak, 07-16-13
Sunlight Peak, 07-18-13
Windom Peak, 07-18-13
Mt. Eolus, 07-19-13
North Eolus, 07-19-13
Culebra Peak, 07-27-13
Capitol Peak, 08-04-13
Challenger Peak, 08-10-13
Kit Carson Peak, 08-10-13
North Maroon Peak, 08-17-13
Maroon Peak, 08-17-13
Pyramid Peak, 08-18-13
Crestone Needle, 08-31-13
Crestone Peak, 08-31-13
Ellingwood Point, 09-01-13
Blanca Peak, Finisher, 09-01-13

Year 3 = 27 unique peaks

One thought on “Stop the Madness: My final 14ers

  • September 18, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    Congrats over & over again! The sunrise pics were absolutely stunning! Thanks for your reports and all the pics. And I so enjoyed reading the text of “How Great Thou Art ” at the conclusion. I hope it forever stays in your head. Sometime I will show Grandma the final post. And I.’m glad the madness is over. May God give you many more safe adventures!
    Love, Mom

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