Visiting Colorado: Touring Big City Mountaineers Headquarters and Meeting New Friends

When I started thinking about how to sum up my long weekend in Colorado, the summary split itself into two parts - the people and the outdoors. I was able to meet and spend time with some amazing folks, all of whom deserve their own post. And my experiences on the trails deserves its own post too, with plenty of room for reflecting on what I learned. So, here's Part I in the two part series about how Colorado stole my heart.

Standing in the doorway to BCM HQ. Photo by Alec Campbell.

Big City Mountaineers HQ

My first stop in Colorado was a place I'd been dreaming about visiting since I signed up to climb Mount Rainier - Big City Mountaineers Headquarters. Friend Alec and I arrived just in time to see a group of enthusiastic young men filling their Jansport backpacks with gear while their guides and mentors looked on. We watched from the doorway of the nearby gear shed, which was full of fun stuff from Keen, Mountain Hardwear, Merrell, and many other sponsoring companies. The basement of the beautiful little house near City Park was as full of gear and clothes, all meticulously sorted, like a little haven for the stuff (gear) dreams are made of.

Being able to see where the BCM magic happens was inspiring. The organization itself was founded by and is staffed by such passionate, friendly people, especially Brendan Leonard, Hillary Harding, and Elizabeth Williams. The enthusiasm in the office was almost tangible. Photos of past trips, maps, bookshelves full of guides, and BCM flags dotted the walls, all a testament to what BCM can do and has done for under resourced kids.

As a Summit for Someone climber, there couldn't have been a better way to truly connect with what I've been fund raising for than to meet the people who really make everything happen at their home base. I really began to feel as though the Rainier climb I'm doing in August means something. It's more than just me getting to the top and testing my own limits, it's about others having the chance to test theirs. And I knew all of this, there was just something special about seeing it all happen in front of me. Something really special. It was the perfect start to my Colorado adventure. A big thanks to Brendan and Elizabeth for the tour and the chat!

Meeting "New" Friends

As it turns out, a lot of really awesome people live in and around Boulder. Big surprise, right? The best part - a bunch of 'em are on Twitter, and we've all been "talking" for months. Any time I have a chance to get face time with people I've "met" on twitter, I have to take it. These friends write blogs, run businesses, go on amazing adventures, kick ass and take names on a daily basis. I couldn't wait.

We all met for dinner and beer Boulder-style at Southern Sun thanks to Amy's suggestion. And by "we all," I mean Amy, Bracken, Tali, Ben, Erika, and Josh. I spent the night with a giant smile on my face and feeling as though I was being reunited with a group of my best friends I never get to see. It never ceases to amaze me how a group of people who've met on the interwebz, essentially strangers before twitter, are able to converse and meld together so easily.

The food was pretty darn good too. I've been told I absolutely have to go back and try the tempeh reuben, which I'll add to my mile-long list of reasons to return.

New friends! From left, around the table: Josh, Sarah, Tali, Erika, me, Amy, Alec.

Meeting an Idol

After a long weekend of hiking, sunburns and altitude sickness, I couldn't wait to visit Pearl Street in Boulder for dinner at The Kitchen. Alec, my host and hiking partner for the weekend, happened to have met one of the women I admire most in the climbing community in his four weeks in town - Majka Burhardt - and worked with her to organize a dinner for all us.

Friends Alec and Helen, Majka Burhardt and me!
Majka is an incredibly strong, driven and enthusiastic woman with an anthropology degree from Princeton, an MFA in creative writing, and was among the first five women to earn American Mountain Guide Association certification. I bought and read her first book this past year and have followed her blog since then, admiring her determination and strength through all she's experienced. And earlier this week, this lucky girl got to have dinner with her.

As I learn and grow as an outdoorswoman, I'm always looking for guidance from other ladies who've accomplished incredible feats and are making big waves in the community I'm excited to be a part of. I'm still fearful, cautious, and very much in need of encouragement when it comes to things I've never done before, like Rainier, and things I have, like rock climbing.

Majka had words of wisdom about careers, life, and dealing with the altitude sickness symptoms I'd experienced on Quandary Peak a few days before. Her words were comforting and encouraging, spoken with a strength that only comes from knowledge, experience and being a #badassclimbergirl. But, like normal people, we also all spent a while talking about how great the food was, how people living in Denver and Boulder differ, and ganging up on Alec! Although, between Helen, Majka and myself, I think he did pretty well for dinner companions :)

I couldn't have asked for a more incredible group of human beings to spend time with this weekend, and look forward to many chances to see them again in the future!