Dave Shively's outdoors column appears Sundays in the Steamboat Pilot & Today. Contact him at 871-4253 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Forty-nine down, five to go. Five peaks in three weeks separates Chris Davenport from skiing the 54 summits of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks in one calendar year.
I've written about Davenport's struggle to show footage from the descents shot inside wilderness boundaries without a commercial filming permit. But I didn't grasp the scope of the project until I caught up with Davenport after his recent descent of Kit Carson Peak. This Sangre de Christo monster took Lou Dawson multiple attempts at the final peak in his quest to become the only other skier to complete the feat over a 13-year span.
It also happens to be the first fourteener that I bagged.
OK, I really just summited Challenger Peak, but Kit Carson's western-flanking pseudo-fourteener is close enough.
While we're at it, I didn't ski down either. But having hiked the terrain in September, I had to ask what kind of person would do it in the dead of winter.
Davenport's the first to admit December is no time to be out there, and you can probably count the people who ski fourteeners in the winter "on one hand." Sub-zero degree wind chill, minimal daylight and questionable snow stability stack the cards against Davenport's favor. But this guy is driven.
He put things in perspective for me with his run at the remote peaks in the Chicago Basin. From an overnight rafting camp in Needleton, I had hiked up Needle Creek to the first chute available and made some incredibly dorky lines before an exhausted return to camp. After Davenport made the five-mile hike into the basin from the same camp, he skied four fourteneers - in one day.
"The thing just snowballed," Davenport said. "Every peak, I just got more excited, motivated and fit. By the spring, I was ripping peaks day after day and skiing steep lines."
The tempo has resumed with recent snowfall. While Denver was busy unburying itself, Davenport skied Mt. Princeton and returned to the Sangres to bag Humboldt Peak.
He's also pushing the lines that already have been skied. He recalls his Capitol Peak climb as the "scariest and most legit ski experience of my life," or more clearly, one of the hardest ski descents in North America. Not bad for a guy who can boast some of the globe's hardest lines and admittedly was drawn to the project after a prolific career where he'd "done all the contests, been in all the movies and been all over the world."
Davenport's genuinely in it for the challenge and the dividends - ones he described as a "deep spiritual experience" he felt when everything fell into place the day he skied 11,000 vertical feet to complete the Wilson group of peaks.
If you've had the fortune of standing atop a massive peak and earning that huge line, you know what he's talking about. If you haven't, you can at least catch a glimpse of someone else's historic journey on Davenport's blog, www.skithe14ers.com.
- To reach Dave Shively, call 871-4253 or e-mail email@example.com