Sunday, August 29, 2010
Finishing the 14ers...
Two weeks ago, my climbing partner, Alan Arnette, completed his goal climbing all 54 14,000 peaks in Colorado. Alan was part of a 6-person group to the Chicago Basin located in southwest Colorado between Durango and Silverton. The 3 ranked 14ers, Mt. Eolus, Windom Peak, and Sunlight Peak are some of the most remote 14,000 peaks in Colorado that require a ride on the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to shorten the hike into the basin. For all, this was a trip we had talked about doing for years.
Our first full day in the basin brought abundant sunshine and Colorado blue skies - perfect conditions for climbing Mt. Eolus and it's neighbor North Eolus. One of our team members, John Little, had befriended Alan several years ago and had dreamed of climbing his first Class 3 mountain. I had not met John until this trip but had corresponded with him over the years. Eolus and North Eolus proved to be both very beautiful and very interesting rocks to climb. For Alan, this brought him closer to his end goal with 52 successful summits.
Our second day in the basin brought consistent low cloud cover, rain, drizzle, and groppel - not exactly perfect conditions for climbing Windom Peak and Sunlight Peak. We delayed our start time from camp about 1-2 hours to determine whether climbing was in the cards. Seeing a window, we set out for Windom Peak. Windom Peak is the easiest of the two mountains we were to attempt that day and through drizzle, groppel and some wind we summited the mountain surrounded by pea soup...53 successful summits for Alan. We then made a hasty retreat down the mountain to avoid freezing conditions. Successfully off of Windom, Alan and I attempted Sunlight Peak in marginal conditions. I got 200' from the top and Alan about 50' from the top before we made the call to turn around. Wet rock, exposed terrain, and icy conditions dictated that Sunlight, an unforgiving mountain, was not to be that day...stuck at 53 successful summits.
Our third day in the basin brought an overnight abundance of rain and hail but a dawn of abundant sunshine and Colorado blue skies. I had to hike out of the basin that morning to catch my train while Alan awoke at 4:30 AM to summit Sunlight Peak. Although he soloed Sunlight Peak, thoughts of his mother (who passed away from complications of Alzheimer's1 year and 1 day on his completion of the 14ers), his climbing accomplishments, and his memories of all 54 summits hopefully kept him company. A hearty congratulations in completing the goal of climbing all 54 14,000 peaks in Colorado - a task undertaken by many but accomplished by few.
As our team returned to our respective homes, all of us have had time to think about this trip and what it meant for each individual. For Alan, a completion of a goal and the beginning of a new goal - to raise awareness of and $1 million for Alzheimer's Research with his Memories are Everything: The 7 Summits for Alzheimer's. The project begins Q4 2010 and will conclude in 2011/2012. You can follow Alan's progress with this project on the link above. Please consider donating to this cause by giving 1 penny for each vertical foot Alan climbs - it can be for all 7 summits or just 1 - $13 to $196 depending on the summit.
Climb On my friends!