Record Broken for Climbing All 59 Colorado 14ers in One Winter Season

Gregg Frantz | ClimbingClimbing
Photo Credit: Christopher Fisher

In a season of record-setting snow accumulations throughout the western part of the United States, Christopher Fisher set his own record. He became the fastest person to climb all 59 Colorado 14ers (fourteeners) in one winter season. Fisher, who is no stranger to raising the bar, also broke the record for the most vertical feet climbed in one month, at the time, with 400,000 in October of 2021.

Colorado is the state in the U.S. with the most mountains (59) whose summits exceed 14,000 feet. The 14ers are scattered throughout Colorado and are primarily located in the central to the southwestern part of the state, with Mount Elbert being the highest at 14,439 feet and Mount Princeton being the lowest at 14,196 feet.

Fisher, a Breckenridge Colorado native, started thinking about climbing the 59 14ers 18 months ago while driving his car listening to a podcast of Andrew Hamilton. “Hamilton is a legend when it comes to climbing the 14ers,” Fisher told SnowBrains over the phone. Before Fisher broke it this winter, Hamilton held the previous fastest record for climbing all 59 14ers. Fisher listened to the podcast and how Hamilton balanced his schedule to climb all 59 14ers in 84 days while juggling being a family man. Hamilton would take one week to be with his family and one week to hit the mountains and conquer as many peaks in that one week as he could. Fisher, who had a foot injury and was waiting to see if it was broken at the time, said, “If Andrew could do that juggling his family life and I don’t have any kids at all, then if my foot was not broken then I was going to go for it.”

Setting an objective to climb all 59 14ers in one winter season is no easy task, and there were a lot of preparations required to be successful and people that helped Fisher along his journey. Fisher said that being mentally prepared, mentally tough, and not wanting to give up or give in was one of the characteristics needed to accomplish this. Earlier in his life, while serving in the U.S. Navy, Fisher went through BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) training, a 24-week training course. During “hell week,” which occurs during the fourth week of the course, Fisher dropped out of BUD/S, a decision he still remembers and motivates him to this today. “I didn’t want to quit ‘hell week,’ and I knew it would take all my effort, and I had to be mentally tough if I wanted to climb all 59 14ers in one season”, said Fisher.

Preparing to have the correct gear for climbing above 14,000 feet is a huge priority, and correctly selecting which equipment was essential and which was not could mean the difference between success and failure. Fisher said that he utilized many pieces of equipment throughout his journey of reaching all the peaks of the 59 mountains. I asked him what gear he planned on having when he went out each day and climbed, “skins, ski boots, snow shoes, goggles, sunglasses, crampons, outerwear,” Fisher answered. “Anything lightweight,” he added when I asked him if there was anything he would recommend for beginner climbers.

One person that Fisher mentioned that helped him accomplish setting the record was his girlfriend, Erin Ton, who initially began the trip with him, but unfortunately had to drop out due to the frostbite she sustained in one of her fingers later in the project. “She started the trip with me, and we went 17 days and hit 26 peaks until she got frostbite, and then she became my biggest supporter”, said Fisher. Ton would still accompany Fisher along the remainder of the trip and join him in climbing some mountains to a safe elevation before leaving Fisher for the rest of the ascent.

Photo Credit: Christopher Fisher

I asked Fisher what it meant to accomplish the record of climbing all 59 14ers in one winter season, and his response was that of looking to the future and not the past. Fisher said that throughout his journey, he learned to sharpen his skills, maneuver in the mountains better, understand the mountains better, and became a better backcountry skier. He also mentioned all the people he had met along the way throughout the process, how they had become friends, and how important that was to him. He hoped it would open new doors for future projects for him moving forward.

A project that took 72 days, 12 hours, and 10 minutes to accomplish must have created some great memories for Fisher, and he had one in particular that came on his final mountain of the journey. That memory was created while ascending Mount Pyramid (14,025 feet) with three other climbers when a feeling of uncertainty started to creep into his mind. Throughout most of the project, things went reasonably well, but Fisher admitted that if anything terrible were going to happen, it would happen on the last mountain he had to climb on the trip. The reality set in when the group of four were about 13,500 feet up the mountain and had a choice of two chutes to decide from that were both dangerous due to the chance of slides and avalanches. Two of the four in the group decided to turn around and go back down the mountain, while Fisher and Andrew Hamilton agreed to push forward and find another way up to the summit. They found a sneak chute and started ascending again when Fisher began to feel a little nervous traversing the treacherous terrain. Fisher said, “Andrew was there, and he helped me navigate through something that I have never climbed before,” which gave him confidence as the two remaining climbers continued up to the summit. Reaching the peak of the last mountain was “the most memorable moment I had,” said Fisher as he stressed that reaching the summit safely was also paramount.

Another memory Fisher remembered that could have delayed the record-breaking achievement happened off the mountains while grabbing some food at a restaurant. Fisher and his girlfriend traveled from one destination to another and decided to stop and grab food while in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Fisher told me that he had some trash in his pocket, and when he got out of his car at the restaurant, he threw the garbage in a can and unknowingly threw his keys to his car in the garbage can. After eating and returning to his car, he realized he had lost his keys and did not know where they were. Both he and his girlfriend were in the middle of nowhere with no automotive help assistance around. It was not until the following day that Fisher remembered throwing some trash in the garbage can. However, that garbage had already been emptied and put into a dumpster outside the restaurant by then. It became clear to Fisher that he had to go “dumpster diving” if he wanted to continue on his quest to beat the record for climbing the 59 14ers the fastest, and that is precisely what he did, said Fisher with a laugh.

Throughout the experience, Fisher must have learned something or would have done something differently if he had to do it all over again, and I asked him that exact question. He said, “I would not have snowshoed the first half of the mountain peaks of the 25 or 26 mountains I first climbed,” and “I would have just carried my skis on my pack instead.”  Fisher admitted it probably would have saved him only a few hours, but when climbing 59 mountains in 72 days, the energy and calories used add up quickly.

Photo Credit: Christopher Fisher

I also asked Fisher, “Is there anything I didn’t ask you, or is there something I should know about your record-breaking achievement that I haven’t asked yet?”  He was swift to respond and praised and thanked Andrew Hamilton for joining him on some of his climbs throughout the project. Fisher said, “Hamilton shared some climbs and some peaks to help me break his record” and “was there for me on some first-time technical climbs.” Fisher appreciated Hamilton and said, “he (Hamilton) was there on peak 52, 55, 56, and some were 21-hour days where we were on ridge lines utilizing ropes”. You could hear in his voice that there was no doubt that Fisher was very appreciative and thankful for having Hamilton by his side on some of his climbs.

One of my final questions during the interview I asked Fisher was which mountain would be your dream mountain to climb. He answered, “no, I want to climb them all.”  He stated that he was so new to climbing and had only been doing it for three and a half years that he still had a lot to learn and accomplish. He did say he might also try to break the record for the summer 59 14ers record and try some other mountain events later this year.

Whatever records, challenges, or mountains await Fisher in the future, his ability to ground himself and stay focused on the fundamentals while still sharpening his skills and knowledge should prove for him to succeed in whatever he decides to do.   

Photo Credit: Christopher Fisher

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