COLORADO FOURTEENERS: Tabeguache Peak (14,155'), Mt. Shavano (14,229'), Mt. Antero (14,269'), Mt. Elbert (14,433'), Mt. Massive (14,421'), Grays Peak (14,270'), Torreys Peak (14, 267') July 21-29, 1978

A sick, psychotic hiker, of the local enviro club chapter, had, in an apparent moment of lucidity and rationality, suggested teaming up with an old Air Force buddy that also sought to climb the Colorado 14'ers. I gave this person a long distance call, and found that he seemed receptive enough. Seeming friendly, he offered a place to stay at his home just south of Denver, CO.

Eager to bag some distant, high peaks, I took the flight to Denver, and met this climber at the airport. We got off well enough, and soon we drove back to his home. He later confirmed that the sick, psychotic, local hiker did have some issues, but that he did not.

Though, I was to find he did not like motoring much, cursing when he hit a pothole in his older vehicle. We carpooled then, and drove west on U.S. 285 to pass through Poncha Springs, CO, to come to the trailhead for the first two peaks, Tabeguache and Shavano. He wanted to bag as many of the Colorado 14'ers as he could, and had already climbed the main ones, so the odd peaks. I was open to any 14'er, as I had not climbed any of them. We started on a trail, then he cited some rules about who was to be first. Some mountaineering clubs say that the slowest climber goes first, as not to be left behind. He was a smoker, seen with his periodic coughing, and his personal slowness.

We topped Tabeguache, and I had my camera to start taking pictures. There was plenty of snow left, and the rock reminded me of a Sierra peak. This was a class 2 scramble at most, then we descended to a high saddle and bagged Shavano. I took more pictures, and I guess that annoys some people. Then, I get taken by some as a typical Japanese tourist, although I see many different people snapping pictures, at places about the world.

We descended safely enough after being separated for a time, due to differing choices on the route. He did not like camping, and this locale was close enough to his home that we drove back into Denver.

The next day, we declined to bag a peak, and I saw more of Denver. My third day out, we repeated the drive on U.S. 285 to hike Mt. Antero, a few peaks to the north of the last two. Parking a bit up a bad road, we followed the jeep road and hiked speedily up to the top. Some 4WD'ers had driven up, allowing, for them, a short scramble to the top. Dark clouds settled in, and we got some light rain close to the bottom. A kind jeeper offered a ride, and though I like to finish a climb all by muscle power, I had to agree to the op to get out of the rain. Back to the car, we motored home again.

My pal's feet were torn up from his boots. He had enough. Taking a day to tour downtown Denver, the next day, I went to the downtown Denver bus terminal to ride to Leadville, CO. The nice bus ride took me over the Eisenhower Tunnel on Interstate 70, up across Loveland Pass. The tinted windows spoiled the color of some photos, and then, as the bus headed south on CO 91, we passed a big mining operation.

To Leadville, I carried my backpack and camping stuff along the dirt road to the two highest peaks in the state, Elbert and Massive. I'd hike them both alone. I was given a ride by a generous camper, saving me some miles, and I made a low impact camp by a stream near the trailhead start to Mt. Elbert.

Stashing my camping gear, I took the relatively short trail to the top of Elbert. The views were O.K., but actually, it all looked gentler than the High Sierra. Meeting another hiker from L.A., he claimed to have set a speed record in finishing the SPS list. He had an old yellow school bus to camp in and motor about. He sped up to the top, ensuring that I knew of fast peak climbers, dedicated to the sport, and not the usual slow hikers so frequently seen.

This was too easy. Others would bag both peaks in the same day. I was on vacation and wished to enjoy and relax a bit. Hiking back down, I made some dinner with my stove and gear, then slept nicely during the night.

I hid my gear again, and took the nearby trail up the side of Mt. Massive. It faded out close to the top, but I knew the way. With another expedient summit, I found a sleeping kid on top, exhausted from the altitude, I'd guess. I took my photos, and saw him down far enough so I knew he'd be O.K.

I must have gotten another ride back to the highway and Leadville, where I found an affordable room rate at a hotel.

The next day, I got my bus ride back to Denver, and walked a long way on a street south, refusing a free bus ride, as then, during off peak hours, the fare was free to encourage users. It was nice to pay nothing for lodging, but this climber was finished. He contacted a friend who agreed to climb two peaks closer to town, Grays and Torreys.

We motored up in his VW bug and came to about 12,000 feet. Lots of hikers were doing these two peaks. There is a use trail up to and connecting these two 14'ers. We used it, but lightning started to hit, so we stopped below the summit. The clouds passed over, and so we made it to the top. I snapped my photos, and we left to take the trail to the second peak. With more views, my Rockies excursion was over.

Back to town, I visited the Denver zoo and the downtown area. I bagged only 7 peaks, and was disappointed by my pal's claims to being a mountaineer. Though from the local chapter, I knew many people do not care for peak climbing, and being stiffed by so many hikers who had had enough after a good peak or two, I would be eager to get back home and later join the Los Angeles climbers.

My flight home went well, and I attended to my film developing and brief notes, then. So, you cannot believe how capable many claimants attest to being, and aside from the peak sections, it is a rare person who can bag peak after peak, for about a week. Few else would not just do a one peak summer vacation, as many would have it. My own feet also became chewed up due to my heavy leather boots which I had thought would be necessary, but I applied moleskin and just bore with it. Now, I would use light hiking boots, and not depend so much on people that I haven't met.

There are other parts of the state worth visiting, but it was a long time before I went back to climb more 14'ers. Colorado is a civilized state, with plenty of SAR insurance ops, and development everywhere. There isn't that much wilderness, and Californians are blessed to have so much wilderness in the Sierra Nevada. In Colorado, you can't hike very far before coming to roads and mines. Although, this makes for easier peaks!