Great-grandson of Routt pioneers member of team relying on pedal power to help bag state’s 14ers
July 15, 2014
Steamboat Springs — Austin Johnson and his team members in PedAll the Peaks, Morris Hogan and Kyle Lusk, were enjoying a day off in the Roaring Fork Valley on Tuesday during a brief respite from their summer-long bid to climb all 55 of Colorado's tallest mountains and accomplish that feat by using only pedal power to get themselves to the trailheads.
By the end of the week, they will be on their way to the Sangre de Cristos where the Crestone Needle awaits them, and then it's on to the mighty San Juans.
When the three 2014 graduates of Colorado State University wrap up their summer odyssey — hopefully on Labor Day — by climbing their 55th 14er and return to their starting point on the campus of CSU in Fort Collins, they will have ridden an estimated 1,655 miles and hiked 401.2 miles of steep terrain in some of the thinnest air in North America.
"Three months ago, we weren't even thinking about doing this," Johnson said. "Our idea was that none of us wanted to jump straight into a job. Once we started this, it was extremely hard. The first few weeks we were tired and sore, but now it's what we do and we enjoy it."
In mid-July, he said, getting up before daylight, gulping down an energy bar, and after a quick gear check, heading up another big mountain feels natural.
Johnson, who grew up in Basalt, is the great-grandson of Routt County pioneers from Switzerland, Emile and Percide Gay, and the grandson of Lloyd and Dolores Kuntz, of Pleasant Valley. His parents are longtime ski instructors, his mom, Darlene Kuntz, taught at the Steamboat Ski School and both of his parents are longtime instructors at the Aspen Ski Co.
It’s safe to say the outdoor lifestyle came naturally to Johnson.
Johnson, Hogan and Lusk are getting some great support from sibling companies in Steamboat Springs. Big Agnes gave the men a tent, sleeping bags, jackets, hats and even a tent to raffle for fundraising. And Honey Stinger continues to resupply the young men with high energy trail snacks.
"They've helped out a lot," Johnson said. As have Brave New Wheel, Justin's nut butter and Zeal Optics.
The hard-pedaling mountain climbers ride 29-inch Surly Ogre mountain bikes with rigid frames and front and rear racks that weigh 90 to 100 pounds when loaded with about 60 pounds of food and gear, Johnson said.
Interested readers may follow the three men's progress on social media linked through their website.
They now have wrapped up their 32nd peak of 55 with the weekend's summiting of Capitol Peak. Along the way, they have tried to treat the mountains well, picking up litter on every peak and rebuilding stone cairns that show the way across large fields of scree.
Johnson said already, he and his companions have gathered some wisdom about tackling big adventures.
"If you just commit to something, it will work itself out," he said.
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