A 100th Fourteener to Share
Clouds rolled in suddenly, rain and hail pelting his back as he continued higher. Six inches of snow fluttered down, painting the Barr Trail in white, uncommon for the late summer months.
Written by Bella Biondini
This storm, in July 1989, was an aberration Paul Kozlowski was prepared for. He continued on, adding layers to combat the dropping temperature, to reach the summit of his first 14er, Pikes Peak at 14,115 feet.
Kozlowski had joined the Colorado Mountain Club the previous year. He was sure to check his pack for the Ten Essentials and other proper hiking equipment, as he’d learned through the CMC, before departing for Pikes Peak.
It got very cold, so the recommendations from the CMC about carrying the proper gear were all correct, he said. He was thankful for the extra warm clothes and rain gear he carried in his pack.
“I’ll always remember that one because we brought all of the things we should've had with us and we needed everything,” Kozlowski said.
Kozlowski, now a CMC trip leader, would return to the mountain 31 years later amidst the coronavirus pandemic to scale the peak again for the 41st time.
He and his 11-year-old granddaughter Isabel grinned at the summit, although their smiles were invisible beneath their masks. They wore the masks for the entirety of their hike but Kozlowski said it didn’t put a damper on their day.
“The pictures from the summit look like we are on top of Mount Everest with the masks on,” Kozlowski said with a laugh.
The hike was his 100th total 14er summit, counting repeat ascents, and he said he was thrilled to share it with Isabel on her first.
Initially Kozlowski wasn’t concerned about reaching 100 summits, but he completed a few each summer and the peaks began to accumulate over the years. After checking his records, he saw he was close to 100 last year, and hoped to reach his benchmark during a climb of Mt. Sherman. Brutal 70 mph winds chased him and his group off the mountain, though, and he decided to turn the group around, without a summit.
This year he decided to finish what he started, asking his granddaughter to accompany him. It would be Isabel’s first peak climb. Although masked, the two would have no trouble reaching the summit. The weather was cool enough for hats and gloves, but there was no snow in sight.
Kozlowski, now 72 years old, said his family didn't want the virus to stop them from accomplishing their goals together.
He still continues his weekly hikes with friends he has met through the CMC. Kozlowski stressed the importance of safety.
“I've been doing all the same hikes I've done for years this summer,” he said. “This year is only a little different. We have the 13 essentials — social distancing, masks and hand sanitizer.”
Kozlowski has led numerous CMC members on their first 14er climbs over the years and never tires of the excitement they share when they reach the summit.
“I think I've managed to do 100 summits by concentrating on hiking safety. I always tell my groups this is not a marathon or a race. We are all here to get to the summit and to have a good time.”