Davenport longs for summit | AspenTimes.com

Davenport longs for summit

Jon Maletz

Aspen, CO ColoradoROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK Chris Davenport’s celebration will have to wait until Friday, at least.Gusts in excess of 70 mph coupled with temperatures that dipped to 20 below zero Wednesday on 14,255-foot Longs Peak forced Davenport and four others to turn back at 12,600 feet. Longs is the lone mountain remaining in Davenport’s quest to climb and ski all 54 Colorado fourteeners in 12 months “Mother Nature made the decision for me,” Davenport said Wednesday while driving back to Aspen. “It was blowing like crazy, and the north face was pretty much unclimbable. We were getting blown over on flat ground with our skis on.”We knew Longs Peak wasn’t easy, but she gave us everything she had.”Davenport could tell early Wednesday morning that winds would be stronger than Monday, when he and photographer Christian Pondella tackled Blanca Peak in frigid conditions.The temperature was 8 degrees Wednesday when Davenport, Pondella, Ted Mahon, Neal Beidleman and John Hagman began. They were five and a half hours into their ascent when the wind became unbearable. Although his face was completely covered, Davenport said frostbite spots formed on his skin. Beidleman estimated gusts at the summit approached 100 mph.The decision to turn around was unanimous.”We got annihilated on Longs,” he said. “There’s really nothing you can do when it’s blowing that hard. It was downright dangerous and scary. We decided to make a decision for the safety of the whole team, and to save the skin on my face.”This is not the first time adverse conditions have forced Davenport to abandon a peak. He turned back on Mount Sherman late last January because of blizzardlike conditions and temperatures near 30 below. He made four attempts on Mount Princeton and turned around three times because of a lack of snow before completing it Dec. 22. Davenport said he’ll make his next attempt on Longs on Friday. The National Weather Service is forecasting sunny skies, temperatures in the low 20s and winds of 20-25 mph.Davenport has until Monday to complete the project within 12 months. Davenport would join Carbondale’s Lou Dawson as the only two men ever to climb and ski all 54 fourteeners.”I’m a little bummed out because I had one to go and I was pretty excited this morning,” Davenport said. “At the same time this has been the story of this project. If fourteeners were easy to ski, tons of people would’ve skied them all. You never know what you’re going to get. If nothing else, I tried my best. We made a smart decision to turn around.”We need to sort out who’s going to go up with me Friday and take a beating.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com

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