Many approach their virgin fourteener ascent after months of training and planning, and I admire their commitment. For me, it was on a total last-minute whim, literally two days prior to execution. My friend Kim already had several under her belt, and she tossed out an invitation to join her in the Collegiates that weekend. I looked at my calendar; the only thing I had lightly penciled in was to tackle a sprint triathlon- my first in many years- on Saturday. Her plans were for Sunday, so I said, “sure.” I can’t say I really thought about a sprint triathlon’s reality one day and fourteener the next! If I had, I might have chosen differently.

Fortunately, I did not overthink this one and headed out. I loaded the car from my triathlon and headed to Salida, CO, where we met up the evening before our hike. I discovered that not only had she invited me for my first fourteener, but she had also chosen a double summit, meaning the plan was to top out at two summits the same day. The chosen summits were Tabaguache and Mount Shavano. Shavano comes first, then the saddle to Tabaguache.

It was October, so while we had the lack of monsoons on our side, we did not have warm temperatures in the forecast. We opted for a bit of a later start to let things warm up a touch and headed to the trail about 9am. I have to say this summit was 7 years ago, so the memories aren’t quite as clear as I wish they were. What is clear is a few things. You can never pack enough layers for a fourteener. While I felt quite prepared, I was not prepared for how windy the trail would be.

As we climbed, it became more and more so, as they often do. While this ascent is not overly technical, it is LONG. I believe we hit around 16 miles round trip. You can also never pack too many snacks. Easy to grab, easy to consume, and full of protein is my suggestion. At the summit of Shavano, I was a little concerned about the exposure. In hindsight, having now done several more fourteeners, I believe it was mostly inexperience and the chill that got me, not really the actual situation.

Once at the top, it was decision time for the second summit. We did lament our choice of a later start as the climb took us longer than expected. However, we definitely felt we were far too close to not grab them both, so off we went to Tabaguache. With number two in the bag, we had to backtrack and literally resummit Shavano, so I guess officially it was three summits? Not sure, but it was more than enough for me.

The way back down was long, and we literally had to pull the headlamps out the last bit. Such a great reminder that, along with layers, never go without a headlamp. We were tired, a little chilly, and happy to be done, but grateful we had gone for it. One of the best parts about the Collegiate range is the close-by stop at Mt. Princeton hot springs. It was a perfect recovery after my athletically intense adventures. Since then, I’ve tackled about ten more, but I’ll always remember my first.