Q&A: Nancy Cohen and Jim Gehres
• How long did it take you to climb all 54 Fourteeners?
Jim: The first time, it took me four years. I’ve climbed all of them 12 times, most 13 and some 14 or 15. For awhile, I did all of them once every three years.
Nancy: 22 years. I started in 1982 — and then had two kids in between.
• What motivated you to take on this challenge?
Jim: I got in the habit of going every weekend during the summertime. It was a lot different then; there weren’t nearly as many people doing them. It’s very good exercise and there’s nice scenery. It’s always cool in the summertime and I wanted to escape the hot weather. A lot of my very best friends were doing that type of thing.
Nancy: I was doing some climbing with my husband, Jim Wason, and once I started, I really loved it. I loved going across the state because it’s nice to see different parts of Colorado, and it’s also a great way to stay in shape.
• Who accompanies you on these hiking trips?
Jim: Oftentimes, I did go alone. I was a member of The Colorado Mountain Club at a very early time and I made contacts through it. A lot of the people I met through CMC are CBA members. The more difficult climbs I try to avoid doing alone.
Nancy: My husband, and a group of friends, including Dave Conley, a lawyer in Colorado Springs, and his wife Cheryl.
• Do you have any favorite hikes?
Jim: As Fourteeners are concerned, I usually say Capitol Peak is my favorite. It’s difficult, but extremely scenic. It’s very steep and there’s a knife-edge ridge you have to scoot across; really, the worst is yet to come when you get to that ridge.
Nancy: Mount Sneffels down by Telluride was beautiful with flowers all over the mountain. I loved Mount Harvard in the collegiate range down by Buena Vista because my kids were seven and nine, and could climb it with us. And I really liked Longs Peak, but we had a major electrical storm when we climbed it.
• Any interesting stories?
Jim: I have had lots of happy, satisfying experiences, but one time I got knocked off my feet onto a very large rock and I was riding on top of it. I managed to roll off just before it went over the side. That was about the worst experience I’ve had. It was very scary.
Nancy: When I climbed Eolus we were on top and all of the sudden, literally within minutes, a storm came in and we got stuck in a hail and electric storm. We couldn’t stay there and had to get down, but we got off route. It was quite scary.
• What type of training do you do to prepare?
Jim: During the winter I went on long 100-mile bicycle rides on the weekends and walked several miles each day to work. There are also books on this subject. Even though guidebooks were very scarce back in those days, the few that existed had a few pointers in them.
• What advice can you give others?
Jim: The preparation and planning is very important. You can be too quick to turn back. There is always a temptation to turn back because of the arduous and tiring nature, but one needs to resist this reaction. Of course, though, there are times when you must turn back for safety reasons and you need to be willing when that happens. The rough rule of thumb is that the temperature drops five degrees for each 1,000 feet you go up. If you start at 10,000 feet, that’s a 20-degree drop, if things are good. I learned most of these lessons the hard way.
Nancy: Start with the easy ones and work your way up! I’d definitely recommend the two guidebooks to the Fourteeners, by Jerry Roach and Lou Dawson, to anyone interested in climbing. They have variations of the different routes. It depends on how much of a challenge you’re up for and if you want to do rock climbing on any of them.
• Will you do any of them again?
Jim: I got in an accident (not a climbing accident) in late 2004 and broke my hip, but now I’m working up to it.
Nancy: I want to finish doing the Fourteeners in the lower 48 states. Then someday I’d like to go hike Kilimanjaro in Africa.