This past Friday’s annual Colorado Fourteeners Initiative (CFI) fundraiser “Festival of the Peaks” was a raging success. Held at the American Mountaineering Center in Golden, Colorado, the event included a silent auction with an amazing amount of merchandise, a Mexican food dinner, and a full house for Chris “Dav” Davenport’s “Ski the Fourteeners in 12 Months” slideshow presentation.
I can’t get enough of seeing Davenport’s amazing lines on my favorite peaks, and his show did not disappoint. He formats his talk by hitting on the highlights of the 54 descents he dropped last year, as well as getting into his own background and ending with a glimpse of where he’s headed as a pro skier.
But for me one of the best parts of the evening went over to the personal realm, because early fourteener skiing pioneers Howie and Mike Fitz showed up.
|That’s Howie Fitz on the left, then myself and Chris Davenport, and Mike Fitz on the right. I introduced Chris at the event, hence the “Denver formal” garb.|
As Dav would be the first one to acknowledge, one of the best things about 14er skiing is we have history. Over the past three decades a small and devoted group of individuals created the activity as a branch of ski alpinism. The late Fritz Stammberger kicked it off in 1971 with his first descent of North Maroon Peak, and in the following years it was slowly ramped up by about a dozen people, myself included. Before I came along, the guys who hit it hardest were a trio of ski alpinists from the Denver area, brothers Howie and Mike Fitz and their friend Bob Pfeiffer. From 1978 to 1986 the trio skied 45 fourteeners, making a number of first descents along the way and truly breaking new ground as there were no guidebooks for skiing or even snowclimbing the Colorado peaks, and the quantity of previous descents had been spotty at best.
The Fitz brothers and Bob Pfeiffer had a pact about doing all the peaks together, which stalled their quest when Howie’s knees gave out. When the trio found out about my project they were incredibly supportive, giving me use of numerous photos for my guidebooks as well as copies of their journals and reconnaissance images. In doing this, they established a tradition of fourteener skiers being open and supportive of each other. I’ve tried to continue that tradition in dealing with our newer generation, and it’s been an incredibly positive experience to see ski alpinists such as Sean Crossen and Chris Davenport take it to yet another level — all the while giving a nod to those who came before.
Indeed, it is history and tradition that make mountaineering a rewarding lifelong pursuit. Nice to see that continue.
Davenport also spoke about his movie project, and mentioned his intention to possibly partner with a non-profit and ramp up the flick’s “wilderness values” component so it can get a retroactive permit from the Forest Service. Word is there were a few USFS officials in the audience, and they came away with a positive impression. It probably helped when Chris mentioned his familiarity with Leave no Trace principles, and his slides backed that up as there was no hype about conquering the landscape, his groups were all small, and he made it clear that traveling on snow during the 14ers off-season is about as low impact as you can get.
In all, good to see CFI and Davenport working together to preserve the peaks!