There are 53 mountain summits in Colorado that are officially over 14,000 feet. There are an additional 5 “unofficial” peaks that appear on most summit lists like this one. It took me 16 years (August 2000 to July 2015) to make it up all 58. Most of these majestic giants requires a full day outing, and some require overnight stays because just getting to the trailhead takes so long. I finished the first 51 14ers rather systematically, at a rate of about 5 outings per season, usually with friends. But my last 7 peaks were some of the more technical and frankly more intimidating mountains, and the friends who I started mountaineering with had already been up there, so it was either go it alone or find someone new to partner with. For this reason, my mountain excursions were severely curtailed in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
That changed at a very specific moment, one that I remember clearly, on January 1, 2014. I had spent the entire year of 2013 without getting up on a single summit, not even the smaller peaks close to home in Boulder. But on New Years Day 2014 I hiked with my dog Sienna to the top of Mt Sanitas in Boulder. Sanitas is a small 1-2hr round trip hike (many people use this as a training run) with rewarding views of the city. Resting at the summit with my dog, eating a snack and taking in the views, I was reminded how much I loved being UP. I love the airiness and the adventure of traveling to a place I’ve never seen before. I enjoy the physicality of being at elevation and the satisfaction of reaching the high point, of knowing I can go no higher today.
In those few minutes I used (and cemented into my life’s perspective) a decision-making filter that I still use today: will I regret it when I’m 80 if I don’t at least attempt to finish the 14ers? I decided yes I would regret that, so I made it a mission that year.
I wasn’t able to complete that goal in 2014, but I came close, finishing 6 of my remaining 7. And on July 25, 2015 I finished the last of the Colorado 14ers on the summit of Crestone Needle. I made two youtube videos that day, first as I approached the summit, second celebrating with my friend Phil who joined me that day. Watching the videos now, years later, makes me feel happy and proud that I stuck with it.
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