A Call to Climbing

Alan, Kristina, and Jason: Summit of Longs Peak, August 23, 2009.
Alan, Kristina, and Jason: Summit of Longs Peak, August 23, 2009.

In the summer of 1972, my father was living in Longmont, Colorado, and in his first job out of graduate school. After weekends getting his East Coast body used to life at altitude, he and a group of friends left from Sprague Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, headed up Boulder Brook Trail, and entered the Boulder Field on the north flank of the Monarch of the Front Range: Longs Peak.

Then a severe storm blew in. Lightening began exploding the boulders around them, and he and his group took shelter as best they could to avoid the shrapnel of flying rock. When the lightening abated, the rain did not, and the group made a soaked retreat back to civilization.

Photo Credit: Jason Kolaczkowski
Photo Credit: Jason Kolaczkowski

Growing up, that story always struck me. It was almost 5 years before my birth, and life and family commitments moved my Dad away from Colorado and further attempts at any of its higher peaks.

I was a soccer player and a golfer growing up. I took both fairly seriously, playing on a nationally ranked high school soccer team and eventually pursuing a professional golfing career. I was a classic suburbanite, not a backcountry person.

I was not quite good enough to make it stick in golf, and not long after my 30th birthday, a knee injury ended my soccer playing days. Despite surgery, the cartilage damage precluded running as training.

So, in the summer of 2009 I was looking for another physical endeavor to test and push myself. My parents, now retired, had moved back to Colorado. Take the confluence of the two, and my father and I decided it was finally time to get him up Longs Peak – some 37 years later.

That summer I also began dating my, now wife, Kristina. She was a backpacker, not a climber, but thought this sounded like fun. Of course, I was happy to have her along. So, the three of us began climbing peaks in the Front Range, collecting peaks that progressively pushed us a little higher and a little farther.

At 2am on August 23rd, 2009, we left the Longs Peak Ranger Station east of the summit and traveled the 8 miles up Mills Moraine, to the top of Granite Pass, into the Boulder Field, through the Keyhole, past the Narrows, up the Home Stretch…

…and up the 5,100 vertical feet to the summit.

I was hooked. How could I not want more of this? Two of the people I love, a seemingly cosmic injustice undone, and the views and sense of freedom that only tramping through those hard to reach places can provide.

Fast forward another 5 years, and I’m in preparations to lead a team of climbers on an attempt to summit the highest point in North America, Denali, as part of the Colorado Mountain Club’s 2015 Year of the Mountaineer World Summits Series.

As the team and I get ready, I plan on sharing some words, photos, and videos with you, covering a range of topics:

  • How did I get here? – I’ve come pretty late to climbing, and am an asthmatic with a bad knee. How did I take advantage of all the CMC has to offer to make this possible? What other help have I needed? How can you find the support you want?
  • My rehabilitation and physical training – I’m not quite 11 months out from my third, yes third, ACL reconstruction on my right knee. I don’t want to put myself or my team at risk. What am I doing to get myself physically ready?
  • Logistics, planning, and team dynamics – There is a lot that goes into planning an unsupported expedition. I’ll provide a little bit of insight into what goes on behind the scenes.
  • Reflections on climbing – like all climbers, I have opinions about climbing. It’s a dangerous endeavor. While everyone should come to their own conclusions about how climbing does or does not fit into their lives and responsibilities, I think it a very worthwhile practice to confront some of those issues, if only to better understand where you want to draw your own limits.
  • And, of course, my climbs themselves – I’ll bring you along on some of my climbs as I get ready for the expedition.

I’ll be trying to post fairly regularly; so, please come back and check in on me and my climbing partners. You’ll probably find some things to laugh at (I’m far from perfect) and maybe a few things to inspire.

Thanks for reading/watching/lurking ;)


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