Lone Tree resident Michael Knight recently accomplished a pretty sweet (and sweaty) feat.
On Sept. 12, Knight climbed his 59 14,000-foot peak — Maroon Peak near Aspen, one of the Maroon Bells.
That makes him among a small number of people …
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That makes him among a small number of people who've climbed all 59 peaks the U.S. Geological Survey lists at above 14,000 feet. It's a journey the 62-year-old businessman started three years ago.
“I just started by doing one with my children,” he said. “Then I did the Front Range ones and caught the bug. I joined a couple of Meetup groups, and met a whole bunch of good people.
“Most people I climb with are about one-third to half my age. I think they're somewhat amazed or maybe amused that I'm still doing it.”
In August, he climbed sister mountain North Maroon Peak, which he said was the toughest fourteener of all.
As a symbol of both the peaks and his hometown of Lone Tree, Knight brought with him on his Aug. 9 hike a sign from Lone Tree's Maroon Bells Chocolate Factory. He posed with it on top of North Maroon Peak.
The photo commemorated a hard-fought victory.
“No question about it; that one was the hardest,” he said. “They're known as the Deadly Bells.”
The Bells got that ominous nickname in 1965 when eight people died in five separate accidents there. A U.S. Forest Service sign at the trailhead warns climbers about unstable rock that kills without warning.
Knight, who owns a company called Prime Capital Connections, was planning to climb the Maroon Bells as he was driving down Park Meadows Drive in early August, where the chocolate factory is located.
“I passed a business called Maroon Bells Chocolate, turned around and went back,” he said.
Patti Shepard, who works at the Lone Tree business, happily provided him with a sign to take on his hike.
“We were just so thrilled; that's how we named the chocolate company, after that mountain,” she said, adding the beauty of the peaks inspired their decision.
Knight missed his first attempt to summit adjacent Maroon Peak on Aug. 10. Just 800 feet shy of the top, black clouds moved in and forced him down.
“It was an agonizing decision to turn back but not a hard one because I didn't want to be a lightning rod,” he said.
On Sept. 12, he went back and bagged his final fourteener. This time, the weather was crystal clear, and the mountains appeared to join Knight in celebration.
“All the aspens are turning and the mountains were ablaze with yellow and red,” he said. “Nature had on her party dress for sure.”
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