Fourth person ever to complete the feat
Crested Butte resident Frank Konsella became the fourth person ever to ski all 54 Colorado fourteeners when he successfully climbed and skied Mt. Harvard on May 17. Konsella follows in the ski tracks of ski pioneers Lou Dawson, Chris Davenport and Ted Mahon.
Konsella climbed all of the Colorado fourteneers while in high school and college, but the passion to ski all Colorado 14,000-foot peaks took hold in the spring of 2006.
“When we skied Pyramid, the second hardest one, we were thinking maybe we should ski them all,” says Konsella.
Konsella got a second boost toward his goal from his girlfriend, Brittany Walker, who lives in Boulder.
“She wanted to ski the fourteneers also,” says Konsella.
From then on Konsella and a laundry list of local friends proceeded to work their way around the state, checking off each 14,000-foot peak at a fast, but not furious, pace.
“I was just cranking them out as quick as I could but without being crazy about it,” says Konsella.
Konsella spends the majority of the winter months skiing on Crested Butte Mountain and in the surrounding backcountry, waiting for the springtime to start checking off the bigger peaks.
In the end, Konsella skied 43 of the 54 peaks during the spring months of March, April and May, eight in June, two in November and one peak in February.
“Hopefully when March and April rolls around you’re on your game,” says Konsella.
Several pitches he skied were above 50 degrees in steepness and he was met with a variety of snow conditions.
“I had everything from over the head powder on Missouri to frozen chicken heads elsewhere,” explains Konsella. “There’s really no condition you’re not going to find on a fourteener.”
Yet Konsella never found himself outside of his comfort zone while skiing. Instead, it was during the ascents that Konsella ran into some scary situations.
“On the ascents I was frequently freaked out,” says Konsella. “I’m clearly a better skier than a climber.”
Capitol Peak proved the most difficult, both on the way up and on the way down, and is considered the hardest peak to climb and ski of the fourteeners.
“It’s much steeper and much more exposed,” says Konsella. “It’s the only time we busted out a rope.”
Konsella found Sherman to be the easiest of the peaks and saw a fairly high success rate as far as skiing a peak on the day planned, with the exception of two mountains.
“I was doing so much preparation that I had a pretty high success rate,” says Konsella. “North Maroon took four tries though, and Capitol took four tries.”
While it’s obvious that the main difference between skiing the local peaks and Colorado fourteeners is that they are anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 feet higher, the approaches were often much longer and weather and snow conditions were still somewhat of a mystery.
“It’s just bigger than what we’re doing around here,” says Konsella. “A lot of them are far away so you don’t really know what you’re going to get. A storm could hit here and not where we’re going or not hit here and hit there. Also, fourteeners tend to take a lot longer—a lot of 12-hour days some 16- and 18-hour days.”
With that in mind, Konsella points out that skiing 14,000-foot peaks takes a bit more than what is involved in skiing our backyard, but starting here is a good first step.
“The main thing is if you’re going after that, you’ve skied all the peaks around here,” says Konsella. “There’s a lot of prep and your skill set needs to be pretty complete. Pick your partners carefully. A huge bonus of living in this town is lots of people are capable of it.”
The list of partners includes but is not limited to Brittany Wagner, Pete Sowar, Jordan White, Jeremy Wegner, Sean Crossen, Chris Webster, Scott Yost and John Jasper. He also credits Dawson, the first person to ski all Colorado fourteeners, for help with his goal.
“I talked to Lou frequently,” says Konsella.
Konsella can’t point to one peak in particular as standing out the most and adds that it’s not always about the skiing.
“They’re all unique in their own way and they’re all memorable,” says Konsella. “Sometimes it’s not the skiing or the climbing that’s memorable.”
He recalls Culebra more for the scenery and atmosphere surrounding the peak than the actual climb and ski.
“That’s the other stuff that’s cool,” says Konsella.
Now that he’s done, Konsella looks forward to skiing several of the fourteeners that his girlfriend has yet to ski and being free of any goals.
“Right now I’m totally psyched not to have any list at all,” says Konsella.