I have always loved reading maps, and when I began to really have passion for climbing peaks I would always look for the marked mountains on any map that I looked at. Sometime in the mid-nineties I became interested in highpointing (climbing the highest peak in a state) and also climbing the Colorado 14ers (peaks in Colorado over 14,000 ft). Most of this interest started from seeing the peaks marked on maps, and then trying to find out as much information as I could about them. After setting some goals to climb these peaks, I discovered that there was an actual club dedicated to Highpointing, so I joined, and soon I started receiving their monthly newsletters, which really got me excited about the peaks. I have to say that I am not extremely interested in the highpoints outside of the Western U.S., although I can see myself climbing them one day when I am too old to get on the big stuff.
Kings Peak- I climbed my first Highpoint in the summer of 1997 with my friends Scott Thorstensen and Brad Rosenhan. I had wanted to climb Kings Peak for a long time because it was the highest point in Utah, and had my attention very early on after I started climbing mountains. I had a guide book “Hiking Utah” that had a description of the hike and had some drawn maps, and after reading this over and over for a few years I decided that I could definitely climb the peak. Early on I had heard some horror stories about how difficult it was, and that only experienced mountaineers should ever attempt it, so it did take some time to change my thinking and realize that I could do it.
My first attempt on Kings didn’t turn out so well. I was with my friends Scott Thostensen, Jackson Ferguson and Brett Weaver. We decided to do this as a three day/two night backpacking trip, and for the most part we had a great time. We spent the first night camping at Dollar Lake, and that is where everything took a turn for the worse. I had a restless night sleep, and woke up early in the morning with some of the worst stomach issues I have ever experienced. I was extremely sick, throwing up multiple times and there was no way I could make the summit climb. I told them to go on without me, and I spent the day in the fetal position in my tent. It was a terrible experience, and I thought that I had food poisoning, but I later discovered that I have a tendency to get altitude sickness when I camp at high elevations (above 10,000 feet) or climb too high without being properly acclimatized. The other three made the summit after waiting out a storm high on the mountain. I was upset, but motivated, so I returned with Scott and Brad, and this time I did make it to the top, even though I again suffered with some altitude issues. It was an amazing experience and I have been back to the summit 5 more times, and plan on doing it every year as long as I am physically able to do so.
Boundary Peak Nevada/ Mount Whitney California- In 1999 I took a trip with my good friends Brandon Nielsen, Curt Schoenfeld and his brother Greg to the summits of these two highpoints. You can read the trip report here: http://www.summitpost.org/trip-report/402524/Surmounting-the-weather-on-Whitney.html
Mt. Whitney is the highest point in the United States outside of Alaska, and it was a surreal experience to stand on the summit by myself in a snow storm in July, knowing that there was nobody in the lower 48 that was higher than I was.
In May 2001 I reached the summit of Humphreys Peak , the highest point in Arizona. It was a fun trip with Dustin Call and Adam Roddy, with a side trip to the Grand Canyon.
Gannett Peak, Wyoming- In July 2000 I made my first attempt to reach the summit of Gannett Peak. I fell in love with this peak a few years earlier after reading about it on the internet. No other peak has had a grip on my quite like this one. I love everything about it. My first attempt was filled with mishaps, mistakes, and my propensity for altitude issues ended up doing me in. After our hike to our first camp I became extremely sick, throwing up several times, and eventually throwing up blood, which scared everyone. We were in one of the most remote places in the country. We were 22 miles of rough hiking to the nearest trailhead without cell coverage, and I know my friends were very worried about me. On day two I felt somewhat better, but everyone decided I shouldn’t go up, so Jackson Ferguson gave up his summit attempt and hiked out with me. We ended up going almost 40 miles carrying 65 pound packs and saw some incredible scenery. The other three guys in our group Curt S., Greg S. and Adam R.) all made the summit on a bluebird day. My desire to summit Gannett only increased, and getting my first look at it from Scenic Pass was intimidating, awe inspiring and seared into my memory forever. What an incredible place.
I went back to Gannett in 2001 and finally reached the top. You can read a trip report here:
I have to say that Gannett is still my favorite peak.
Mt. Elbert, Colorado- The second highest peak in the lower 48 states, but definitely not one of the best. I also reached the summit in 2001 and you can read my trip report here:
This was the coldest summit I have ever had the privilege to stand on.
Mount Hood, Oregon- I have made two attempts to climb Mount Hood. The first time we got stuck in a massive storm, and tried to wait it out in one of the ski shacks high on the mountain, but the weather never let up. The wind and snow were blowing hard, and it looked like a movie from Everest. It was surreal for sure. The second attempt was also an incredible experience. There was a raging storm up until 8500 ft, where the cloud cap was. Everything below was atrocious, but above 8500 it was sunny with blue skies. It was one of the most impressive things I have ever seen. I stopped just before the final steep slope because I wasn’t comfortable with the avalanche conditions after talking to one of the climbing rangers. I still think about that decision all the time. My partners all made the summit while I was warming my feet back in the Timberline Lodge.
Mt. Rainier, Washington- I have wanted to climb Rainier for several years now, and in 2007 I was part of an 11 person expedition. The main issues we had (besides the weather) were trying to mesh all of the personalities of the group. It was not good. The hike up to Camp Muir was probably the most difficult day I have ever experienced in the mountains. We had to climb over 6,000 feet with 65 pound packs on the Muir snowfield. It was an exhausting experience. At one point I stopped to take a break on a steep slope and fell asleep within seconds. I woke up very chilled, and the only thing that kept me going was not wanting to spend the night there. One of our group members turned back because he was too tired and another barely made it before nightfall. Setting up our tent on the solid ice was a difficult proposition because of the wind and our exhaustion, so we ended up sleeping in the public climbers hut, where we witnessed a guy that was unconscious and looked like death after his summit push. His friends were very worried about him. A major storm moved in a few hours after we arrived and with high winds and snow I wasn’t going to risk going up on a few hours of sleep, especially because I was dehydrated and cramping. Some of our group tried to go for the summit, but came back within an hour because of the conditions. The storm raged and in the morning the climbing rangers offered to escort us back down and that is when I knew it was a bad storm. Most of our group panicked, and a few of the more vocal guys persuaded almost everyone else to go down. I wanted to wait out the storm because I had 3 days until my flight back to Utah, but only my brother-in-law would stay with me, and we needed one more for the rope team. The next morning I caught an early flight, and was absolutely sick when I saw Rainier completely clear of clouds above 8,000 feet. I’ll be back when I get the right group together. I definitely learned a lot on that trip.
Borah Peak, Idaho- In October 2001 I had major surgery to remove a tumor from my spinal cord. I didn’t do much physical activity for 6-8 months afterward, and I had a lot of physical therapy and pain to get over before I could get out into the mountains again. I wanted Borah to be the first major peak that I climbed because I knew it would be a challenge, and I had been eying it for a few years. You can read the trip report here:
Highpoints still on my list to climb:
Granite Peak, Montana
Wheeler Peak, New Mexico
Mt. Hood, Oregon
Mt. Rainier, Washington
I expect to climb these four peaks in the next 5 years at some point. I am also working on climbing all 54 Colorado 14ers. I have 8 so far, and hopefully I can get out to Colorado this year to add a few more.