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First woman to climb, ski all of Colorado’s 14ers visits Vail

Caramie Schnellcschnell@vaildaily.comVAIL CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily/Ted Mahon
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Christy Mahon will try and tell you that she’s not a super talented athlete. Then how in the world did she become the first woman (and seventh person overall) to climb and ski all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks in 2010?”The truth is, I’m pretty average but I just try really hard,” she said. “I’m a hard worker and I am proof that anyone can do anything once you put your mind to it.”Mahon will speak at The Sebastian in Vail Friday about the project. The event is a benefit for the The Youth Foundation. Mahon’s ski mountaineering goal began in 2004 when she had finishing hiking all the 14ers. Her husband, Ted Mahon, who had also hiked them was well on his way to skiing all 54. By the time he finished in 2008 (becoming the third person ever to do so), she had already skied more than 30 peaks alongside him. And that’s when skiing the peaks became a project of her own.”Even then I didn’t let myself think too much about it,” she said. “At that point I had skied 33 14ers and had 21 left. I began to think it was maybe possible, however, I had some really tough peaks left to ski and I wasn’t comfortable talking about being the first woman until I could prove that I was capable.”In all the project took about six years to complete, not bad considering she has a full-time job and the weather is finicky here in the Rockies. “Not only did you need all the conditions to be right, but they needed to be right on a Saturday or Sunday,” she said. “Mountains aren’t always that cooperative.”

Mahon cites the day she climbed and skiied both El Diente and Mt. Wilson, outside of Telluride, as her hardest summit, physically speaking. Because the two mountains are so close to one another, it makes sense to do them in the same day, but that’s a serious undertaking.”The approach is long, there was nearly two feet of new snow to trudge through, we had weather, and these are two of the more serious 14ers,” Mahon said. “We had woken up at 3:30 a.m. and it was 9:30 p.m. on Cinco de Mayo when we got back to the trailhead. We had a four-hour drive back to Aspen ahead of us, so I could make it to work the next morning, and all I wanted was to be drinking margaritas with all our friends back in town.From a mental standpoint, Capitol Peak was her most difficult summit. “Capitol took a considerable amount of focus and determination, not to mention three tries,” she said. But in the end, the third time was the charm. She summited the peak, her final 14er, May 16, 2010, but she didn’t start celebrating until she was 1,000 feet down the mountain, and past the really serious stuff. “It was a really amazing feeling, but slow to sink in because, even at that point, we had 4 to 5 hours of skiing before we would make it back to the car,” she said. “I remember my mind being flooded with memories of past ski trips, ski partners, funny and tough moments, almost like a filmstrip going through my head.’Friday’s event is a fundraiser for The Youth Foundation’s Girl PowHER program. “I think we should all be asking ourselves why more girls aren’t out there doing adventures or gaining the same outdoor experiences as boys,” she said. “I think we could be providing more opportunities for young girls to get out there and have fun while gaining experience and confidence they need. There is an amazing example of that kind of program here in the Vail Valley with The Youth Foundation called Girl PowHER. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know more about what they are doing and it’s already getting me more excited to help out.”High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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