On July 7, 2005, five staff and fourteen students of Ridge View Academy left Watkins Colorado with the hopes of accomplishing a very lofty goal. As tradition at RVA dictates, the students of the Mount Edwards Living Unit must attempt a hike to reach the summit of their namesake peak. However, it would be more than just mountains they would be climbing. Throughout the day, staff and students alike would be faced with challenges that would accentuate their Respect, Attitude, Motivation, and Spirit (RAMS), well deserving of their namesake, Ridge View Academy RAMS.
A Colorado Department of Youth Corrections Program led by Rite of Passage and partnered with the Denver Public Schools, Ridge View Academy is an academic, vocational, and athletic program that serves young men placed there by the Department of Youth Corrections. Most have never been to the mountains, and even fewer have ascended any of the peaks that create the skyline for the cities from which they come. However, when these young men become students of RVA, they are challenged to do many things that they would not have thought possible. These challenges include, but not limited to: earning a high school diploma, completing a 24 minute three mile run four days a week, giving back to their communities, and ultimately making a demonstrated behavior change.
After an hour and forty-five minute commute to the Stevens Gulch Trailhead, we crossed the foot-bridge at 8:15am and headed up the Grays Peak Trail. Soon we were divided into three groups, all of which kept a phenomenal pace. We ascended the Grays Peak Trail to 13,500 feet where we headed East toward Mount Edwards on the West Ridge. Staying on the ridge made for the easiest hiking and the difficulty never exceeded Class 2+. After three false summits, every single staff and student stood atop 13,850 foot Mount Edwards by 11:30am.
After evaluating the group and identifying who would be going on, we returned to the Grays Peak East Ridge at about 13,500. It was here that one staff and four students began to head back to the trailhead. Most agreed that the steep switchbacks of this ridge were the most physically challenging. Nevertheless, ten students and four staff stood atop Grays Peak 14,270 foot summit by 12:45pm. We were there for about 10 minutes. Two students and a staff decided to head back, so we wished each other safe travel and our group took off North down to the saddle between Grays and Torreys.
By 1:45pm, eight students and three staff stood atop the summit of Torreys Peak at 14,267 feet. In my experience, three peaks in a day is a tremendous accomplishment. However, with great weather and a group that wanted to do something that no one from Ridge View had ever done, we set our sites on Kelso Mountain.
We descended the Grays and Torreys Peak Trail. Now divided into two groups the first group jogged for the majority of the descent led by Unit Manager Greg Townsend. This beast was the mastermind of the four peaks in a day idea, and demonstrated how committed he was by riding his bike for thirty miles to the school on the morning of the hike.
At about 12,300 feet we reached the Southeast edge of Kelso Mountain and began the ascent of its grassy slopes. By this time, many of us were extremely sore, but no one even mentioned turning back. In fact, we picked up one of the students who had turned back on Grays as he wanted to join us in the final summit. Again, we surpassed several false summits, reaching the true summit of 13,264 foot Kelso Mountain at 3:30pm. The views from each peak were spectacular. However, from the summit of Kelso Mountain we could actually see how far we had traveled over the course of the day. Looking at the faint trail and ridgelines, it almost looked unbelievable. Nevertheless, after drinks and the last of our food, we descended the slopes of Kelso Mountain back to the Grays Peak trail. Our hiking was no more than Class 2+ all day except for some Class 3 scrambling on some cliffs on the East side of our Kelso descent.
It was 4:15pm when the whole group reunited at the trailhead. After eight hours every person from our group could be satisfied that they had reached their goal. Even more impressively, eleven of us can proudly say that we pushed ourselves beyond what we thought possible and reached the summit of four peaks in eight hours. The students and staff of Ridge View truly demonstrated why they are known as the RAMS of Ridge View for their Respect, Attitude, Motivation, and Spirit. Find out more about our school at http://www.ridgeviewacademy.com