Experience Life Magazine

Christy Mahon’s Big Adventure

On May 16, 2010, Colorado native Christy Mahon became the first woman and the seventh person ever to ski all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot mountains, affectionately known as the “Colorado 14ers.” Because she kept her mission under the radar, her victory came as a surprise to many. Not to her husband, Ted Mahon, though, a mountaineer and ski instructor who accompanied her on every climb and descent.

EL | When and how did climbing all these huge mountains become a goal?

CM | I finished hiking all the 14ers in Colorado in 2004. Ted had also hiked them all and was on a mission to ski them. By the time he finished in 2008 (he was the third person ever to do so), I had already skied over 30 peaks with him. At this point, I thought I might as well try to ski all 54 of them myself. And that is when skiing the 14ers became my own project.

EL |  Did you have to follow certain criteria to make your accomplishment official?

CM | Skiing the 14ers does come with certain guidelines and ethics. The most universal guideline in the sport is that you have to ski down from the summit. A few of the harder peaks involved down-climbing rocks or a ski repel. But for the most part, you need to have your skis on for the entire descent.

It’s also important to document the project with photos, dates and route descriptions. I am lucky to have Ted as a partner because he is an excellent photographer and taught me to track this information early on. We also have a great Web site, www.stuckintherockies.com, in which we could share this information easily with others.

EL  | The last mountain you climbed — the 54th — put up some resistance.

CM | It sure did. Capitol Peak ended up being my last ski descent and was both mentally and physically challenging for me. Capitol Peak is a notoriously tough mountain so I tried not to leave it for last, but that didn’t really work out. I had two failed attempts on the peak, one due to snow conditions and the other due to being really sick. Skiing Capitol is really involved, not just because of the steepness and exposure, but also because the approach is long and tedious. We had to start at the trailhead at 12 a.m. and ski for almost seven hours before even getting a look at the actual ski line. It is a big day and takes a lot out of you.

EL | Did you ever doubt yourself? Did you ever question your goal?

CM | I did, especially surrounding my failed attempts on Capitol. That was a real test of will and self-confidence. But in the end it strengthened my devotion to completing the project. Around this time I questioned whether or not I should be attempting a route with such big consequences. I worried for myself as well as my partners. I was concerned about putting myself in a position that was beyond my ability. But I proved to myself that I was an experienced enough skier and mountaineer to pull it off, and that was an awesome feeling.

EL | Did exploring the edge of your own abilities change your perception about what’s possible for you?

CM | I didn’t necessarily have low self-confidence before —­ but skiing all the 14ers definitely strengthened my confidence. Like with any goal that you achieve, it motivates you and pushes you to do things that you might not have believed you could do. I am not a particularly gifted athlete. I just try very hard. I work hard and put in the time it takes to achieve my goals. Becoming the first woman to ski all of Colorado’s 14ers taught me that you can do anything and become anyone you want to if you just put your mind to it. This has also made an impact in my career and relationships. It has been an incredible journey.

EL | What do you enjoy about skiing with your husband?

CM | I like that when you work through hard times and intense situations together, it creates an intense bond. You come out of things stronger and with a real sense of trust. That’s probably one of the reasons our relationship is so strong. In this day and age, where work can come home with you so easily, I think it’s good to just draw the line and go out and have an adventure. It doesn’t even have to be in the mountains or woods. It could be in the city — going to museums together, exploring new neighborhoods, just being able to separate yourself from your average daily life.

EL | You’ve managed to do all this while holding down a full-time job [as development director of the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies]. Do you have time for anything else?

CM | I have a community garden. It’s been a goal of mine this summer to be eating as much as I can out of the garden. I play tennis. I sew clothes. I cross-country ski during the winter. I’m also a pretty big trail runner, so I have some ultra-marathons this summer. I’ve got a 50-mile race next weekend. There’s never a dull moment around here.

EL | So what’s next? 

CM | More of the same, really. Last fall I finished hiking the highest 100 peaks in the state and I’ve got a long list of peaks I would like to ski and hike in the future. These types of projects take you to places you want to come back to, and open your eyes to all sorts of possibilities. The list just keeps getting longer, not shorter. I would love to attempt a few traverses through some of the Colorado mountain ranges, and there are some big peaks around the world I would like to climb and ski. Skiing in Norway, climbing in Bolivia, exploring more peaks in Nepal. It’s all on the list.

Related Content

Oct11_V_CMahon3.jpg

Behind the Scenes With Christy Mahon (Video)

Skier and mountaineer Christy Mahon, the subject our October cover, talks about conquering all…continued

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

City and state are only displayed in our print magazine if your comment is chosen for publication.

Experience Life welcomes your comments and suggestions. We simply ask that they be on topic and respectful of the conversation. Here's our full comment policy.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>