Colorado boasts 54 peaks that rise to 14,000 feet in elevation. On May 16, 2010, Christy Mahon became the first female to climb and ski each one. Just a few days after, from her remote and tropical victory vacation, Christy corresponded with us through email to talk about her accomplishment.
When did you decide to climb all the 14ers?
In 2000 I decided to climb them all and wanted to ski a few of them as means to descend faster than hiking. In 2004 I finished climbing all 54 peaks, but then became interested in skiing them all as well. I skied nine 14ers that season and was hooked.
Most difficult peak?
There could be several answers to this question. A peak can be difficult due to horrendous weather and wind, variable snow conditions, long approaches, and tough climbs. I would have to say a recent summit of El Diente and Mount Wilson would be up there with one of most exhausting days for me, due to high winds, a long approach, two feet of new snow to trudge through, somewhat technical routes, and combining two 14ers into one day. Luckily the skiing on both peaks was fantastic that day, which helped ease the suffering a little.
This can depend a lot on the day, but both Mount Bross and Mount Bierstadt come to mind. I can’t say the snow was great on either of them, but both approaches were really short and very straightforward. They might be the easiest, but easy doesn’t translate into memorable.
Favorite food to pack up the mountain?
I’m a cookie monster and always bring some kind of chocolate chip cookies as a reward for getting to the summit. Usually, I have a bag of salty, deluxe (no peanuts) nuts and some Honey Stinger chews with me and always a bag of Boulder Malt Vinegar Chips and Gatorade at the finish. On Pyramid and Capitol Peak, our friend Joey brought a cold cheeseburger for the summit; that really hit the spot, so I might have to start incorporating cheeseburgers into the food bag.
Did you cross train?
I don’t do any training specifically for climbing and skiing 14ers, but winter training in general consists of skinning up Aspen Mountain two times a week before work, a handful of long cross country races, and running throughout the year.
Can you describe a typical climb? Length, weight you are carrying, gear, group dynamics, etc…
A typical climb would definitely include my husband Ted, often our friend Dirk, and whoever else is up for an adventure. The length of the day depends on the difficulty of the peak, but I would say 7-8 hours was average for most of the 14ers and often the harder peaks would include a twelve hour day or more. Besides the typical stuff like avalanche gear, skins, crampons, etc., I always have two pairs of hand and toe warmers, more pairs of gloves than one person would ever need, a little muskrat that has traveled to summits all over the world with me, and a travel size Charmin roll just in case.
Any summiting rituals?
Apart from eating ‘summit cookies’, not really.
How may did you complete in the middle of the winter?
For years I waited until spring to start skiing 14ers,but two years ago, much to the influence of Chris Davenport, we started tagging them starting in January. I skied a couple in the winter of 2009 and then this winter, I completed Mount Sneffels and San Luis Peak in January, Mount Holy Cross in February, and Little Bear Peak in March. The chance for success in the winter might be a little less, but if you’re willing to go out there ‘just to see’ you’ll often be surprised with a very rewarding day.
Best skiing conditions?
One day that has always stuck out in my mind was an incredible ski descent of the North Face on Longs Peak in 2005. This route isn’t always filled in and can be a rare ski, especially with low winds and blower powder. It could have been the group dynamics that day, the excitement of skiing one of my first 50 degree slopes, or the after party that night, but it has always been one of my favorites. North Maroon, Huron, Pikes Peak, and El Diente were all pretty epic too.
For more information, check out Christy’s blog, Stuck in the Rockies.
El Diente Peak