When asked why he climbed Mount Everest, British mountaineer George Mallory answered, “Because it’s there.”His response has become the standard cliché often used by modern day mountain climbers.
But for Cedaredge resident Barbara (Barb to her friends) Churchley, the answer is much different.
On Aug. 29, Barb climbed Colorado’s Capitol Peak (14,130’ elevation), fulfilling her commitment to climb all 58 of Colorado’s Fourteeners — mountains 14,000 or higher.
Not your typical “Southern Belle,” Barb was born in Murfreesboro, Tenn., in 1951. She graduated from Murfreesboro’s Central High School, before attending the University of Colorado-Denver in the early 1990s, where she earned a BA in accounting.
She met her husband, Dick, while working for Price Waterhouse and Co. The two were soon married, lived in Evergreen before moving to Cedaredge five years ago. Since moving to Cedaredge, she has become a nationally recognized “en plen-aire” artist.
Barb’s artistic talents and her passion for the outdoors has taken her around the world and, finally to the summit of all of Colorado’s famous “Fourteeners.” No simple feat by any measure, especially for someone who claims to have a “lazy streak.”
Early on in life, Barb set a goal for every decade of her life. When she was young she took up rock climbing, ice climbing, technical climbing and whitewater canoeing. In her thirties, she ran her first marathon. In her forties, she learned to scuba dive and, at age 50, Barb climbed the highest peak in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro.
In 1934, Mary Cronin became the first woman, and only the fourth person, to climb all of Colorado Fourteeners. Like all high mountain peaks, Colorado’s Fourteeners, no matter how easy they might seem, are serious undertakings, subject to unpredictable and severe weather year round, including powerful thunderstorms accompanied by violent lightning; large snowfields, ice, rocks, boulders, loose “scree” and talus slopes.
In the summer of 1981, Barb climbed her first Colorado Fourteener, Mount Shavano. Little did she know that she was beginning a long journey, following in Cronin’s footsteps, nor that 20 years later, in summer of 2001 at age 50, she would begin preparing for her climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro by climbing Mount Bierstadt and then eight more of Colorado’s Fourteeners.
The climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro was put off until 2002, due to the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center. It was also the time that Barb made a commitment to herself to climb all 58 of Colorado’s Fourteeners by the time she was 58.
She accomplished this “lofty” goal this year in August, chronicling each climb with a personal journal and photographs. When asked “why?” Barb answered, “What better way to see Colorado? It’s a good way to stay in shape, a great way to see the world ... and girls just want to have fun.”
And though she has been known to climb alone, she doesn’t recommend it. Instead, she prefers to climb with a partner, especially Dick, her husband and, “my biggest supporter”; her son Derek Temple; Kathy Deane, a “dear friend” with whom she has climbed 22 of Colorado’s Fourteeners — including Capitol Peak.
When Derek was 13 he began technical rock climbing with his mom, has climbed the Grand Tetons with her, and five of the Colorado Fourteeners.
“It’s just a lot of fun to see the joy on her face,” he smiled.
But it was while crossing the “Knife’s Edge” on Capitol Peak that he became concerned for her safety. He explained, “You’re exposed, the holds are not great and it’s no place to make a mistake.”
The two have also hiked the famous “Milford Track” in New Zealand. Derek said his mom had to hang on to his pack “just to keep from being blown off the trail.”
Along with “bagging” all of Colorado’s Fourteeners, Barb has visited all of the seven continents of the world; climbed the Grand Tetons (Wyoming), the Matterhorn (Switzerland), Mauna Kea (Hawaii), the mountains of Austria; and has spent time in the jungles of Brazil pursuing another one of her passions — bird watching.
When asked, Barb said that for her, the easiest of Colorado’s Fourteeners to climb was Mount Sherman; the hardest was Kiener’s Route on Long’s Peak. But her favorites are Capitol Peak (because it was the last), the Maroon Bells traverse and Crestone Needle in that order.
Barb, who had at one point thought of giving up, said, “It’s a relief to have them finished ... I do know that I could never have achieved my goal without the help of family and friends. The universe sent a lot of guardian angels my way.”
Barb said that some of the things she has learned climbing mountains are, “Take care of yourself. Go prepared, have a map, know your route and do not get separated from your partners.”
“I’ve had a fabulous life,” she exclaimed. “Life is as exciting and adventurous as you want it to be. Everyone needs to find some time that makes them really feel alive, and it doesn’t have to be on a mountain top or in the wilderness.”
She concluded her journal, “By the way, I now have become friends with this great state I live in. I have discovered how special it is, and how blessed I am to live here.”
So what’s next for this amazing lady? Barb is toying with the idea of running a marathon on every continent, hiking the Colorado Trail, climbing the Centennial Peaks and visiting some of the more remote areas of the United States.
blog comments powered by Disqus