This summer has been a wild one so far with all the wildfires, wacky rainstorms, and lack of water in the rivers of Colorado. Raft guides are wishing they had more raging waters, and firefighters have had their hands full for months now. Amongst the chaos, however, there is a local non-profit organization that is taking advantage of the warm days by hosting a competition that is literally raising the bar – to 14,000 feet and beyond. One World Lacrosse, founded by my good friend Kevin Gallegher, has competitors climbing 14ers in order to raise money for their organization. Kevin founded OWL in 2010 to bring the sport of lacrosse to impoverished communities around the world. By hosting fundraisers like OWL Climbs the Rockies, Kevin and his Co-founder, Joey Cowen, intend to unite these communities and help them learn a new sport at the same time.
OWL takes donations of lacrosse gear year-round to collect enough gear to bring to these countries and show the kids how to play the game. They also take monetary donations in order to fund their trips as well as buy the supplies and gear they need. The 14er competition utilizes the outdoor spirit of Colorado by turning a simple donation into a competition that gets people out of their houses and on top of the world. A small donation of $20 gets one person a spot on a team in the competition. Teams can have up to five members, and for each 14er that each member climbs, that team gets a point. A prize package is awarded to the team with the most summits in the month of July. By simply signing up, each team member receives a free pair of socks and a hat from Adrenaline Lacrosse, which is one of the sponsors of the competition.
My team, pictured at the top, is called the Sunshine Sherpas. As of right now, we are winning the competition with a total of 14 summits and 199,030 feet in total elevation. Climbing a 14,000 foot mountain is no easy task, so as you can see I put together one of the most rugged, ruthless band of mountain men and women I could find. Challenges lie in the brisk morning, where hikes begin before sunrise in order to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. Altitude sickness can settle in at these elevations, and joints may even swell from lack of oxygen. Some of these monstrous peaks can only be overcome by using rock climbing gear, and plenty of water is necessary.
Above all (no pun intended), the hikes are extremely worth the challenge. Viewing the landscape from the highest points in Colorado means no obstructions in any direction, allowing for 360 degree views of the magnificent Rocky Mountains. One feels a certain sense of wonder and accomplishment by uniting with others to conquer these beasts. It humbles the soul and reveals how small we truly are in the grandeur of nature’s serene presence. There are many things I feel that are unexplainable, and when it comes to nature I think there is a mystery that will always baffle the human mind. She can be ruthless, but to see mother nature in these raw conditions shatters any doubt one may have in her power. My fellow teammates can attest to the fact that no matter how hard the hike may be, or what conditions the trail may hold, we have all formed a bond with our surroundings and each other that truly exemplifies what nature is – a unity of mind, body and spirit that makes our existence feel exactly as it should be and ultimately drowns out the rest of the world to leave us with a smile on our faces and a divine feeling that can only be described as pure bliss.
Louie Garramone is an outdoor enthusiast currently living in (and exploring) Golden, Colorado. He enjoys taking his dog, Denali, on preposterous journeys through nature. His massive rock collection sits proudly on the mantle above his fire, where he puts on his reading glasses at night and smokes his tobacco pipe, the creak of the wood floor evident under the rocking chair. Here he reads Thoreau and contemplates society in native times. Follow his Natural Highs with 303, or check out his blog on WordPress.