The 14er Addiction

Jeff Shafer

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By CSU Alum Jeff Shafer

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Stars glow above the snow covered Mummy Range as seen from Emmaline Lake, located above CSU’s Mountain Campus. (Jack Starkebaum | Collegian)

My 14er obsession started in 1993.  I had heard of many people climbing 14ers and wanted to see what the hype was all about.  I headed to the mountains with my wife and two friends for the weekend in mid-September to camp and check out Lincoln, Bross and Democrat, three 14ers that are very close together and a trailhead that is at 12,000 feet.  We planned to camp near Dillon but couldn’t find a camping spot so headed to the trailhead in the dark and setup camp. Turns out it gets pretty cold at 12,000 feet in mid-September which we were not very prepared for. We ended up climbing Lincoln and Bross on Saturday and I was hooked!  I found the physical challenge of making it to the top very addicting and the views and fresh crisp air were amazing. We camped a second night and I woke up early Sunday and headed up Democrat with the dog. My other climbing partners were having no part of day 2!

Crestone Peak| Cole McCullough

Over the next few years, I continued to climb the easier 14ers and never really considered climbing them all.  There were many peaks that seemed way too difficult and dangerous for me to even think about attempting. On the way down almost every peak, I’d say to myself “I’m never doing this again” only to find myself looking in the 14er book the next day for my next challenge.  As I completed many of the easier peaks, I’d step up to a harder peak that I wasn’t sure if I would be able to complete. When I did summit a harder peak, it would give me additional confidence and open up other similar peaks to work on.

I continued to climb for the next 6-8 years, completed about 45 of the 54 peaks, and still felt the most difficult were too hard to attempt.  A friend of mine called and said they were planning a trip to the Crestones to climb Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle which are two of the more difficult peaks.  Nervously, I agreed to go. We had a great trip and completed both peaks. It was at that point I started to feel confident I could complete all 54 peaks. There really weren’t any harder peaks that were left for me to climb.

In August of 2007, I completed my 54th 14er, Little Bear Peak.  I stood on top with what had become a very trusted climbing partner with mixed emotions.  On one hand, I was so proud of my accomplishment but on the other hand, I felt a little disappointed the quest to complete them all was over.  I was not expecting this emotion but luckily it faded quickly.

Colorado 14er, climbing
Jeff Shafer stands on top of Little Bear Peak, his 54th and final CO 14er he summited. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Shafer)

Since 2007, I have continued to climb 14ers mostly with my younger daughter who has also caught the 14er bug and aspires to climb them all.  She has climbed 16 so far and I have no doubt she’ll stand on top of number 54 someday.

Climbing all the 14ers is really about gaining experience over many peaks and occasionally pushing yourself to take the next step up to a harder peak.  When I look back, I’m amazed at all the great memories, great friends and great experience I gained over the years.