Chris Davenport becomes first to ski all 54 of Colorado’s 14ers in one year
Chris Davenport has finally reached the top. Friday, some 362 days after his mission to climb and ski all 54 of the state’s fourteeners began with a descent of Mount Lincoln’s Putnam Gulch, Davenport triumphantly stood on top of Longs Peak.
Fittingly, Davenport, alongside Aspenites Neal Beidleman and Nick Devore, descended a line named Home Stretch and into history. Davenport becomes just the second man to accomplish the feat, joining Carbondale’s Lou Dawson, and the first to complete it in one year.
“Man, you couldn’t have scripted it any better for drama,” Davenport said Friday night. “I got it. I’m done. It was as perfect a day as I’ve ever had on a fourteener.”
Wind gusts in excess of 70 mph coupled with temperatures that dipped to 20 below zero Wednesday forced Davenport and others to turn back 1,655 feet from the summit. Friday, Mother Nature obliged.
“There was a higher power at work. The mountain gods and Longs Peak opened their arms to us today,” Davenport said. “It was very special.”
Davenport left Aspen on Thursday afternoon and met Devore, who had driven nine hours from Salt Lake City to Boulder; he arrived at 12:30 a.m. Friday. The group began skinning up Longs at 6:30 a.m. under clear skies. By 1 p.m., they were basking under clear skies and 30-degree temperatures on the summit.
The weight of the moment did not hit Davenport, however, until he completed the descent.
“There were mixed emotions on the summit,” he said. “I knew being there was half the battle. I wanted to be reserved and humble. It wasn’t until I skied out the bottom that all of sudden I felt a flood of emotion and excitement.”
Dawson remembers the feeling. He began his assault on Colorado’s highest peaks in 1978 on Castle Peak and completed it in 1991 following a 16-mile, 16-hour ascent and descent of Kit Carson Peak.
“There was elation and joy. I remember standing on top of Kit Carson and taking some time to feel the emotions of what its like to finish such a big goal,” Dawson said Wednesday. “There were equal measures of elation and relief. It was similar to any big life-defining, powerful experience.”
After calling his wife and family, Davenport called Dawson to share the good news late Friday evening.
“He said he had been waiting by the phone,” Davenport said. “He was one of the first people I wanted to call after my wife to thank and vent some of that emotion. It was incredible. He’s been an incredible mentor and inspiration for me. I only hope I can have the same affect on people like he has had on people like me.”
Close to 1,000 people registered on the project’s website, http://www.skithe14ers.com, to receive trip reports and updates. Countless more logged on to track Davenport’s progress. Among them was Dawson, who said he “tracked what Chris was doing like a fanatic football fan.” Davenport planned on stopping Friday at Copper Mountain to accept the Skiing Magazine Slayin’ It award for ski mountaineer of the year. The awards are running in conjunction with this week’s U.S. Freeskiing Open.
When he does make it back to the valley, Davenport said he’s looking forward to posting his Longs Peak trip report online.
“I have to thank all those people that came before, from Dawson to Jason Ivanic to a lot of skiers out there,” Davenport said. “They are all incredible ,and they all motivated me. While this was a personal goal, and it’s extremely rewarding and fulfilling and spiritual, this is all about sharing with friends.”
Aspen’s Ted Mahon was with Davenport during Wednesday’s failed attempt on Longs. He waited anxiously for word of the group’s progress Friday. He received a text message from Beidleman shortly before 2 p.m.
“It would’ve been a fun moment to be a part of,” Mahon said. “It was kind of cool to be part of the team, even if I only had a day here or there with Chris. He raised the bar for everyone. He somehow managed to keep pulling it off.”
It was far from easy. A lack of snow delayed the project for three weeks at the beginning of 2006, a trend that persisted for much of the winter and spring in certain areas of the state. Near misses abounded. All told, Davenport logged nearly 33,000 miles crisscrossing the state in his truck.
Friday’s success was well worth the tribulations. And while he admitted he was exhausted, Davenport said the project has given him a renewed appreciation and ardor for the mountains.
“The funny thing is, after skiing 54 peaks in a year and dedicating my life to it, I’m more inspired and passionate about the mountains than I ever was before,” he said. “I don’t think it will completely sink in until I wake up tomorrow.”
For now, Dawson, who joined Davenport on Ellingwood Point on May 1, hopes those people that who their concerns about the pro skier’s motives are silenced.
“Chris made it clear he had some goals, and by the same token he wasn’t out there chest-beating or saying he was the only guy to have done this or the other,” Dawson said. “He managed to nail all those peaks in fantastically grand style, and his willingness to share has been wonderful. I have a huge amount of respect for Chris and anyone who gets out there.”
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Max Weintraub has been senior curator at the Aspen Art Museum since January 2019.