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All Peak

Fireworks O’er America’s Peak

Fireworks O’er America’s Peak

There are many ways to celebrate the New Year around the world. And…there are a surprising number of similarities – family and friends, good food, fireworks, reflection, etc.

In East Asia, many celebrate hope and renewal by watching the sunrise on New Year’s Day. This is typically done in large groups on mountaintops, beaches or scenic valleys.

In Japan (and other mountainous countries of East Asia), large groups will endure the bitter cold to summit a mountain and greet the rising sun. It is called Hatsuhinode, and is Japanese for the welcoming of the first sunrise of the New Year.

 Fuji sunrise

A group around Colorado Springs in southwest Colorado has a similar practice of enduring the cold to hike to the top of a mountain. The group is called the AdAmAn Club (http://adaman.org). Rather than watch the sunrise, the group’s purpose is to light fireworks at the summit at midnight.

The AdAmAn Club was formed in 1923 after a group of 5 men dubbed “The Frozen Five” decided to hike to the top of Pikes Peak to set off fireworks on New Year’s Eve. The five men were Fred and Ed Morath, Fred Barr, Willis Magee and Harry Standley.

So it was, that on December 31st, 1922, the Frozen Five created “fire on the mountaintop” that could be seen for miles around and created quite a stir. Two of the original five, brothers Fred and Ed Morath suggested the name “AdAmAn” for a rule that only one new member could be added each year. The tradition has lasted for over 90 years and the club gets bigger.

Pikes Peak is “America’s Mountain”, one of the 53 Colorado 14ers (peaks above 14,000 feet) and tallest of the southern Front Range at 14,115 feet.  Pikes is named from explorer/adventurer Zebulon Pike, who interestingly enough, did not summit the peak. (Side note: This author thinks Zebulon is such a cool name, that if he had another son, he’d seriously consider naming him Zebulon.)

The summit is accessible by a cog railway, a paved road and Barr hiking trail. Pikes Peak is only one of two 14ers accessible by paved road. The other is Mount Evans.

Pikes Peak earns the moniker “America’s Mountain” from its’ sheer popularity - hosting tourists, climbers, researchers and racing fans. The Pikes Peak road is famous for the International Pikes Peak Hill Climb motor race, USA Cycling Hill Climb National Championships and Pikes Peak Cycling Hill Climb.

The icy Barr Trail is the eastern route the AdAmAn Club takes to reach the top and is accessible to the public for climbing most of the year. Fireworks in the splendor that is America’s Mountain celebrates the majesty of our great country and gives fitting backdrop to occasion. Happy New Year!

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Top 10 Reasons to Use a Vacation Home Rental For Your Next Fourteener Trip

Top 10 Reasons to Use a Vacation Home Rental For Your Next Fourteener Trip

I had my first vacation home rental experience when I visited San Francisco for work last year. The experience opened my eyes to the many benefits of renting a vacation home instead of staying in a hotel.  My Hilton Honors will surely dwindle as a result.  

First, the full disclosure…I am not being compensated one iota for my opinions.   HomeAway.com is mentioned below and they were a client of mine in a past life.  I have used their service and think they offer a great selection – as do other similar businesses. I do have friends that now own vacation home rentals, but they aren’t featured here, and I’ll gladly stay at their places anytime they ask me too!  

After countless trips to Colorado from my home turf in Texas, I could kick myself for never considering staying at a rental home before.  The concept is perfect when planning a group trip.  HomeAway.com lists over 9,080 “mountain” home rentals in Colorado alone.  In true Letterman fashion, here are the Top 10 reasons why you want to rent a vacation home the next time you set out on a mountain adventure:  

10. Get a little closer to the mountain or trailhead.  

9.   Home cooked meals:  You can save money by buying and cooking your own food, but someone has to do the dishes.  

8.   You can launder those smelly, damp trail clothes so your buddies don’t have to smell you the rest of the trip.    Most homes have a washer and dryer with detergent available to use.  

7.   Free parking and no extra fees.  You normally have to leave a deposit though, which is fully refundable.  

6.   Tranquility:  No need to battle with the wedding party down the hall for sleep.  A vacation home rental can be tucked away, deep down a mountain road, letting you extend your bond with nature by opening the windows at night and listening to the sounds of the forest.  You may have to contend with snoring from your buddies, but it is a great trade off.  

5.   Amenities:  Often times you can find a vacation home rental with a breathtaking view, fire pit out back or hot tub ready to soothe those achy muscles.  

4.   Praise:  If, as the planner of this group outing, you manage to make it all happen, you may get a pat on the back and hear the following, “Wow, this place is awesome. What a great idea!”  

3.   More room to relax. Vacation homes average 2,000 square feet, while hotels average 400 square feet. ‘Nuff said!  

2.   Price!  When you split the cost of a vacation home rental between a group, you can greatly reduce your cost per person.  

1.   You can store a ton more beer in a full-size fridge than that tiny ice bucket from your hotel room. Colorado has more micro-brews per capita than anywhere else and it would be a sin to not enjoy the multitude of brands and styles.

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All Peak: The Back Story

All Peak: The Back Story

This is a story to give credit to those who play a big part in the creation of the All Peak brand.  Like the third grade teacher that got you to finally read or that coach that got you to try sports without making you hate it, there are people out there that deserve recognition.  

Pre 9/11 (Pre dot.com bust!):  I worked for a small start-up and made my rounds to my client offices in the Southwest. As I got to know one of my clients in the Tulsa office, Woody Lee, it became quickly apparent that he shared my passion for the outdoors.  

Woody wanted more of a physical challenge in his outdoor experience.  He adopted a Navy Seal workout regimen, learned the basics of rock climbing and wanted to see what all the fuss was about with hiking these Colorado Fourteeners.  I had spent time in the mountains but was unaware of this “club” of peak-baggers.  

My first Fourteener attempt was on Blanca Peak in the Sangre de Cristo range.  It was an epic failure (See “Packing For Your First Fourteener: Beenie Weenies Not Allowed” for that story). However, the trip gave me a taste for higher elevation. I was hooked.  

Democrat, Lincoln, Bross and Cameron were actually my first Fourteeners – all tackled in one very long day.  After that trip, with my brother Chris,  the All Peak concept was born.  I wanted a t-shirt to commemorate my effort. I settled for a summit photo and a laminated USGS quad map, courtesy of REI.  

The idea of a t-shirt to commemorate the peaks stuck with me long after the trip. I shared it with a couple of good college friends – Eric Emerson and Derek Neidig.   They liked the idea and quickly added their own skill-sets to the task: Create a brand that can represent the Fourteeners and other popular peaks. Put creativity and design first and serve the laid-back, casual market of climbers and hikers that the brand appeals to.  

Eric is the creative founder of the brand. His style and design come from years with the Fossil brand.  The flavor and imprint he leaves is part trucker-cool, part retro-hip.  His logo and initial designs (Collegiate collection, Little Bear, Long’s Peak, etc.) are the engines that kept the idea alive.  

Derek was our web guy who’s dabbling capacity for html allowed us to get online in a hurry and build our first shop.  His ideas for social engagement and creating a community were ahead of his day. We lacked the time or money to really push our ideas.  

That was 8 years ago. The site and the brand lingered as we all followed our own corporate career paths. A slave to my paycheck and demands on my time forced me to shut down the site. Now the concept is reborn. Finally, I’m able to expand our creative boundaries and do the things that the brand deserves: more designs, more lines, proper commerce and a community to share ideas and promote mountain hiking and climbing.  

In the spirit of the brand and its founding ideals, I wish you safe and happy hiking.  Climb higher my friends!

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Packing For Your First Fourteener: Beenie Weenies NOT Allowed.

Packing For Your First Fourteener: Beenie Weenies NOT Allowed.

A quick Google search will yield tons of information on preparing for your first Fourteener.  Expert retailers like REI or EMS will no doubt promote their best water-wicking, insulating, ultra-light, GPS-enabled, diode-emitting gear.  Do your homework, heed their advice, shop around and do NOT come ill prepared.  For that purpose, I’ll share my story and a list of essentials I hope you find useful.  

My first Colorado Fourteener was Blanca Peak in the Sangre de Cristo range.  I had no idea how brutal the mountain could be.  You see, I grew up in New England and did my share of hiking and camping.  What the hilly woods of New England couldn’t offer, I sought out by travelling to get my “nature fill”:  high desert, beaches, rafting trips, canoeing northern lakes, a week in the Montana Wind River Range, etc.  

What I didn’t realize is that I’ve never been this high up before. At 14,000 feet you have 1/3 less oxygen.  Also, these mountains are so massive that they command their own weather.  

That first trip was a disaster.  My hiking mate Kevin (a Houston-based flatlander) was experiencing the Fourteeners for the first time too.  Let’s just say, it was his first time in the mountains, let alone trying to bag a Fourteener.  We hadn’t made it half way to base camp when exhaustion crept over Kevin.  Happy to help in my delirious pre-dawn state, I offered to take Kevin’s pack.  It was heavy to say the least.  After about an hour of lugging his gear, I had to stop and question, “What in the world did you pack?”(Expletives omitted).  Among a laundry list of things NOT to pack, Kevin opted for canned goods reminiscent of his childhood, the chief culprit being a few cans of Beenie Weenies.  

Once I was on the mountain the next day, and a mere 500 feet from the summit, I got shellacked by the cold and damp wind.  We were running late and it was into the afternoon as clouds gathered around the summit and the risk of lightning strikes seemed imminent.  No gloves, no hat and a thin cotton-lined nylon jacket with a long-sleeve shirt were all that protected my core.  It wasn’t enough.  I was risking frostbite AND hypothermia.  I had to turn back.  

I’ve since returned to climb Blanca and some other mountains over the years.  Here are some tips I learned (the hard way) and essentials to pack:  

Tips: 

  • If the temperature will drop below freezing, sleep with your water bottle/bladder in your sleeping bag.  This will keep you from turning blue trying to suck frozen water when you are gassed.
  • If you are not going to have the time to properly acclimate to the altitude, take Ginko biloba.  It’s all-natural and will help expand the capillaries in your brain to move oxygen when you need it.  Begin taking 100 milligrams, twice a day, one week prior to your ascent, to get used to the effects.  Continue taking it while on the mountain with lots of water.  Headaches and altitude sickness are no fun after all that preparation and this herb is a best-kept secret.
  • Wrap some duct tape around your Nalgene / water bottle.  It can come in handy to keep a wound shut, patch a hole in your tent and a half a dozen other uses.
  • Practice the “rest step” when you are hiking steep slopes and struggling to breathe.  It may bring a slower pace, but when confronted with turning back or pacing yourself, the “rest step” can save your trip.
  • Buy “Mountaineering, The Freedom of the Hills”  and read it thoroughly. If you want to own the bible of tips and techniques for mountaineering, this is the guide for you.  From easy to technical, this book promises to be dog-eared over the years.
  • Use a timer to give yourself intervals to rest.  This keeps you from stopping too much and gives you short, reachable goals to achieve on the mountain.
  • Soak your legs (at least up over the knees) in a cold mountain stream when you are done hiking.  The cold water will immediately reduce the swelling on your muscles and joints and decrease the pain you’ll feel the next day.  This process goes better with a cold beer too!
  Essentials:
  • Boots:  In my mind the most important element to hiking.  Get a pair with some water proofing to survive stream crossings and ankle support.
  • Gaiters
  • Convertible pants:  With summer hikes, you will want the option of shorts in the afternoon.
  • Trekking poles:  Maybe not an essential but they will save at least 20% wear on your knees and provides extra support and balance.
  • Hat:  80% of heat loss is through the top of your noggin.  A good hat will help.
  • Sunglasses
  • Wicking layer shirt
  • Waterproof Jacket
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag:  Check the temperature and match your ratings.  If you don’t have a properly-rated bag, it may be a long sleepless night ahead for you. 
  • Smartphone:  It’s smart to have at least one member of your party with a phone in case of emergency.  Keep it off unless needed.  They are also lighter than cameras for taking that summit shot.
  • Water: A full hydration pack and spare bottle is important.  You can’t last long with out proper hydration.
  • Map
  • Compass: Yes, a compass!  You’d be surprised how many people get lost.  A map is useless if you can’t read it and don’t know which way is which.
  • Trail food:  Energy bars or GORP will give you the extra push to make it to the top.
  • Backpack
  • Sleeping mat
  • Flashlight: I prefer headlamp. Your call.
  • Toilet paper:  Keep in a Ziploc.
  • Matches / lighter: Also keep in a Ziploc bag.
  • Bug spray:  In most cases you won’t need it.  In the cases you DO need it, mosquitoes can be voracious and a little spray can keep you sane.
Keep in mind that these are just the essentials.  Obviously, there are loads of gear and apparel that will make your trip more enjoyable.  Let us know how you fared and remember, no Beenie Weenies!

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