East Slopes, Class 1, 12 miles,
3600 feet, With Jen and Brian Morsony
I wanted to write the text of this report as close to finishing the
14ers as possible. Recently I've been mostly writing smaller
reports or focusing on pictures and if people use this site as beta I'm
sorry about that, I keep it mostly as a journal to refer back to and
for friends and family to read and while I've enjoyed a lot of the
stuff I've done recently it hasn't been very memorable on a personal
level. The Culp Bossier report is case in point, it was
the best rock route I've ever climbed but didn't seem to me to be
important enough to go into great detail about. It's a good
and a lot of info exists so I just mentioned the salient points so that
I can look at it some time down the road and be reminded of it.
I'd honestly be surprised to find out that anyone that
know me would bother to read through all the stuff I write.
Finishing the 14ers however, even on a 12 mile, class 1 trail seems to
warrant a lot more discussion than a 6 pitch, ultra classic alpine rock
route. If you don't care and don't know me then skip ahead to
the pictures if you like or look elsewhere, there is little beta here,
this is mostly a way for me to remember what this day felt like to me
when I look backwards some years in the future.
I'm not really sure how I feel right now to be totally honest.
came to Colorado as a hiker and a backpacker, rock climbers seemed like
death defying idiots to me and the thought of ice climbing never even
entered my mind, that level of lunacy was something a flatland
backpacker would never envision. When I first got off the
to visit the University of Colorado five years ago all I knew was that
the mountains had an attraction for me and that I wanted to move here,
stay here, and never return to the filthy city I was leaving behind.
Over the course of the first few weeks of living in Colorado I would
take a quick jaunt up Audobon and the local OSMP peaks and then, by
chance, was told that I ought to go try Mt. Democrat. Getting up to
14,000 feet was love at first site for me and I was hooked immediately.
I threw myself into the goal of finishing the peaks with abandon and
focused relentlessly on it. I would work 12 hour days to
all of my studies and coursework for my graduate education and then try
to hike and climb both days on the weekends. It quickly
obsession. I was driven to think of little else. Finally
came and I stopped climbing but I spent a lot of time on forums talking
about it and trying to find partners for harder peaks because I was
pretty fit and hiking the easier ones seemed trivial.
Over the summer of 2004 I would scare myself pretty badly on the
Crestone Needle and realize that fitness did not equal any real
understanding of safety or knowledge of the high country (on one
occasion I headed towards Mt. Gilpin thinking it was Sneffels and had a
near epic. My friend Brian Morsony and my wife refer to it as
Mt. Not Sneffels incident.). This incident spurned me to hire
guide to teach me the ins and outs of rock climbing and instilled in me
the need to learn as much as possible to be a safe competent
mountaineer. Over the rest of the summer I would finish all
the Elk range peaks with a fellow named Brian Espe as well as do the
Little Bear - Blanca Traverse and Wilson Peak.
After finishing most of the 'hard' 14ers within slightly more than a
year of living in Colorado I realized that they were in
fact pretty easy technically. Sure, they can be objectively
hazardous, loose, present bad weather, etc. but once you get a bit of
sense about weather, rockfall, etc. along with a decent sense of self
preservation and knowledge of when to turn back they are really pretty
timid peaks (outside of winter at least).
By the end of my second summer I had done something like 35 14ers
and grown bored with them and the thought of returning to slogs like
the Sawatch peaks made me cringe. It was time to try and up the
Over the following years I began to rock climb, lead rock climbs, ice
climb, take avalanche courses, take WFR courses, climb internationally,
do many alpine technical climbs, and, occasionally, hike a few 14ers
here and there mostly just to rack up numbers or get some exercise.
the way I managed to both learn a few profound things and, at the same
time, lose sight of some really simple things. I learned that
is absurd to judge yourself against others. Between the true
men rock/ice/mountain climbers and the geniuses I met while climbing in Colorado and pursuing my
PhD I realized that we will never be as good as the next, better
guy/gal in whatever we are pursuing so our pride should come from our
own sense of validation and our own goals. I also managed to
forget how to enjoy myself in the outdoors, something that was an
integral part of who I thought I was for a long time. I
hiked/climbed 14ers to finish 'The List' and did more
challenging things just to test myself. This isn't to say I
didn't enjoy myself but I'd stopped enjoying being outside for the sake
of being outside. I always seemed to need a purpose or
challenge when heading outdoors.
I'd like to say the 14ers brought that sense of loving the outdoors
back to me but it wouldn't be true. What really made me
that the key is to simply enjoy what you do outside without the need to
obsessively focus on things or compare exploits was Green Mountain in
Boulder. I started hiking Green Mountain a few times a week
2007 as a way to get in and stay in decent shape and came to realize
that just watching the seasons change and watching the animal life and
plant life was about as enjoyable as anything else I did.
dawned on me that I was happy to just hike up and down the same peak,
hundreds of times, with nothing more than the odd 2nd class step, I
realized that I'd been pursuing the outdoors the wrong way (for me at
least). I've managed too see Cougar footprints in fresh snow, the turn
the seasons, bears, fledging falcons, flowers, mist shrouded days,
streams come and go, and much more on that
one little, easy Boulder Peak. I figured it was time to
the 14ers and see how that made me feel.
I did Mt. Wilson with my friend Tim and while it was fun it was sort of
a chore, more like ticking a list than anything else, I guess this was
mostly due to the long drive to and from the San Juans. The
was loose and a fall would be deadly but we still did it car to car
with plenty of time to read, drink, and BS at the days end.
next and last peak was to be San Luis. I had picked this as
last so that it would be relaxed, anyone who wanted to come could, and
so that I could jog to the summit and down if weather threatened.
I just came home and think that San Luis is my favorite 14er behind
Longs Peak. The peak itself is trivial. It is 12
so and 3600 feet and has one of the absolutely easiest trails to
follow. I imagine that I could jog it in under 5 hours pretty
easily but what would be the point of that? San Luis, from
Stewart Creek TH has beaver dams and lodges for the first two
miles. The creatures have terraced the creek quite
masterfully for a long stretch. It also has beautiful trees,
views, and an abundance of
wildflowers. It also has a beautiful stream and fantastic
from the summit. In short, it had just about everything you
want if you just want to be in nature and enjoy it.
Jen, Brian Morsony (my friend who I will miss when he goes to
post-doc), and myself headed out to San Luis on Friday, July 11th,
2008. We arrived at the trailhead and went to sleep.
slept out on a air pad, under the stars with no tent and awoke
occasionally to marvel at the stars and the Milky Way above me.
When the alarm went off we woke and headed down the
at 4:40 AM. Along the way we came across a couple beavers
swimming near their home. One beaver spent a good bit of time
swimming towards us then looking at us and then swimming away only to
return shortly to see us again. I wish the lighting had been
better so that I could post a picture. The creature was
clearly as curious about us as we were about it.
After the beaver we continued on and headed for the summit.
were quite leisurely and arrived after four hours. The whole
up was beautiful and punctuated by flowers, streams, and wonderful
weather. It felt a bit odd to be up on the summit and done
a five year journey . On the summit a group of four came up
the invariable 'How many have you done' question came up. I
wanted to avoid this topic because I've come to believe that asking
this question sort of cheapens the experience. Sorry to be a
odd about it but I don't think the numbers of 14ers you've done or not
matters much, what should matter is the experience and how you view it.
I've sort of come to hate that question because it seems a
bit like a contest. It might seem odd that I keep a site
documenting what I do and still have this feeling but I do.
The number of peaks should be un-important, what should
matter is the peak you are on at the time. I've certainly not
taken as much from it as I should have. I also think people
place an unreasonable emphasis on skill and numbers of these peaks
done. I know several finishers that shouldn't be allowed in
the wild by themselves and have friends with a handful that are true
alpinists. Your experiences are the sum of your learning,
doing, understanding, skill, and judgment. While
the number of peaks done does sometimes loosely correlate to the above
I wouldn't use it by itself in any way.
If you read this, please do Capitol as your second to last 14er.
It is objectively hazardous, a bit nerve wracking and you
want to end the journey with summit fever and nerves. End it
something easy and beautiful that the people you hold dear can
experience with you.
We headed down and took our time to take pictures and look for more
beavers. We got back to the car in just under seven hours.
We were also fortunate enough to see a large eagle soaring over the
valley right before returning to our truck. It was a nice way
to end the last of my 14ers. I started out doing the 14ers as a
backpacker, became obsessed, a
technical climber, dissilousioned by the 'List' and ended back up sort
of where I started five years ago. How much of that is getting older
and how much of that is the 14ers I don't know but it was a worthwhile
goal. I've seen so much of the state and so many things that I wouldn't
have if I had never done the peaks.
I'll make a point never to do the centenialls because I
think the very act of pursuing a list distracts from enjoying the
pursuit. Just enjoy yourself, try to not
harm the natural world you are walking through, and be safe.
I guess if I had to start the whole process over again I'd
try to spend more time enjoying what I was doing at the time and not
thinking about numbers, the next peak, the next course, etc.
It's been an interesting trip and I think finishing with San Luis is a
good way to go.