When I celebrated my 40th birthday in 1999, I became a little restless…Mid-Life Crisis? Maybe…
…but I just viewed it as a case of “not enough adventure in my life.” Having lived across the street from a ski slope as a kid…and then attending college in the outdoors-man dream town of Boulder Colorado, I began to realize that settling down in the “burbs” of Atlanta just wasn’t feeding the outdoor adventure side of me. I spent plenty of time outdoors running, biking, golfing…all those things…but I decided I needed a challenge. Some sort of activity that required a sustained commitment, perhaps in another part of the country. A bigger part. Just so happened, one of my oldest friends lived in Colorado at the time, so I contacted him for ideas. He suggested climbing a few 14,000 foot mountains…and that’s how I became acquainted with the term “14’ER.”
Mark told me that Colorado had 57 14’ERs, so I set a goal to climb 10 – one each year until I turned 50. That seemed pretty lofty, considering I lived in Atlanta and had limited vacation time to use. So I determined my goal, made an action plan, and took action…and by the Summer of 2005, I had summited 20 peaks. That’s when I began to consider climbing them all. But, during further research I discovered that several of the 57 peaks had technical aspects that would require expert rock climbing experience. At that point, I carefully considered the largest obstacles on the path to my ultimate goal: (1) Lack of proper training, (2) My fear of heights, & (3) My Wife.
I quickly decided my fear of heights was a personal issue that wouldn’t go away unless I just plowed through it…so that’s what I decided to do. For the training part, I discovered that I could hire professional guides for the most difficult summits so I could be trained “on the job” so to speak. Those issues resolved, it was time to confront my wife. While it’s true she had always been supportive of me doing my own thing, I knew she was concerned about the solo climbs. Most of the peaks were in remote areas with little to no method of communication so there were times when I was out of touch for 3 – 4 days. And of course, the other issue was the vacation time I utilized to climb mountains meant less vacations for us to spend together. Fortunately, she was very understanding (“Whatever you want Honey. Just be sure to increase your Life Insurance”) so I was able to proceed with her blessing.
Fast forward to now – past 13 years, 57 peaks, 990,844 vertical feet, and approximately 227 Mountain Goats…with tons of support, encouragement, and guidance from friends, family, associates, and my extraordinary staff – and Mission Accomplished!
On August 26th 2013 as I reached the final summit – Capitol Peak just outside Aspen – I felt like I had conquered a beast. It was by far the most difficult…but it was a beautiful and exhilarating climb with a well-trained mountain guide…and a fitting end to an amazing journey!