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Wild Wanderer

This is the title of an inspiring book by Laura Clark. Laura, a single mom in her late 30s (at the beginning of the book), living in the Colorado Springs area, started by hiking or climbing all 58 of Colorado’s “Fourteeners” (peaks with an elevation over 14,000 feet). She did all of these solo. I had thought there were 53 of them, it turns out there are 53 “official” and 5 “unofficial, as described here. The unofficial ones have peaks over 14000 feet, but the peaks do not rise at least 300 feet from the nearest saddle. I lived in Colorado in the early 1980s, and I did 3 Fourteeners in three years. She did the 58 in just over one year. She then went on, over the next couple of years, to summit the 200 highest peaks in the state, all over 13,000 feet, again solo.

This is an amazing feat from just a logistical standpoint, Colorado is a big state and these peaks are spread all over. Laura had to do a lot of long drives and get by on little sleep to squeeze these adventures into her schedule, between working and taking care of her kids. And it is an incredible endurance challenge, with many miles of hiking and thousands of feet of elevation gain. A lot of these peaks can be summitted just by hiking with maybe some scrambling over rougher terrain. I still remember the challenge of crossing the boulder fields on Long’s Peak and route-finding by looking for bullseyes on the rocks after going through the keyhole. This is tough enough. But a considerable number of these peaks require technical climbing skills, including some above class 5. So Laura also had to learn these skills in a climbing gym and hone them by practicing outside with friends that are experienced climbers. It is astonishing what someone can accomplish when they are passionate about what they do.

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