A believer in giant projects
I’ve always been a big believer in giant projects. Right now, mine is to climb every thirteener in Colorado — every mountain over 13,000 feet in elevation.
Depending on how you count, there are 764, ranked and unranked — ranked meaning they are separated by a specific distance and prominence, unranked meaning they don’t fit that definition.
I was going through a rough breakup four or five years ago. I started climbing fourteeners to keep my head straight. I found a sense of confidence, community and identity.
I wondered how many I could do. How far can you push a thing you do until you don’t love it anymore or you’re tired of it? Turns out there’s no bottom for me with hiking. I’ve never felt so healthy or driven.
Before long I had climbed all the fourteeners. Officially there are 53. My dog Blodgett has climbed 50 of them with me.
Then I moved onto thirteeners. I’ve climbed 231 of the 584 ranked, and 51 of 180 unranked.
The fourteeners are really busy. Climbing Longs Peak was like a conga line. Before dawn you could see a solid line of headlamps on every section of trail. I was doing the thirteeners around it, though, and as soon as I veered off that trail, I was the only headlamp.
Some thirteeners don’t even have names. The trailhead is just a spot along a dirt road. You walk until you’re out of the woods, look up, and follow your GPS. It’s a lot more challenging.
Last summer, I was doing a six-peak traverse in the Williams Range. As I came back up around a snowbank, I pulled out a rock the size of a refrigerator, and it ripped out the cleft I was climbing. I dropped about 20 feet straight backwards, landed on a ledge, tore up my arm, and got a deep gash on my leg. Over the next five minutes the cliff just disintegrated. Boulders the size of trashcans went rolling down.
I had 200 mountains under my belt, and I was confident it was solid. Only on the way out did I realize how severe the gash was. It took months to heal. It was incredibly humbling.
Set yourself up for happiness
Find something you’re passionate about, and do it as often as you can. Life is short. If you can’t be doing your passion all the time, do something to get better at it. I hate running in parks or around traffic, but three months from now, the training I’m doing will pay off. Set yourself up for happiness.
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