(Last Updated On: September 26, 2011)
Frank and I missed the Crested Butte celebration of Vinotok this weekend. But, somehow, I just didn’t mind. One of the things I like best about Vinotok is that it gives you the opportunity to “burn your grumps”. But, for the first time in many years, I have no grumps to burn. This year has been as perfect as it could be. I finished the Classic, a 100-mile mountain bike race in Crested Butte. This was followed by a stellar winter and spectacular spring. Not only did I finish my fourteener project, but I skied the best line of them all- Pyramid. And all of this culminated with a wonderfully perfect wedding and fabulous honeymoon in Spain and the Azores. I wish I could repeat this past year forever and ever.
I have been meaning to put together his slide-show video recapping my fourteener journey for quite some time now. But, the timing seemed perfect to wait for the premier of AE Films Facets of Winter, which happened this past Friday at the American Mountaineering Center in Golden, Colorado. The film has several great stories and segments, featuring many friends of ours. It also documents the last bit of my fourteener journey. If you missed the premier, don’t worry- there are still several showings to come. For Crested Butte locals, there’s a showing at Center for the Arts on October 8th. For Front Rangers, there’s a showing at the Wilderness Exchange in Denver (by REI) on Dec 1st. There are additional showings in Pagosa Springs, Vail, Steamboat, Dillon, and Estes Park. I have a feeling more will be scheduled also. Check the AE Films website for details. Thanks to Keith Spargo, Dan Bowers, and the rest of the film crew for all their hard work which culminated in a great ski film!
For now, here’s a little fourteener reflection:
How it all began
In 2005, I began to get serious about backcountry skiing. Before that, I’d dabbled in it a bit- a bit naive and perhaps coming out lucky in a few dangerous situations. Backcountry skiing renewed by passion for the sport that I grew up loving and competing in. I loved getting out in the mountains, but the resort was limiting me after years of skiing in-bounds. I needed something different. But, my first ski mountaineering experiences are credited to my friend Dave Bourassa, who took me to places I’d only dreamed about before.
One day I was driving up Clear Creek Canyon and pondered exactly what I wanted to do with this whole backcountry skiing thing. I wanted a goal. I needed something to drive me in this new sport. Then, it dawned on me. Why not ski all of Colorado’s fourteeners? I knew, at the time, that Chris Davenport was trying to do them all in a calendar year. Why not ski them too? But then I had second thoughts. Maybe I’m crazy for thinking I can do this. Am I being unrealistic? Shortly thereafter Dave and I sat on the summit of Crystal Peak, waiting for the line to soften before we skied. I mentioned the idea to him, and he encouraged me to go for it. I would not have began this project without his support.
A Goal Complete
It was February, 2006 when I initially announced my goal to ski all of Colorado’s fourteeners to a few of my friends and family. It’s funny to look back at the email now that I sent back then with my original announcement. Still, I made my goals clear. I hoped to be the first woman. But, I also knew that being first wasn’t the most important part of this goal. I wanted to finish all of my fourteeners safely, from the summit, and within five years. I can say that I have done all of that. And now my goal is complete.
The Fourteener Skiers Evolution
When I started skiing the fourteeners back in 2006, it was a different time. The only person who had completed all of the fourteeners was Lou Dawson. Chris Davenport was in the midst of his project and fourteener skiing was being pioneered by Sean Crossen, Pam Rice, & Chris Webster. New lines were still being discovered by many fourteeners, including the line on Capitol skied by Davenport, which was originally envisioned by Pete Sowar.
As I worked on my fourteener project, I watched more and more join in- many of whom finished before me. Currently, there are nine people to have skied/snowboarded all of Colorado’s fourteeners- Lou Dawson, Chris Davenport, Ted Mahon, Frank Konsella, Jordan White, Joe Brannan, Christy Sauer Mahon, Jarrett Luttrell, and me. After Lou, the remaining 8 people on this list have finished in only the last five years. It’s been amazing to be in the midst of this fourteener evolution. I am happy to say I have skied with every person on this short list. And I’m also happy to call them friends. We’ve all supported one another along the way- a testament to the fabulous tight-knit ski mountaineering community we have here in Colorado.
There is no doubt that fourteener skiing has evolved at an alarming rate in the last few years. Still, there are fourteener skiers out there, discovering new lines (like Matt’s line on Yale), and working their way to checking those last fourteeners off the list. Closing in are Chris Webster, Pam Rice, Erik Kling, Carl Dowdy, and Matt Kamper. I can’t wait to welcome them across the finish line.
What I Gained
When I originally began this project, I was motivated by the challenge. I was burnt out after years of mountain bike racing. I’d recently taken up backcountry skiing and was searching for a goal that took me back to my true passion- skiing. I loved the exhilaration of overcoming mental and physical challenges and then being rewarded by standing on top of a peak, enjoying hundreds of miles of fabulous views. I knew I wanted more of that, and I knew skiing the fourteeners would serve it.
But, what I didn’t know is what else I would gain along the way. This fourteener project has taken me places I would have never gone otherwise. I’ve traveled to remote places in Colorado to ski these peaks, driven down roads I’ve never been on before, and seen some of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. I’ve gained some solid backcountry ski partners who have morphed into life-long friends, including my now husband, Frank. Now, it’s strange to envision my life without any of these people in it as it was 6 years ago. Last, I’ve gained skills. When I first started this project, I was barely a backcountry skier. Now, I am a ski mountaineer. I am a different person living in a different place because I took on this challenge.
People have asked me this a lot and to be honest, I’m not sure. I’ll probably enjoy a year or so of having not too much of a goal- just doing what I want, when I want. I’ve wanted to spend some time in the Tetons and maybe even the Sierras and Cascades for quite some time now, but I haven’t taken the time to travel much because I didn’t want to “miss a good fourteener window”. I also have a constant “wish list” that I am always adding to, and checking things off. It’s in a constant state of flux which is nice because you always have something you want to ski next. Still, a constantly changing wish list is not the same as a pre-set list or goal. There is something so tangible and satisfying about counting down, not just checking off. I can’t say right now that I’ll return to a pre-set list or even what that list will be. But, I have some ideas. Either way, I’ll be out there skiing- and enjoying every moment I get in the big mountains.
I wouldn’t have finished this project, or even begun it, without the help of so many people along the way. Pioneers, partners, people who provided beta – all of them have helped me complete this project. I know there are names I’m likely forgetting, but I would like to take time to thank the following people.
Thank you to all of my partners including Pete Sowar, John Jasper, Chris Webster, Mark Cavaliero, Joe Brannan, Andy Dimmen, Jon Turner, Brett Foncannon, Jeremy Wegener, Jarrett Luttrell, Brad Bond, Dustin Sysko, Jim Clarke, Marko Ross-Bryant, Lou Dawson, Tom Runcie, Brennan Metzler, Matt Kamper, Kim Ross, Jamie Sampey, Caleb Wray, Catherine Shank, Kellie Baker, and many many more people who have helped and supported me along the way.
Thank you to Keith Spargo and Dan Bowers of AE Films for documenting portions of my project along the way.
Thank you to Pam Rice, my most solid female partner and one who is seeking to ski all the fourteeners herself. Your constant understanding of the underlying pressures of being among the first females to undertake this project meant so much to me. And thank you for your continuous support, despite the fact that we were more or less “competitors” trying to achieve the same goal.
Thank you to Dave Bourassa for his confidence in me to take this project on. In 2006, I sat with Dave on the summit of Crystal in the Ten Mile Range, waiting for the snow to soften. I had been flaunting the idea in my mind of skiing all the fourteeners. When I revealed this idea to Dave, he was immediately supportive. Thank you Dave, for your constant support, from beginning to end.
Thank you to Jordan White for getting me up the toughest of toughest fourteeners. I don’t know who I would have gotten Capitol done without him. When I first met Jordan, he couldn’t even drink a beer with us at the bar. But, now he’s out there tackling and guiding big mountains. It’s been so wonderful to see you grow as a ski mountaineer and as a person.
And my biggest thanks goes to my best partner and now husband, Frank Konsella. I met Frank shortly after skiing my first fourteener, largely because I was looking for strong partners who could ski fourteeners with me. Since then, we have skied 38 fourteeners together (not including repeats) and have had countless other adventures. Thank you for keeping me going throughout this project. I love you!
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