I had someone ask me the other day who I was hiking
for. The question caught me off guard,
but I guess you can’t set a goal like hiking all 58 of Colorado’s 14ers and
aggressively tackling that goal without people thinking you’re doing it for a
cause. For those of you who don’t know
me, this type of behavior is typical “Laura” behavior. If I’m going to do something, I’m going to
give it 100%. Intense is a word often
used to describe me. Also, if I’m not
going to give it 100% I usually don’t do it at all.
No one’s noticed this yet, but I wear a different School in the
Woods hat on each hike. Usually it’s the last one I knitted, but sometimes it’s just one I like. I also like the fact I’m summiting these
peaks alone, and not many women hike/climb alone. I see a lot of men solo, but I’ve yet to see
a woman. Why can’t women be mountaineers
Why do I like hiking alone?
It gives me time to think. I love to think and process information, and
when I go by myself I don’t need to fill the silence with talk.
I can set the pace. I can hike as fast or as slow as I’d like. This is important because I’m usually on a
schedule to get back home by a certain time to be with/pick up my kids. I have a time table that doesn’t give a lot of
room for error. I rarely hike slowly, but
I’d feel bad for my partner if I was slowing them down. I’m always hiking at a brisk pace that’s
usually difficult for others to keep up with.
I get frustrated hiking slower than necessary. Yes, hiking is competitive for me. If you’re ahead of me or behind me, we’re
racing. (No, I don’t allow this to let
me make reckless decisions when hiking, I know when to alter my pace for safety
I’m not a fan of taking breaks while hiking,
even for drinking water or getting a snack.
I continue hiking as I’m taking off my jacket or getting out my gloves. I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t need a
break while on a hike. This is
especially important for me towards the summit, where it’s often cold. I have Raynaud’s, and if I stop/hike slowly
in the cold my body shuts down and I cannot move. Frostbite comes easy to me even in warm
weather (if there’s wind). I need to
keep moving if I want to summit. This
also means I can’t spend a lot of time on the summit enjoying the view (because
I’m susceptible to frost bite I get off the summit asap, especially if it’s
There are several peaks I’ve climbed I’m certain
I wouldn’t have been able to summit if I’d had a partner, because they would
have insisted we’d turn back. I have a
higher risk acceptance rate than most because I have a lot of experience. No, this doesn’t mean I’m reckless, but I
feel prepared to continue on a hike many people wouldn’t.
I’m more likely to see wild animals (because it’s
quieter). Yes, this is one of the
highlights of hiking for me. I get upset
when I see someone with bear bells, because it means I won’t get to see any
I usually don’t know which peak I’m going to
climb, or if I’m hiking at all, until the night before. This can be difficult for others to work with,
and I’d feel bad being the one to constantly change plans. It also means I’d need to communicate with
the other person about details, which isn’t something I particularly like to do
(the communication part: details I’m great at).
This all probably makes me sound like an awful person, but
in reality, I’m just an introvert that likes to hike solo because it’s
intrinsically motivating. I understand a
hiking partner would need to put up with me as well (and I admit I can be
difficult). I don’t actually mind hiking
with other people, but we’d need to be a good fit in areas of personality,
endurance, etc. I’ve yet to find someone
who is. I need to find someone with more
experience to climb with next summer.
There are several peaks I want to tackle that are difficult class 3’s
and class 4’s where it just makes sense safety wise to climb with a
partner. I need to step outside of my
comfort zone, which may be more difficult for me than tackling those class 4’s
Back to the purpose of
this post: If people ask me who I’m
hiking for I’d like to say SitW or Girl Scouts, but in reality the reason is
more selfish: I’m hiking for me.
Hiking so many peaks in so little time is probably the most
selfish thing I’ve ever done. I’ve
always loved to hike and mountains/backpacking/camping/etc. in general, but after becoming a mom at 17 my whole
world as I knew it changed. For the past
20 years I’ve been focused on being the best mom I can be, always putting my
kids and their activities first. But now
that two of my kids are driving/working, and all are in either High School or College,
I’m noticing they have more of a social life than I do. Whenever I want to do something with them
I’m not mad or upset about this. It’s wonderful my kids have
jobs, interests, and friends. I want to
encourage them to go to work and school and spend time with their peers. But I’m finding myself with the ability to go
hiking because they’re busy and I’m not.
Note: I ONLY go hiking when my
kids are busy, sleeping, or in school. I’ve
never hiked when I’ve had an opportunity to spend time with them one on
one. This is important to me, and often
why I plan hikes last minute.
So, what are my goals when it comes to summiting Colorado’s
14ers? They’ve evolved over the past
couple of months. Initially I’d wanted
to hike them all by 2023: the 100th
anniversary of the first successful summit of them all. But as I got to hiking this year I started
completing them faster than anticipated.
My goal for this year was to climb 11, but I’ve already made it to
29. I realize the climbs get more
difficult, and I’ve done most of the “easy” ones this year, but I won’t be able
to realistically hike another 29 next year.
They just take too much commitment, and I know I’ll fail at a few
summits the first time or two, so I’ll need to attempt them multiple times.
Realistically, my goals are to complete all 58 by the time I
turn 40 (in 2020). That gives me exactly
3 more years to successfully summit 29 more peaks.
Another question I get often: Why are you hiking them all so fast? What are you going to do when you hike them
all and have none left?
This question is obviously asked by someone who doesn’t know
me very well. I have a lot of life
goals, and this is only one of them. Off
the top of my head some of the others I want to tackle are: Rim to Rim Grand Canyon, 14ers in
California/Washington, Galapagos, Andes, Kilimanjaro, Mt Fuji, Mona Loa, Great
White Shark Diving, the PCT and the Appalachian Trail. I also want to go back to school to get my
Doctorate, I want to write a book, and don’t forget, there are over 637 13ers
in Colorado, and many, many more amazing hikes to tackle!