Big Birthdays Deserve Big Mountains

Big Birthdays Deserve Big Mountains

October 01, 2016

Big Birthdays Deserve Big Mountains

by Ben Waymire

On September 3rd, 2016, I got a text from my step dad, Willy, that said simply: "For my birthday I want to climb a mountain." 

I think big birthdays deserve big mountains. So we busted out of Denver at 4 am sharp on the morning of September 10th, Willy’s 70th birthday. By lunchtime we were standing on top of Colorado feeling grateful to be alive and humbled by all those mountains.

The 14,443-foot mountain is named after Samuel Elbert, who was Colorado’s territorial governor for just a year (1873-1874), but he also served as a Colorado State Supreme Court Justice for 12 years. For much of the Elbert hike, you can also see the spectacular Mt. Massive (CO’s second highest peak), and I always wondered why we wouldn’t name our highest peak Mt. Massive instead of Mt. Elbert. I mean, right?

Apparently, I wasn’t alone in this sentiment, as a group of renegade hikers in the 1970s actually stacked rocks at the summit of Mt. Massive in order to raise the height of the mountain beyond Elbert. Over the years, however, the Elbert loyalists persistently dismantled the huge pile of rocks atop Massive until everyone gave up and accepted the fact that Elbert is Colorado’s true king.

I can tell you this much: false summits are evil.

Once we hit treeline, it looked like we could see our destination: the highest peak in Colorado! The second highest peak in the lower 48! We’re almost there, right? nope. Nope. NOPE.

You’re going to experience two false summits on the northeast trail hike. It’s a bit deflating when you think you’re “almost there,” and hikers on the way down tell you “yeah, you’re not almost there.” And I’d like to just state that this trail is no cake walk. Yes, compared to many other 14er hikes in CO, it’s easier. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Here is a description of the trail from Rocky Mountain Hiking Trails.  You can see the total elevation gain from trailhead to summit is 4,700 ft, making the hike “strenuous.” We agree!

It didn’t phase us though. We were in good spirits, had snacks and plenty of water. We took our time getting up the mountain and soaked up all the breathtaking scenery. We enjoyed our experiences talking to people from all over the country who come here seeking to conquer the highest peak in Colorado.

At the end of the day, I was tremendously proud of Willy’s accomplishment on his 70th birthday.

On September 10, 2016 he was a man among men, a shark among sheep, and an inspiration to every person on the trail who got to meet him. #70YearsYoung


Sue Workman

Sue Workman said:

What a great son and a great 70th birthday accomplishment!

Janet Carrell

Janet Carrell said:

Quite an accomplishment Willy. I am glad you and Ben got to do that.

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