I just returned from the mountains of Colorado where the majestic snow-capped mountains meet alpine tundra, rushing streams, brilliant wildflowers, rocky peaks, and towering lodge pole pines. When I was 12, I attended an outdoor adventure summer camp in Estes Park, CO and was too afraid of the adventure, so I spent my days on the archery range. But once I finally climbed my first mountain (they made me do it!), it changed everything. I ended up spending 9 summers there in the beauty of the mountains and the fellowship of young women who dared to face summits as courageously as they dared to face their own fears. I have climbed more mountains than I can count, but here are five favorites that remain with me. 1. Mt. Audubon (13,233 ft) is in the Indian Peaks Wilderness outside of Rocky Mountain National Park. The trail begins in the trees, but you quickly come upon miles of open tundra with stunning views of the Indian Peaks and the Never Summer Range. This is my favorite mountain to climb, and I love bringing friends (and James) along for this one.
2. Chief's Head (13,579 ft) is the third tallest mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park. If you look at it from a distance, the mountain looks like the profile of an Indian Chief. This is a great day climb to do from a backpack to Sandbeach Lake. This is where I learned how to glissade down snowfields (it's like skiing in your hiking boots) and how to let go and have fun.
3. Long's Peak (14,259) is the highest mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park and is the beloved goal for most adventurers to the park. I climbed it once as a 14-year-old camper and then returned as a counselor to lead a group of remarkable 12- and 13-year-olds for their first summit to Longs. Isabella Bird was one of the first women to climb Longs in the 1800s - wearing a hoop skirt! - so one time I climbed Longs in a dress to honor her (NOT pictured below :-).
4. Navajo Peak (13,409 ft) is another mountain in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. It is more of a technical climb that requires a lot of scrambling up a steep couloir as well as creative maneuvering to climb up the chimney of its peak. There was an airplane crash on Navajo in 1948 where three people died, and the wreckage of the plane remains scattered along the gully up to the mountain. There are still remnants of plane sidings and engine parts along the way which is surely terrifying to think about. It's hard to remember if I love this mountain because of the climb itself or because of the girls whom I climbed it with. It's probably both. The top of Navajo in the photo is the triangle mountain in the background.
5. South Arapaho (13,397 ft) will always be special to me because it was the first mountain I ever climbed. At 12-years-old I cried my way up as I struggled for oxygen, and ultimately, for courage. This mountain taught me that I didn't have to live a life of caution and fear - and that there is great reward in pushing beyond the boundaries of physical comfort.
What about you? Any mountain favorites?