My name is Scott Reed. On August 16th 2013, my best friend Josh Sands and I climbed Mt. Elbert, the highest peak in Colorado (14,440 ft) hauling a 6-foot ladder all the way up. The goal was to make the highest peak just a little higher, and set a new Colorado Altitude Record of 14,446 ft.
The term "Altitude Record" is one rarely heard in today's age, but 200 years ago it was more common. The altitude record is simply the highest anyone has ever stood in the given area. It became a contest to mountain climbers of who could successfully document a higher climb than the last guy. Obviously, the contest ended when the highest mountain in that area was climbed. For the World Altitude Record, it stopped with Mt. Everest. There were altitude records for different states and provinces as well. The Colorado Altitude Record ended with the first ascent of Mt. Elbert in 1874 by H.W. Stuckle. After the highest peak was climbed, the term "Altitude Record" sort of disappeared.
I always liked climbing and hiking, but I was never a serious/competitive mountain climber (and I don't consider myself one now either). Just an average joe who likes nature and doing cool stuff. On my 18th birthday, I decided to climb Mt. Bierstadt to kick off adulthood. I loved it, and did two more the next day: Grays and Torreys. A few days later, I did Cameron, Lincoln and Democrat. Then Quandary the day after that. One night, stumbling around mountaineering articles, I came across the altitude record. From what I read, there was nothing prohibiting grounded structures from being included in the record; it was just measured at where the climber's foot was planted. I got the idea of bringing a ladder up to the top, and thought surely someone had done it. So I dug for an hour or two and only found casual jokes about it on blogs, but no one was ever serious about doing it, so I figured "why not?" I presented the idea to my friend Josh (the taller one with black hair in the pictures) and he liked the concept. So we planned to do it on August 16th (which was also his 18th birthday). This was Josh's first time climbing a 14'er. We were both in pretty good shape though; we're both weightlifters. We got on the road by 6:30 AM with a two and a half hour drive ahead of us and with a ladder strapped to the bike rack. We planned to use one of Josh's ladders. A big aluminum one, tall and relatively lightweight. Unfortunately, there was a miscommunication and someone else had the ladder at the time, so we had to use my father's; a very heavy, short six foot wooden ladder. We started out on the trail at about 9:20 AM. As you can see in the picture, I had devised a convenient way to carry the ladder; I just looped a hammock strap around each far rung and slung it over my shoulder like a satchel. Of course, this was still very heavy and awkward, but less so than doing it over the back or something. We took shifts carrying the ladder from trailhead to treeline, treeline to peak, peak to treeline and treeline to trailhead. While one person would carry the ladder, the other would carry the backpack, and we just traded off. It was very slow progress, and as you can imagine, we got a lot of weird looks from other climbers. Most thought it was awesome, some thought it hilarious, a few thought we were just stupid teenagers looking for attention. Luckily, the weather was absolutely perfect for such a climb. There wasn't a cloud in the sky almost all day, and other than the occasional strong gust of wind, it was a very comfortable temperature. We got to the peak by about 2:30 PM. As I had seen in pictures and videos, the peak was pleasantly even grounded in places, so we set up and finally climbed the ladder. Many people around us were taking pictures, and some wanted to climb it (I wasn't too inclined to let them, seeing as we were the ones who broke our backs hauling it to the top). Between the slightly uneven ground, wobbly structure of the ladder's top step and the strong wind, it was very difficult to get to the top rung, but when I did, it was exhilarating. Knowing that I was standing higher than any other grounded object or person ever has in the history of the state was just nuts. It was such a cool experience. Josh climbed it too, and we got pictures of each other on top of the ladder. Then we had lunch and began the exhausting celebratory descent.
After posting the pictures and story to facebook, many people wanted to submit the story to 9NEWS in a news-tip. Next thing I knew, we were featured on a story called "New Heights" on August 20th. I figured even if our record didn't count, at least it would be something to laugh at when I'm old. And if it did count, then we just set a new record that hadn't been broken in 139 years!