Peak(s):  North Maroon Peak  -  14,022 feet
Date Posted:  08/29/2020
Modified:  08/30/2020
Date Climbed:   08/17/2020
Author:  Gene913
Additional Members:   ElDChopper
 14,014 Feet - Finishing the Fourteeners as a Flatlander   

Born and raised in the Kansas City metro. I know all the BBQ joints in the city. Am now a recovering attorney, but had a fascinating career as a prosecutor, first as an elected County Attorney in rural Kansas and then for nearly 30 years as a federal prosecutor, beginning in Seattle, and ending in KCMO. Have always had a love of the outdoors, and honed those hiking, camping, and backpacking skills as a Boy Scout in my youth. There are no mountains in the flatlands, but we still have plenty of outdoors.

It’s hard to think of mountains in Kansas City when you sit at a pedestrian 909 feet above sea level. But if you add 13,105 feet of elevation gain, together with roughly 660 miles of westward travel, then you are in an entirely different world on the summit of my fourteener finisher, North Maroon Peak, at 14,014 feet above sea level. 6,951 days (nineteen years, eleven days) elapsed between my first fourteener summit on August 7, 2001, and the finisher on August 17, 2020. I also managed to do 20 14er repeats before I finally got to the finisher.

From beginning to end, I had the joy of climbing with some of the best and coolest people in the entire world. I feel an immense sense of gratitude to each person on the long list of those who accompanied me to a fourteener summit. Each one played an important and special role during the long journey of finally climbing all 58 of Colorado’s named and ranked fourteeners. By recognizing them here, along with the number of summits we shared, I hope each of them knows how much they mean to me.

(23) Jerry Johnson (ElDChopper)

(16) Daryl Taylor (Tireiron)

(15) Men of Colonial Group climbs (more on this later) (the number of guys here is in the many hundreds - they know who they are)

(14) Dale Bain (Sarge)

(11) Zach Taylor

(9) Gary Groff

(7) Scott McKenzie

(6) Evan Glidewell

(5) Bob Harrison

(4) Bryce Porter, Bob Jones, John Tapko (Subway), Jim Lord, Jeff Chase

(3) Tim and MaryJo Campbell

(2) Paul Parsons, Alan Horn, Todd Weiland, Les Steidel, Dan Dermyer, Sean Gatchell, Bob Turrel, Tim Kelley, Benton Chan

(1) Janice Porter, Katherine Porter, Chris Porter, Phil Porter, Jeff Jenkins, Jim Knight, Coulton Chan, John Ashby, Chip Ashby, Dan Clader, Mike Oliver, Ed Walker, Henning Schwimm, Brendon Jenks, Clark Gay, Bill Brodine, Grant White, Andrew Gordon, Tyler Parette, Matthew Fisher

(1) Group Climb (2008 Culebra climb organized by RenoBob)

In addition to these accompanied climbs, I also did 9 solo climbs that were unique and special in their own way. I treasure the memory of those solo climbs because of the focus they required and the solitude they provided. When you hike and climb alone on a peak, you cannot escape realizing how insignificant you really are. At the same time you know that your skills and abilities on the mountain will determine whether you see tomorrow. Solo climbs give you perspective, freedom, and responsibility all rolled into one.

I was 46 years old when I summited my first fourteener and 65 years old when I summited the finisher. The summit photos from the first and last summit tell a story. I’m the guy wearing shorts in both photos.

First Fourteener Summit
Finisher Summit

The other guys in the pictures are Dale Bain and Daryl Taylor (left to right in Blanca photo) and Jerry Johnson (Rock Chalk shirt and cap in North Maroon photo). I’ve shared more summits with those three guys than anyone else. I’ve shared more life with those three guys than anyone else. They are not my brothers by blood, but they are my brothers in every other way imaginable, but most important they are my brothers in Christ. I am alive today because of them and, because of their influence on me, I began a faith walk that has me on the path toward eternal life. Thank you guys, and thank you Jesus.

What the two pictures don’t reveal is how the little over nineteen year journey to reach each of the 58 summits changed me. It was a journey I never expected to take yet one I will always remember.

My introduction to Colorado 14ers was a 2001 backpack up the Como Lake Road to an overnight camp at the lake followed the next day by a climb of Blanca. And that’s all we did. No connecting ridge walk to Ellingwood Point. There definitely was not an ascent of Little Bear – the NW face scared the crap out of me when I looked at it from our campsite at Lake Como. I was certain there was no way that face could be climbed. I returned to Como Lake in 2019, and it was for the sole purpose of climbing Little Bear’s NW face. I knew what I was doing in the mountains by then, and there was no fear factor of the climb at that point.

That first year we also climbed Humboldt after backpacking into South Colony Lakes. Again, that’s all we did. No Crestone Peak and no Crestone Needle. Just Humboldt. And as with Little Bear, I was sure that both the Peak and Needle could not be climbed after surveying their faces from South Colony Lakes.

Did not return to Colorado in 2002 but did make it back in 2003. San Luis was the first summit that summer followed by a backpack into Chicago Basin and a summit of Windom. Consistent with prior trips into basins with multiple peaks, Windom was the only Chicago Basin 14er we did. No Eolus and no Sunlight. Just Windom. But I had a terminal diagnosis of Fourteener-itis after the trip to Chicago Basin. My 14er introduction was in the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan ranges, the two most magical and majestic ranges in Colorado. How do you not fall in love with climbing and hiking fourteeners after that?

But the magic and love went beyond mere mountains in 2004 when I joined 30 guys from Colonial Presbyterian Church in Kansas City as part of a men’s fellowship trip to Colorado to climb a 14er. Dale Bain, Daryl Taylor, and Paul Parsons were the leaders of the trip. Paul was a PCUSA pastor and had moved to Kansas City in mid-2003 from Montrose. He had finished his Fourteener Grand Slam in 2000 with a summit of Sunlight. As far as I was concerned, he walked on water. Dale had asked me to go on the inaugural Men of Colonial Colorado Mountain Adventure (MoCCMA) in 2003, but I said no. I did not need to hang out with a bunch of nutty Christians in order to get my mountain fix. But in 2004, I saw the invitation differently. They were going to climb Uncompahgre in the San Juans. Putting up with these wing nuts for a few days was a price I was willing to pay in order to climb another peak in the San Juans.

Uncompahgre was summited. But because of that trip, and because of the nightly fellowship teaching from Paul, I no longer saw these guys as a bunch of kooks. My eyes were opened by God’s Word, and I was now on a spiritual journey that saved and transformed my life.

After the group climb of Uncompahgre, a smaller group of seven guys, including Dale, Daryl, and Jerry Johnson, backpacked into Chicago Basin. Because of weather, Eolus was the only summit we reached. But the journey into the thin space between man and God was well underway. No more was I hiking and climbing for my own glory. All the glory was His and His alone.

I have been on every MoCCMA since my first one in 2004. The men on those trips over the last 17 years are all flatlander studs. They have climbed Elbert, Uncompahgre, Quandary, Bierstadt, Redcloud, Sunshine, Sherman (from Iowa Gulch and Four Mile Creek), DeCaLiBron, Handies (from Grizzly Gulch and American Basin), Evans, Grays, Torreys (Standard route and Kelso Ridge), La Plata, Huron, Princeton, South Elbert (Black Cloud TH), and two 13ers, Mount Arkansas and Fletcher Mountain. Sadly, the 2020 MoCCMA was cancelled on account of COVID-19. But we will be back in 2021 with a planned climb of Quandary.

I know this much. I would not be the person God intended me to be without the yearly spiritual battery recharge that comes from these men’s fellowship climbs. When I got back from the 2006 trip, my wife Janice told me that she noticed I was becoming a different man after I started going on these annual men’s fellowship annual trips to Colorado. She says that these trips began my transformation into a Godly man (a work she will confirm is still very much in progress) and that the transformation was responsible for saving our marriage. Funny, I did not even know then that our marriage was in trouble. Obviously, however, God knew that for the sake of my marriage and my personal spiritual awakening, I needed to go on these trips and that’s why He made it happen the first time in 2004 and every year since.

I’ve climbed many Fourteeners as part of a backpacking trip, and many others as day climbs. Both are enjoyable to me but as the years have gone on, I must admit that right now my body very much appreciates the slower, civilized pace of the backpacking trips. Pack in day one, summit day two, pack out day three. That’s just about perfect. I have never understood those who rush up and down a peak. Absorb the wonder and majesty that surrounds you in the mountains. God is speaking to you in the mountains. Don’t be in such a hurry to summit that you fail to hear His voice.

I’m glad the end of my journey included what are regarded as the harder fourteeners. By the time I got to these peaks, my experience on all the others prepared me for what was to come. Sunlight in 2015 was super fun. I have a youtube video of my Sunlight summit move. My job kept me from doing much more than MoCCMA climbs between 2015 and 2019, but the return to Como Lake in 2019 for Little Bear was worth the wait. We climbed the NW face route and I never felt more alive on a peak than I did that day. After that, the only ones left were Capitol and North Maroon. Capitol fell first in 2020. The route between the Daly/K2 saddle to the base of K2, pain in the ass. Knife edge, no problem. The ridge afterward, complicated and complex, but we stayed on route. And that left only North Maroon. Jerry Johnson was with me for both Capitol and North Maroon. We had hoped to finish together this year but it did not work out. With our summit of North Maroon, I was finished but he still has Conundrum and Culebra left, and we will be back in 2021 to climb those together. So when Jerry becomes a finisher in 2021, he can tell the story of our North Maroon climb as part of his flatlander fourteener finisher story. For now, I'm just going to give a shout out to Scotty, Danny, Shannon, and KC. You were angels on the peak to Jerry and I that day.

Left to Right - Shannon, Danny, KC, and Scotty - Angels All (Photo by Jerry)

The summits I reached are special because they were shared with special people. Each and every guy on the MoCCMA climbs brought great joy to me. Each annual trip included at least 25 men and in some years just over 40. It would be impossible to list all of them here, but among the many regulars on those climbs are guys like Alan and Seth Horn, Dan Dermyer, Grant White, John Tapko, Bob Turrel, Gary Groff, Zach Taylor, Bill Brodine, Scott Platter, Charlie Lokey, and Scott McKenzie. In more recent years, it has included guys like Ken Kurz, Benton and Coulton Chan, Kent and Kirk Gurske, Andrew Gordon, and Brendon Jenks. Rock Stars all.

Sean Gatchell and I climbed Longs Peak in 2011 as part of the Lygon Stevens Memorial climb. Her life and story is worth getting to know. In 2012 on our descent from Willow Lake after a summit of Kit Carson and Challenger, our small group of three passed John Prater (Homie) on his way up the trail in the midst of his attempt to break the record for climbing all the fourteeners in the fastest time. We talked with Bill Wright in Homie’s support van when we got to the trailhead. While preparing to climb Evans from Summit Lake via Mount Spalding in early June 2009, we saw Bill Middlebrook and Caroline Moore (USA Keller) in the Summit Lake parking lot gearing up to climb and then ski down the North Face of Evans. A group climb of Culebra in 2008 was organized by RenoBob, and included Ian MacDonald (MountainHiker), Dorthe Leaven (MountainHikerette), Keith Kiggins (KeithK), and Art (Gusher) for whom Culebra was his finisher. After Culebra, I did solo climbs of Belford, Oxford, Grays, and Torreys, and then sat in my hotel room the night before getting on a plane out of Denver to fly home to KC and watched Barack Obama receive his nomination as the Democratic Party candidate for President of the United States. My summit accomplishments seemed rather trivial in light of the historical significance of that event. In one of my most satisfying summits ever, I was part of a group of seven in 2019 that help guide a legally blind man to the summit of Sherman so he could claim his first fourteener. It truly is all about the people who are part of your climbing team and share the mountain with you.

My very best memories are climbs with family. My son Bryce climbed his first Fourteener in 2008 when we shared a summit on Redcloud. That same year we did Uncompahgre and Handies. In 2010, we did Crestone Needle together. We have not shared a summit since then. We need to do another one soon. Since his experience has been limited to the Sangres and the San Juans, we need to do a Sawatch grunt climb together. He is still in his early thirties. I’m thinking Holy Cross via Halo Ridge or Oxford from Pine Creek.

I shared a Fourteener summit with my wife Janice and daughter Katherine in 2012 when we did Elbert together, their first Fourteener. When we were relaxing in our Leadville hotel that evening, I asked them if they were ready to do another one. They exchanged a knowing look at each other, and Janice responded, “You said Elbert was the tallest 14er in Colorado, right?” After I confirmed she was correct, she continued, “Then why would we ever need or want to climb another one?” And they have never done another one.

I shared Fourteener summits with my father (Uncompahgre in 2004) and my brother (Handies in 2015) when they joined me on a MoCCMA. I treasure deeply the summits I have shared with my father, brother, wife, daughter, and son. I now have a year and half old granddaughter thanks to son Bryce and his wife Brooke. I have already told them I will be the one who takes that girl to her first fourteener summit. In January of this year, Janice and I became the guardians of a three year old little boy. Again, Janice knows I will be the one who takes that boy to his first fourteener summit. Those who have experienced the joy of the mountains, and the display of God’s wonder, must pass it on to those who have not yet had the opportunity to glimpse it or know it. I think I will take them into Chicago Basin for their first fourteener. We will climb one of the three fourteeners in Chicago Basin but no more. They will be hooked. And they will come back for more. And I will have done my job of getting them started on their own fourteener journey. A journey where they will learn that mountains are climbed not conquered, the reward is the journey not the summit, and the glory belongs to God alone. peace and grace.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
KS Jude
More than just the summits
08/29/2020 07:09
The impact and blessings from standing atop 14er summits extend far beyond the summit itself, which is beautifully captured in your trip report. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your journey. Congratulations on finishing the 58, sir!

Craig Cook
From a fellow KC native
08/29/2020 08:39
Congratulations! What a wonderful narrative showcasing not just the peaks, but the personal journey and relationships built along the way. Excellent job!

Awesome Accomplishment
08/29/2020 11:25
Glad to have been part of your journey brother. Congratulations!

08/29/2020 12:35
I'm always impressed by you guys who travel from sea level, commit so much time and reach your goals. Great story, thanks for sharing.

Finisher - Rock Chalk
08/29/2020 20:39
My best friend also finished last year on Maroon and was 69 at the time, a small town KS attorney, county judge and then district judge for years in NW KS. He went to Washburn, I am a Jayhawk. Rock Chalk and congrats!

Beautiful report
08/30/2020 00:06
Thanks for the report and the inspiration!
I personally am on my way to the SKT (Slowest known time) for finishing.
I have thoroughly enjoyed many repeats, 30 of favorites.
I'm 33 years from 1st 14er with more to experience before I finish this chapter.
At 60 my goal is to finish before i am 70.

08/30/2020 05:29
KS Jude - Looking forward to seeing you again at the next KC gathering
Craig - Thank you. Hope to meet you at the next KC gathering.
T'Iron - As Sarge likes to say, "Press On!" Take care of each other in CO next week.
MatB - Perseverance often makes up for limited abilities. Some of us just don't know when to quit.
Rockchalker - And the response always is "Jayhawk, Go KU!"
Fish99 - Jerry will be 71 when we come back in 2021 for his last two. Never too old.

08/30/2020 10:37
It's certainly a bigger challenge to climb the 14ers from out-of-state, especially when your home is below 1000' in elevation. Nice going!

Way to go Gene!
08/30/2020 12:32
I checked you profile a few days ago and saw that you finished and wondered why I hadn't seen anything here. Thanks for the confirmation and heartfelt report. And of course, a hardy congratulations.

Congratulations Gene
08/31/2020 17:11
Thanks for the great report. I am honored to have climbed with you and look forward to more. I did not know that Blanca was your first. My first summit was Ellingwood Point with you. I remember reaching the summit and you said to me, you can summit a second if you want to go on to Blanca from here. And so I did and a great friendship with you was started.

08/31/2020 18:01
Way to go!! Awesome accomplishment!!

09/02/2020 21:52
Mtnman200 - yes, the out-of-state climber/hiker faces a different challenge than does an in-stater, as you know all too well. Love the Aaron Rodgers avatar. His State Farm commercials are pretty rich. Partial to the ones with Patrick Mahomes.

Wineguy - thank you, John. Glad we could celebrate both our recent milestones. Let's keep in touch, especially regarding Kili.

bchan - we had a great day on the climb of Ellingwood from South Zapata. You get special kudos for making it a two-fer on your first attempt at a fourteener. We have more summits to gain together, my friend.

PaulVee - thank you for the kind comments.

KSU Wildcat
Congratulations Gene, and Thank You
09/04/2020 13:02
Congratulations on a long journey! And on your mountain journey!

09/05/2020 20:43
Honored to have shared a part of this journey with you Gene. Thank you for sharing this story.

09/07/2020 05:56
KSU Wildcat - thanks Gary. Hope you are enjoying the time you spend in BV. Time for a KC gathering soon? And thanks for decorating this with some purple color to balance out the crimson and blue! Now all it needs is a little black and gold.

sccm - our climbs together were always great, Scott, starting with your first 14er on Holy Cross. The trip into Navajo Basin for Mount Wilson and the West ridge of Quandary were total stand outs. Hope we can get a few more climbs in down the road. There definitely are some rental cars that need a little exercise.

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