First of all, let’s define “solo”. We all know a mountain can’t be shut down so you’re the only one on it, so for the purposes of this exercise I define “solo” as: I did my own research on routes/directions. I drove myself to the trailhead. I hiked by myself. While hiking I did my own route finding. I hiked up and down the mountain without physical assistance from anyone else. I purposely stayed away from other hikers as much as possible by either giving them plenty of time to pass me, or by passing them (mostly by passing them).
Today I summited my 58th unique Colorado 14er solo. That means I’ve summited all of Colorado’s 14ers, solo, in less than 14 months. Many people ask me how I got started hiking 14ers. I’ve enjoyed hiking for as long as I can remember, but where I was first introduced to summit hikes and rock climbing was in the early 1990s at Girl Scout Camp.
I’ve been a Girl Scout all my life. I camped often with my Troop, and when I was old enough (around middle school) I went away to our local Girl Scout camp during the summers. Girl Scout camp is where I first learned how to shoot a bow and arrow, start a fire, cook outdoors, use a compass, hike at night, rock climb, swim and canoe in a pond, tack and ride and care for a horse (while backpacking in all types of weather) and successful problem solving and conflict resolution strategies. I was encouraged to lead where I could and to try new things. I have many fond memories of my times at camp, but two stick out when it comes to why I started climbing 14ers.
I was 12 and at camp the first time I went rock climbing. I loved it, but some of the girls were nervous (yes, that’s me)
I remember being at the top of my line when the girl next to me became scared about halfway up and froze. She couldn’t go up or down. One of the counselors, SP, talked to her gently:
“Honey, I know this looks scary and it’s ok to be scared but you can do this. You’re roped in, and my name’s SP and I’m here to help you. Do you know what SP stands for? (SP stretched out her arms): Soft Pillow. I’ve got you. You can do this”. The other girls started encouraging her as well, cheering her on and verbally assisting her with her footholds and hand placements. This encouragement helped the girl regain her confidence, make it to the top of the line, and rappel back down. Girl Power at its finest.
During my sessions at camp a few brave counselors would sometimes begrudgingly volunteer to lead a group of 20 or so ill prepared but enthusiastic middle school aged girls on a hike to summit a nearby peak on the Pacific Crest Trail. This was an optional hike I always chose to take. Pyramid Peak has 2100’ of elevation gain in 7 miles (3.5 each way), most often done in the blistering Southern California summer sun. Oh, the switchbacks!
We enthusiastically filled our trekking time dodging rattlesnakes, identifying dusty plants, shrubs, and trees, and of course, singing dozens of Girl Scout trail songs to keep the mountain lions away. When I reached the summit I was hot, dirty, tired, sweaty, and delighted with myself for being the first to the top every time.
From the summit (7035’) you could see the whole camp!
I remember looking down at everyone who’d foolishly stayed behind and thinking they sure missed out not hiking with us! Didn’t they all look bored lounging by the pool? I bet they were gazing longingly at the peak, watching us right now, wishing they’d hiked too…
By the time I was 12 I’d promised myself to someday hike the Pacific Crest trail in its entirety from Mexico to Canada. I have yet to do so, but it’s still on my bucket list.
I don’t remember much of the hike back down to camp besides enthusiastic singing, but we’d make it back and run and jump into the lake with all of our clothes still on: It was the fastest way to cool off! We were met with popsicles and extra shower time.
Summiting all 58 of Colorado’s peaks over 14,000 feet is not an easy task. Most people spend years if not decades completing them all. It takes physical and mental strength, endurance, careful planning, determination, adaptability, high risk tolerance, willingness to ask questions and research, and a love of the outdoors, animals, and all types of weather.
A ‘finisher’ is the last peak a climber needs to summit to say they’ve summited them all, and it’s usually chosen for a special reason. 14er enthusiasts are known for choosing their finisher well in advance. I chose Mt Sherman because Girl Scout Camp started me on my path towards the love of the outdoors, adventure, goal setting, leadership, girl power, and wild wanderings. My Girl Scout camp experience took place at Camp Scherman in Southern California. Here’s my 14er Finisher Trip Report:
#58 Mt Sherman – 14,036 & Mt Sheridan 13,748
RT Length: 12.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 3700’
If you read the above statement you know why I chose Sherman as my finisher. Also, it’s an ‘easy’ 14er (as easy as 14ers go), so it took away any pressure towards the end to summit a difficult peak. In fact, I made this one harder than it needed to be.
Yesterday after summiting Maroon Peak I gave serious consideration to just stopping by Mt Sherman on my way home and hiking it then, but as I passed the 9 from the 24 I was in the middle of a thunderstorm that didn’t look like it was going to give up anytime soon. So I drove home, made dinner, wrote a terrible trip report (because I was writing it while I was making dinner and doing laundry) and got a few hours sleep before my alarm went off at midnight. I did a mental calculation: well, that was 6 hours of sleep total in the past 48. No worries though, if all went well today I could sleep Sunday.
For the first time in a long time I didn’t see anyone else on the road from the time I made it past Divide until I made it to the trailhead. It was heaven! I made it to the Fourmile Creek TH at 3am on a 2WD dirt road. Well actually, I parked at the winter closure. I wanted to make sure I got that 3000’ of elevation gain in so no one could say I hadn’t ‘earned’ this summit, so I made sure to park at the lower trailhead. No one else was there when I parked, or when I made it back to my truck.
I got out of my truck and gathered my gear. It was a beautiful night to hike! The moon was full. It was so bright I didn’t need to use my flashlight at all the entire hike. Not even to read my directions. I took a few shadow selfies in the moonlight because I do that kind of thing.
Soon after I started hiking a car passed me. And then another one. Ugh! I really wanted to summit this peak alone. If that was going to happen I was going to have to book it. I picked up my pace, passed the gate and followed the road up the hill. In no time I’d passed everyone ahead of me (not bad, considering they’d had at least a 2 mile head start) and focused on route finding in the dark. The route is easy to follow, but in many places roads intersect each other, and in the dark talus tends to make the trail difficult to see. I’m happy to report I didn’t need to backtrack at all. Sorry there aren’t many route pictures in this report: it’s actually very straightforward and difficult to get lost.
I made it to the ridge crest and looked behind me. Uh oh. A steady stream of flashlights was lining the trail.
Luckily I didn’t see any flashlights ahead of me. Here’s what the ridge looked like.
I started hiking the ridge and the wind picked up, making it cold. This wouldn’t do! But there was nothing I could do about it, so I just hiked faster. Unfortunately I was hiking too fast. I was almost at the summit and the sun was nowhere near to rising! Hmph! I’d wanted a sunrise summit. Oh well, at least I was route finding and summiting solo, since no one was in front of me. If I’d started any later this morning I’d be with the throng of hikers behind me.
I’d planned on making a summit video for this hike as I was summiting, but I’d also expected the sun to be up. Well, I made the video anyway. In the dark. I’ll apologize now for the heavy breathing and sniffling: I swear I lose all my weight hiking through snot. I always come back with a raw nose… Anyway, if you’d like to join me on my finisher summit, watch the video below. (Disclaimer: it’s emotional)
I’d started at 3:15am, hiked over 5 miles in the dark, and summited at 5am. The only thing wrong with summiting at 5am? I couldn’t take a summit photo! So I sat and waited for the sun to rise. As I waited the peak began to fill up with other hikers. I sat and talked with a really nice girl for about half an hour until there was enough light to take a summit picture (notice the full moon?!?!?)
And another summit video
And a summit selfie. I’d made this hat special for today (ok, I made 6 different hats and had my daughter chose the one she liked best). It’s made with the same colors as the Camp Scherman patch I’d received at camp in 1993 when I was 12 years old. This was very emotional for me.
The summit was actually quite large. Good thing too as, it was going to be filled with hundreds of people soon. I’d wanted to stay until the sun actually rose, but I was a popsicle at this point, and needed to get moving.
Here are some photos of the ridge to the summit. You’ll notice from here on out it was virtually impossible to get a picture without people in it.
As I started hiking I started thawing out. I looked ahead of me and saw people on the trail intent on summiting 14er Sherman, but when I looked at 13er Sheridan it was vacant. That’s where I wanted to be.
I made it to the saddle and started up. The path was very easy to follow… no explanation necessary.
The summit of Sheridan was large, but not as big as Sherman’s. I wasn’t sure where the true summit was, so I kind of walked across the entire thing.
I also got a summit photo
And a picture looking back at Mt Sherman.
I was feeling fantastic! It was 6:45am, I’d already summited two ranked 14er/13er peaks, and I wasn’t even tired! Wouldn’t it be fun to re-summit Sherman, head over to centennial Dyer, and then back? Yes, it would have been, but if I left now I could make it home in time for my daughter’s 11:30am ice skating lesson. So I headed back down the mountain, practically skipping the entire way.
Look at all those people heading up Sherman!
Here are some pictures of the trail up the mountainside. Notice the people??? So. Many. People.
I love this one of the Dauntless Mine
Check out the cars at this trailhead!!! And they just kept coming as I was walking back down the road…
So, as I was hiking back to my truck (I found a dime on the dirt road BTW… lucky me!) it hit me:
Today I finished summiting all 58 of Colorado’s 14ers solo. I set this goal for myself and met this goal for myself. I did it while working full time. I did it while being a 37 year old (amazing) single mom of 3 teenagers on a limited income. I did it despite being tired and scared and at times so frozen and cold I didn’t think I could move another step. I did it while being band mom, team mom for my daughter’s softball team, merit badge counselor for my son’s Boy Scout Troop, Leader for 3 different Girl Scout Troops, in charge of Girl Scout Cookie distribution for hundreds of Girl Scout Troops, volunteering weekly at the Humane Society, serving on several community boards, and knitting over 300 hats for local school kids. I did it because I was determined to do something for myself. That being said, I couldn’t have done it without 3 such amazing kids! They really made the process easier for me. They deserve cake.
And finally, to answer “What are you going to do now that you’ve hiked them all?”
This question is obviously asked by someone who doesn’t know me very well. I have a lot of life goals, and this is only one in a long line of many. Off the top of my head some of the others I want to tackle are: Rim to Rim Grand Canyon, 14ers in California/Washington, Galapagos, Andes, Kilimanjaro, Mt Fuji, Mona Loa, Mt Everest Base Camp, Great White Shark Diving, thru hiking the PCT, Colorado, and Appalachian Trails… I also want to join a recreational softball league, become better at my winter climbing skills, visit all 50 United States (6 left!) and dive into that stack of books on my nightstand. I want to find a man to spend time with who understands an independent woman and can keep up with me both athletically and intellectually, and I want to go back to school to get my Doctorate. I want to write a book, become a motivational speaker, and don’t forget there are over 637 13ers in Colorado, and many, many more amazing local climbs to tackle!
Inspire yourself people. #noexcuses
On to the Centennials!
The Mt Sherman Summit Sticker can be bought here