Mountains. What is it about the human senses that want to go beyond the beauty of mountains as a backdrop to the horizon, and make those people with a 'climbing mentality' be determined to get to the top? The quote, "Because it is there," is attributed to George Mallory—an English climber—who was on his third attempt to climb Mt. Everest in 1924 when he perished along with his climbing partner Andrew Irvine. To reach 29,008’ requires major preparations in the land of perpetual ice, rock, and snow. And climbing equipment in those days was not as sophisticated as the technological advances of the last 75 years. It is amazing that they could even make the attempts in the 1920s. Such is the human spirit, as Mallory explained in an interview with the New York Times in 1923. "Everest is the highest mountain in the world and no person has reached its summit. Its existence is a challenge. The answer is instinctive, a part, I suppose, of humans' desire to conquer the universe." The debate continues as to whether or not they made it to the top as they were seen through a telescope very close to the summit and then never seen again.
Mountains are in my blood like the color red, my original quote I think, but certainly not to the extent of true mountaineers who seek the world's highest and most challenging peaks. As a kid in the 60s, I had the desire to climb Everest until later, when I learned about the true hardships and hazards of climbing into the 'death zones' above 25,000’ where there is not enough atmosphere to maintain human life. That is why Everest must be summited and descended as quickly as possible.
How does that apply to the San Luis Valley? August through early October is the best mountain climbing season in Colorado. 14teeners are the name given to the 54 or so peaks that rise above 14,000’ in Colorado. Though half the elevation of Everest, the Sangre de Cristos and the San Juans have enough peaks to keep mountain climbers challenged, high into the thin air, steep ascents, expansive views, difficult routes, and most other aspects of mountain climbing except for perhaps the lack of glaciers in the highest peaks of the world. I have accepted the challenge a number of times in the nearby mountains and will describe the account of hiking in the Sangre de Cristos and reaching the summit of Kit Carson Peak at 14,265 feet after I do just that this fall.
August and September are two of the best months for climbing to the higher peaks and ridges that surround the San Luis Valley. Though thunderstorms must be respected, late summer begins to extend into the season when, as the Indians used to say, it is the season when 'thunder sleeps.' September climbing offers many cool cloudless days, snow free trails (usually), and no crowds. And the aspens are beginning to change offering the splendor of golden leaves against deep blue Colorado skies. Consider making this time of year your Colorado mountain climbing season to 'bag a peak.' Why? See above!