A full circle of fourteeners
Photo by Bernie Boettcher
Roiling up through the layers of constrictive obligation, like some volcano that would blow if not vented, was the magma of unfinished business. The thought of not summiting Colorado’s highest mountains simmered in me for decades.
The notion arose with a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park in the early 1980s with my brother and his girlfriend. We strapped on our work boots and metal frame packs, and set out to climb the highest mountain in the park, Longs Peak (14,255 feet.) We made it above timberline to Chasm Lake, but rain and the fact that his girlfriend was headachy and vomiting foiled our plan.
I remember staring up at the Diamond Face of Longs wishing to know the view from its crown.
That trip confirmed my desire to move to Colorado so I could live in the mountains, and I did. Back then there were no mountain guidebooks that I knew of. If I saw a mountain I wanted to climb, I drove as close to it as I could, and just started up. This practice led to a lot of bushwhacking and dead ends, but a lot of summits, too.
In the mid-1990s when someone published a guidebook to Colorado’s 54 fourteeners (mountains over 14,000 feet), I was skeptical. I was accustomed to finding my own way. But when a friend, Dennis Webb, invited me to climb a remote peak and we were able to find the trailhead in the dark and then the route with ease, I converted. Soon we were obsessed, studying the guidebook and planning weekend trips.