Skiing the 14ers

A journey skiing and exploring Colorado's highest peaks

My 14er Ski Project: A Personal Statement – June 16 – 2016

My 14er Ski Project: A Personal Statement – June 16 – 2016

It is finished.

The reality of this entire project really hit me yesterday, the season finally came to an end, but what a spectacular season it was!

For the last five months, I’ve been climbing  and skiing Colorado’s highest peaks.  I want to thank all my sponsors, friends, family, and ski parters for supporting me through this project. If I were to to it again, there are certainly things I could have done differently – different routes, different dates, different outcomes – but in the end I have given it my all.  I am grateful to have accomplished, experienced and pushed myself to the depths of what became one of the hardest personal projects yet.

It’s been a battle, and its been a journey that I will remember for the rest of my life.

It’s summer now and before completely signing off on this project, I’d like to clarify to my supporters what I did accomplish. This was a massive project and included climbing 57 peaks and 19 additional attempts and ski days so if you have any additional questions, let me know.

My story:

I am disappointed that after all the time and effort that I’m unable to claim a 14er ski record of skiing every peak top to bottom in one single season.  After all, that was my one of my stated goals. That being said, I did climb every peak, some peaks on multiple attempts and even multiple summits. I love the Colorado ski mountaineering community as much as all of you. And that means respecting the guidelines set by those that first accomplished these feats [established by skiing the 14ers]. That being said, here are many gray areas (e.g., what is summit ski descent, length of the ski off the summit, etc.) – These guidelines were basically first put into place by Lou Dawson, Chris Davenport, and Ted Mahon who I have met and the latter two and have even skied with. Ted Mahon said it best to me the other day: “If we loosen the standards then suddenly we won’t have only 15 or 20 people that have skied the 14ers, there will be like 100, and the accomplishment will become watered down and not as prestigious”.

What I learned in attempting to ski all the peaks in short time frame, is that I didn’t want conditions to ruin my fun this season. So for those that have concerns about skiing off the true summit, I skied from the highest point I could. And in 54 of the 57 peaks skied that was the summit. However, I cannot take credit for everything, and I want to respect some of my mentors and heroes in the ski-mountaineering world.  In the end the site “14erskirecord.com” is no longer about breaking a record, but in fact it was to “re-cord” the events of my project to see if I could climb and ski every peak in the same season. It was about providing additional resources to my fellow ski-mountainneers and to those that will undoubtedly follow this attempt and continue to push the sport.

I did indeed summit every single 14er peak to the very top.  Heck – that part was relatively straightforward – after all – I have over 1000 ascents of the Colorado 14ers by this time in my career, and in all conditions and seasons. (I think I am taking a break from the 14ers after this)! There are so many other mountains in the world to go and try out, and I can’t wait.

Let me clarify some examples:

  • I did not ski from the top of Wetterhorn. There’s certain peaks that don’t provide snow off the summit block. This is one of them. Nobody has ever skied from the top of Wetterhorn continuously to my knowledge.
  • This year I did not ski from the top 500′ of Capitol (with the exception of the summit ridge). I gave it my best shot which included two attempts in June – but I waited too long. The peak needs to be skied in April or early May. (I also went up there to K2 in April- but the peak didn’t feel right.)  But the fighter in me went back a couple of times because I was in denial: I knew I had missed my chance. Lesson learned. I also returned and skied the secret chute – but even then out of respect for the skiers before me to claim that peak in this same season wouldn’t be right.  In fact I chatted with several people (Ted Mahon and the Denver Post’s Jason Blevins) and they agree.
  • Summit of Pyramid.

    Summit of Pyramid.

  • Pyramid was another big challenge for me, as it has been for most 14er skiers. It took 5 attempts. I skied from the top of Pyramid- but had to down climb part of the middle section (75 or so feet of cliff bands on the East Face melted out by early June). I skied virtually every inch of the peak from different lines and aspects (Including the west/northwest face and ridge) the several times I went back there.  I never gave up.
Climbing up the final bands on Pyramid.

Climbing up the final bands on Pyramid.

  • South Maroon. I climbed Maroon Peak on two occasions. The first time I ascended/descended the Bell Chord but did not summit due to wet slide conditions. I returned the following week up the Y-Couloir and summited. I probably could have pieced together summit ski descent from a small section that would have technically met the 14er skiers guidelines. However, I skied the peak from the summit several years ago, so I won’t be returning to ski it from the top again this year.

* Other peaks that people will question in this project due to lack of snow or other reasons were Blanca and Little Bear.  While I have skied both of these peaks several years back- for this project when they were finally in  good condition in May, I was too busy skiing 12 peaks in succession in the San Juans and Elk Ranges so there was simply no time to get over to them again.

When I get some time I will be updating the trip reports pages. These will hopefully help tell more of the stories. Since I am not claiming any records these will be put up as soon as I am able. One thing is certain- I had a blast doing this! It was challenging and I learned a lot.

If you have been following my project – I appreciate it.  I am grateful for all of the support.  I gave it my best and still had a ton of fun in the process. I am thankful for all the people that stepped up to ski with me or provide support:  Roger Carter, Jared Kedrowski, Chris Tomer, Garrett Eggers, Ted Mahon, Chris Davenport, Eric Sangueza, Brad Burgtorf, Mackenzie Hoffman, Scott Benge, Torrey Udall, Tara Dactyl,  Anna Migl, John Fielder, Mike Craig, Ryan Belanger, Ashley Lucas, Grace Kelley, Mark Dud, Jay Ytell, Austin Porzak, Jordan White, Connor Drumm, Mike Lewis, Chris Jones, Cheryl and Bill Jensen, Bob Pietrack, Bob and Barb Kedrowski, Krista Kedrowski, Zack Wilson, and anyone else that I may have forgotten somehow. Also a shout out to the team at Enerplex (Danielle, Justin, Brad and Rafael) for really motivating me and cheering me on, 

Cheers

Dr. Jon

 

Peaks #54 and #55 Longs and Snowmass – June 3 and 5, 2016.

Peaks #54 and #55 Longs and Snowmass – June 3 and 5, 2016.

Snowmass summit with Maroon Bells in the distance.

Snowmass summit with Maroon Bells in the distance.

Keeping the momentum rolling and taking advantage of early June with excellent coverage, I tackled Longs on Friday June 3, and Snowmass on Sunday June 5th with great company.

Dropping into the Homestretch on Longs (Scott Benge Photo)

Dropping into the Homestretch on Longs (Scott Benge Photo)

On Longs we skied Keplingers from the Homestretch right off the Summit, and then on Sunday, I climbed to the top with a fun team, utilizing a camp below Snowmass Lake in the basin near the log Jam. We climbed the famous Snowmass and enjoyed a classic line off the tip top and down to the lake for a spectacular tour of the Elk Range.

Heading to Keplingers on Longs.

Heading to Keplingers on Longs.

On Wednesday as I descended into the woods and out on the trail in Wild Basin, it occurred to me: regardless of what happens on Capitol or Snowmass, I had done it, I had climbed and skied the original 54 list of 14ers, and I had done it in less than one year!

Summit of Longs.

Summit of Longs.

Starting June 4, 2015 and wrapping up with Longs Peak on June 3, 2016. I was able to complete the original and widely accepted ski list of 54 starting with Capitol Peak on June 4, 2015, and finishing with Longs Peak on June 3, 2016, done in less than one year. Dav’s Record is still on the table at 362 Days and I was able to hang in at 364 days. He and I are the only two people reported to have skied all the 14ers in less than a calendar year. To push the record out It’s gonna come down to trying for Capitol still.  In my opinion, the conditions are probably not safe, its too warm – but I know for a fact the coverage on the ski line is good from what I saw on Sunday from the top of Snowmass.  Regardless of what I decide to do moving forward, this project has been amazing, and I have accomplished a lot.  I reached one of my goals- and that was to finish skiing the 14ers.  Prior to last year I had skied about 45 of the 14ers, so it was awesome to be able to go back to all the peaks again, and of course add some new ones that I had not skied just yet. Regardless its been a heck of a ride!

Stay Tuned……

Dr. Jon

#52 Sneffels and #53 Pyramid- May into June Getting Closer to the Finish Line

14,150′ Sneffels  Peak #52 Tuesday May 31 

Clear Across the Elks from Summit of Sneffels 14,150'

Clear Across the Elks from Summit of Sneffels 14,150′

14,018′ Pyramid Peak #53 Wednesday June 1

An excellent view from high on Pyramid with Snowmass and Capitol in the distance.

An excellent view from high on Pyramid with Snowmass and Capitol in the distance.

After a couple days of rest in Telluride, it was time to head north and try and finish up a few more peaks.  I did a quick ascent of Sneffels from Yankee Boy basin (Only 3 hours round trip, including 30 minutes on top) and skied the south face and couloir direct,  and followed that up with a ski of the quite challenging and dangerous Pyramid in the Elks.

A buried trailhead in Yankee Boy Basin.

A buried trailhead in Yankee Boy Basin.

I closed out the month of May with Sneffels, making it my 16th peak of May. It was also a close-out peak in the San Juans as I was able to ski every peak in the San Juans now.

Lavender Couloir and looking southeast into the San Juans.

Lavender Couloir and looking southeast into the San Juans.

With very warm temps and June now here, I am lucky to have only Longs, Snowmass, and Capitol left.  Honestly I am not so sure that Capitol will be realistic to ski from the top this late in the season.  the coverage is good but snow conditions and warmth may not be safe enough. Fortunately I climbed and skied it last season so now I have officially skied every 14er as Longs and Snowmass are repeats.

Down from the danger zone on Pyramid…...

Down from the danger zone on Pyramid……

For now I will still climb and finish the final peaks and try to put this project to bed in the next week or so.  It’s been such an amazing ride and I am thankful for all the good conditions, good fortune, great ski partners and of course the peaks for challenging me and allowing me to climb and ski them!

Once middle of June hits and I am done with all the skiing I will have more time to get the Trip Reports for each peak posted which tell the full stories.

 

Thanks for all the support-

 

Dr. Jon

 

 

Peaks #49, 50 and #51 – Huge 8,000′ Vertical Day on the Wilson Massif and El Diente – Saturday May 28, 2016.

#49 Wilson Peak 14,017′  Summit 715am

#50 El Diente 14,159′     Summit 1030am

#51 Mount Wilson 14,246′ Summit 130pm

Atop 14,246' Mount Wilson - the third peak of the day as the weather held just long enough to get the third peak skied and get down safely.

Atop 14,246′ Mount Wilson – the third peak of the day as the weather held just long enough to get the third peak skied and get down safely.

It was a huge day to pull of the Triple Trifecta on three iconic peaks near Telluride on Saturday. The weather held for the final peak and I only experienced a few snow flurries on my 12 hour day.

Dropping on on El Diente.

Dropping on on El Diente.

Snow conditions for the end of May  were among the best I have ever seen them in this range.  6-12″ of fresh stable powder coated the slopes, and with the exception of Wilson Peak early on, I skied north facing stable powder on El Diente and Mount Wilson.

Wilson Peak - Tap the rockies at 14,017', first peak of the day.

Wilson Peak – Tap the rockies at 14,017′, first peak of the day.

All three peaks the powder was excellent, and for late May I will take it!

Only 5 peaks remain on this project, and a quest to become the fastest to ski the 14ers and the only person to ski them all in one season within the same year as well (2016).  Some tough peaks left, but they are also peaks that I have skied before, so I am ready to tackle them and put this project to bed.

Climbing the Fox Traverse on 14,159' El Diente.

Climbing the Fox Traverse on 14,159′ El Diente.

SO grateful for all the support and adventures thus far.  A huge shout out to my friends Bill and Cheryl Jensen who have been super nice to provide me a place to stay in Telluride for this leg of my trip and a little R&R during the Telluride Film Fest!

Closing in on the Finish line!

Closing in on the Finish line!

I’ll head out again soon and get closer to wrapping this thing up in the next week.

 

Thanks for following along!

 

Best

 

Dr. Jon

 

A big week in the Elks and the San Juans, Peaks #44 – #48 Completed. May 20-27.

Eric on the summit of Eolus right after sunrise.

Eric on the summit of Eolus right after sunrise.

Skiing peaks right off the top in May in Colorado: doesn’t get any better than this!

With snow conditions at their peak, and some cooler weather mixed in with some bluebird days, dating from the 19th when I skied North Maroon with Chris and Ted, I have continued on to ski South Maroon, Eolus, Sunlight, Windom, and N Eolus,  and spent time on Pyramid too on two separate days bringing the total to 48 peaks.

Looking north from the summit of Maroon Peak 14,156'. Even though I still have to get Snowmass and Capitol (seen in the distance), I skied both peaks last season so I have plenty of confidence in those two!

Looking north from the summit of Maroon Peak 14,156′. Even though I still have to get Snowmass and Capitol (seen in the distance), I skied both peaks last season so I have plenty of confidence in those two!

I was able to get South Maroon done last Sunday the 22nd of May.

 

Eric dropping in on North Eolus with Eolus in the Distance.

Eric dropping in on North Eolus with Eolus in the Distance.

Then it was on to the train and a date with the Chicago Basin 14ers up from Needleton.  I went for the proverbial 4-Banger and skied all four peaks on Tuesday the 24th.

Skiing off Sunlight 14er.

Skiing off Sunlight 14er.

After some low pressure I’ll get back out and ski the Wilson Massif and try to get these peaks done by mid-June!

Skiing Sunlight with the 13,995' Sunlight Spire above.

Skiing Sunlight with the 13,995′ Sunlight Spire above.

Cheers- Trip reports will get added as time allows.

Nice turns on Windom on the north face Widowmaker.

Nice turns on Windom on the north face Widowmaker.

Dr. Jon

 

 

#43 – North Maroon 14,014′ – Thursday May 19, 2016.

#43 North Maroon – 14, 014′- Thursday May 19, 2016.

After skiing the North Face we were so pumped!

After skiing the North Face we were so pumped!

This morning was one of the coolest lines I have ever skied on a 14er.  I was able to take advantage of good weather, pretty good conditions, and phenomenal ski partners to ski the ultra-classic north face of North Maroon.

Chris and Ted on the Summit, Pyramid in the Background.

Chris and Ted on the Summit, Pyramid in the Background.

My friends Chris Davenport and Ted Mahon were free on Thursday and we all had nothing better to do, so we linked up and had some fun on a peak I have always wanted to ski.

The three of us on the top part of the face, Photo by Jordan White.

The three of us on the top part of the face, Photo by Jordan White.

I have climbed North Maroon over a dozen times over the years, but finally got to ski it.   I’ll update the Trip Report Page as soon as time allows!

Halfway down the face, traversing the ledges in good powder in most places.

Halfway down the face, traversing the ledges in good powder in most places.

Heading out for more as it’s prime time in the Elks and San Juans,

 

MORE TO COME!

 

Dr. Jon

Peak #42 — Kit Carson – 14,165′ – Tuesday May 10, 2016.

Kit Carson- Outward Bound Couloir – May 10, 2016.

Wow- Kit Carson’s north Outward Bound Couloir was awesome yesterday.  Had a chance to get up and get down before the weather was too bad, although the summit was foggy.  Skiing right off the top was pretty straightforward since there is so much snow in the Sangres right now.   More soon on the Kit Carson Page. More peaks left, the Elk Range is calling now with good weather and high pressure setting in.

Sunrise near Willow Lake.

Sunrise near Willow Lake.

Garret on the Summit of 14,165' Kit Carson.

Garret on the Summit of 14,165′ Kit Carson.

Getting ready to drop into the OB Couloir.

Getting ready to drop into the OB Couloir.

 

 

More to Come!

 

Dr. Jon

Peaks #40 and #41 Crestone Needle (14,197′) & Crestone Peak (14,294′) – May 5 & 6, 2016.

#40 Crestone Needle (14,197′) – Thursday May 5.   CINCO DE MAYO!

#41 Crestone Peak (14,294′) – Friday May 6.

I wrapped up an incredible week, skiing 5 peaks in 6 days. The Sangres were definitely the highlight of this week’s adventure.   I took advantage of the stable weather and got to ski some amazing and nicely filled in (and steep!)  south facing lines on the Crestones on back to back days.  Originally my plan was to try and get both Crestones in the same day, but the warmest days of the year so far here in Colorado had other ideas.

Summit of Crestone Needle - May 5, 2016. Great view over to Crestone Peak and Kit Carson, all in amazing snow and ski conditions.

Summit of Crestone Needle – May 5, 2016. Great view over to Crestone Peak and Kit Carson, all in amazing snow and ski conditions.

Even though I summitted and skied Crestone Needle before 9am- by the time I traversed over and looked at the bottom of the south “Red” Couloir on the Crestone Peak on Thursday – my gut and the conditions showed me it was way too soft to go up.  No worries – as I retraced my steps back to South Colony, spent another night at my ‘car camp’ and made quick work of the Peak the next morning very early by utilizing my own established boot pack and got up and down before the next storm system arrived!

Storm rolling in from the south as I skied down the south "Red" Couloir on Crestone Peak - a delightful line.

Storm rolling in from the south as I skied down the south “Red” Couloir on Crestone Peak – a delightful line.

For more on both of these trips- please visit the pages for these peaks on the drop down menu for Skiing the 14ers.   (Still playing catch up since this was such a big week – put photos should be up soon!).  Now that May is here in full force, with a few days of rest I will be ready to get back out there to take advantage of conditions that have all my remaining peaks coated in good snow, and certainly skiable.  While there is much work to be done- it is certainly possible to finish all the peaks by early June to wrap up this project.  Ahhh…but I’ll keep telling myself to stay patient, stay hungry, and certainly stay humble. The mountains make the decisions and I will keep on keeping on.  Just a side note- It’s been very nice of a handful of skiers here in Colorado to reach out to me with words of encouragement.  I want to let any of my awesome ski-mountaineer friends or acquaintances that want to ski with me to please get in touch.  Having some more great ski partners for this home stretch will be critical to my success and I am so grateful.

 

See you on the next summit!

 

Dr. Jon

 

 

 

 

Peaks #38 and #39 Evans (14,264′) and Bierstadt (14,060′) Twofer – Tuesday May 3, 2016.

#38 Evans and #39  Bierstadt in Bluebird spring conditions.

Summit of Evans (14,264'), skied right off the top, Observatory in view.

Summit of Evans (14,264′), skied right off the top, Observatory in view.

Before heading south for some heavy lifting, I took advantage of cold conditions from northerly winds this morning and got Evans and Bierstadt both skied in excellent style and pretty good conditions too.

Not much time to tell more about the day here. Will have the trip reports up by this weekend so please check back!  Thanks for following along.

Best

Dr. Jon

Peak #37 Massive 14,420′ Sunday May 1 – May Day Powder Ski to Close out the Sawatch Range

Summit and ski of Mt. Massive – 14,420′ 

Summit of Massive 14,420', My 6th official ski of this peak in my career.

Summit of Massive 14,420′, My 6th official ski of this peak in my career.

I got to climb above the clouds from an approaching storm and enjoy up to 18″ of fresh powder on my ski descent for Mt. Massive on Sunday.  It was an 18 mile day as the road to access N. Halfmoon was only plowed to about 5.5 miles below the summer trailhead.  It felt great to finish up the Sawatch Range, and with awesome weather coming this week, I’ll start taking on some of the really tough ones soon.

 

More to be posted on the Trip Reports Page for Mt. Massive when I get some time!

 

Cheers-

 

Dr. Jon

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