There’s a big mental health component to Shred the 14ers. How can time spent in nature heal us? How have you experienced the therapeutic qualities of nature?
LAURA: For both of us, nature is a dose of much needed mental health medicine. I deal with a mild depression fed by lack of exercise and not enough time in nature. As soon as I am outside—and especially when I am out skinning in the mountains—I am filled with life, air, positivity and happiness. I have never come down from a mountain and felt depressed. It just lifts me up and I want to share that with people who need it.
NICKY: I’ve never experienced serious depression, but my overall wellness really depends on exercise and the spirit of the outdoors. I get anxiety sometimes and quickly know that I haven’t been getting out there enough.
We love a good story. Of the peaks you’ve bagged so far, have there been some that have been more memorable than others?
LAURA: Going to the Chicago Basin on the Durango-Silverton train was so cool. In order to get to the basin, you have to take a train into this valley where you get dropped off on the side of the tracks near a bridge. From there, we hiked about 6 miles into our base camp which was about a mile and a half below the basin. From our camp, we skinned up this section of rock that wasn’t quite covered with snow and was overflowing with water. Just waterfalls everywhere. It was super hard to navigate, but also fun. It really put the adventure into our approach. We got into the basin where North and South Elous are and above that there is another basin where Sunlight and Windom are. The first day we got past the waterfall section and into the first basin and this storm was just looming over our heads. As soon as we had eyes on our final approach of Elous, the clouds just dropped on us and the summit started to show through.
You’re dealing with pretty diverse conditions during a season, from frigid January temps to warmer spring skiing. What’s your go-to gear for an everchanging landscape?
LAURA: The key to comfort in the backcountry is layering. I have two basic base layers I will choose depending on the season. In the winter, I’m reaching for Merino 250 and when spring rolls around I start using the lighter weight Merino 150 base layer. Right around May in the high country, I usually use a Merino 150 Tee as a base layer. On top of my base layers, I love the Smartloft 60 Jacket! It’s the best layer and works great as a touring top because it breathes so well, but also keeps you warm right where you want it. Then on top of that I maybe have a puffy in my backpack and a shell.
NICKY: Layering is so important. In Colorado, especially, there are sudden changes in weather that are difficult to predict. Not to mention the temperature drop in going so high in elevation. My Smartwool® insulated midlayer (Men’s Smartloft 120 Jacket) and a solid shell are most important to me. The insulated midlayer leaves the back open for breathing and has front insulation for the wind. Under this layer I usually wear a Merino 150 Tee. I run a little hotter than Laura, so I don’t always bring my puffy to save weight and space for my camera gear.