There are 55 mountains in Colorado that tower beyond 14,000 vertical feet. In between these peaks is 1,655 miles of road. To climb all 55 of these monstrous mountains involves over 400 miles worth of hiking. The task of climbing even one of these fourteeners is a goal for many people living in Colorado, but three recent CSU graduates are attempting a feat that almost too astonishing to believe. Austin Johnson, Morris Hogan and Kyle Lusk are taking 100 days to cycle to each fourteener in Colorado, and then to hike to the summit of each peak, before cycling onto the next.
These young adventurers have created a non-profit organization called PedALLTHEPEAKS, aimed at not only biking to and climbing all the fourteeners in Colorado, but also with the goal of picking up trash and restoring trails along the way.
It would come as no surprise to most people that these three were raised in the heart of the Rocky Mountains – only a Colorado native would be crazy enough to do what they are setting out to accomplish. Austin was raised in Basalt, while Morris and Kyle were raised in Aspen.
Growing up, the guys had the mountains literally in their backyards, and although they spent most of their weekends biking, hiking, skiing, or snowboarding, they didn’t really appreciate the proximity until they left home.
“We were spoiled when we were growing up,” said Austin. “After we left we realized what we missed.”
The inspiration for PedALLTHEPEAKS came from a film they saw at Banff Mountain Film Festival about some men in Cali who did a similar thing.
“We were wondering why no one had done it in Colorado,” said Morris. “We read up about it on the internet and thought – well, why don’t we be the first ones to actually do it in this short amount of time and document it. We grew up here, this is our state.”
An adventure like this takes a ton of planning, but the idea came to them only three months ago. In this short amount of time the guys have not only gotten three sponsors including, Big Agnes (an outdoor gear company based out of Steamboat), Brave New Wheel (a bike company who is providing the guys with sturdy bikes for the journey), and Justin’s Peanut Butter (self-explanatory!). Not to mention making pedALLTHEPEAKS an official non-profit organization.
“We wanted to give back to the state, so we incorporated the charity aspect, helping to clean up the trails and minimize people’s impact,” said Austin. “We didn’t have much time and we figured that becoming a non-profit would not only open up a lot of doors for us in terms of sponsors, but it would give us a legitimate label.”
“As populations start to increase in Colorado there are more and more people attracted to the outdoors,” said Morris. “There are people from the city who go up there and they are just kind of negligent. They don’t really think about littering. They think it’s someone else’s problem, but the trash isn’t going anywhere.”
The guys aren’t the only ones who have made it their mission to preserve the trails, the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative and many others, have similar goals. Any donations made to pedALLTHEPEAKS, which aren’t being used on supplies for the journey, will be donated to these other organizations.
Physically the guys have been training hard for this adventure.
“We did a 40 mile, 4,000-elevation-gain mountain bike ride yesterday,” said Morris. “Which is like a six hour ride. Tomorrow we are going to bike and then hike up to Grey Rock, another long ride. It is really all about endurance.”
There are long legs in the trip including moving from the Elk Mountains to the San Juan mountain range, which is almost 200 miles of mountains. But they boys think they can handle it.
“It’s going to be important to know our limits and take rest days before we reach the point of exhaustion,” Morris said. “We gave ourselves some leniency in terms of time, we think 100 days is about accurate. We could push ourselves and finish it earlier but we are trying to enjoy ourselves at the same time.”
The boys have a few rules about the journey including following ‘no-trace’ ethics and staying in their tent each night if possible.
“We can stop at friend’s houses along the way to cook and take showers, but we plan on staying in our tent each night,” said Austin, who is particularly excited to spend 100 nights in the great outdoors. Of course, unforeseen circumstances may arise which could make this impossible, but they are committed to being outside as much as they can.
When asked what they were most nervous about, the guys had mixed responses. Austin is nervous about all the biking, Morris is worried about the first couple weeks before they get into the flow of trip and Kyle is worried about The Maroon Bells – two peaks in the Elk mountains, with the ominous nickname “The Deadly Bells.”
“The rock formations are made out of limestone and it’s just really crumbly. They probably scare me the most, but it’s part of it!” Kyle explains.
Besides nerves though there is a lot of excitement. “Being able to camp every night and have nothing else to worry about except the trip, that’s fun for us,” said Austin.
This mission is also intended to be an inspirational thing. “We want to show people what’s possible and show people how much fun you can have out in nature,” said Austin. There is more to life than just sitting on the couch and watching TV. It’s about enjoying nature, and at the same time preserving it for the future generations.”
“We want to show people that making a non-profit and doing this type of thing is possible. If people have an idea, they should go for it,” Kyle adds.
“Push the limits,” says Morris.
“Push the limits, push yourselves,” says Kyle. “Grab a group of friends and just go out and do something fun.”