Bill Kresge completes mission to hula-hoop all 56 Coloado 14ers
October 16, 2015
Bill Kresge and his hula-hoop made it.
After four months of camping and hiking alone, the 23-year-old Pennsylvania native became the first person (that anyone knows of) to climb and then hula-hoop on the summit of 56 "true" Colorado 14ers in a single summer, plus two unofficial 14,000-foot peaks, just for good measure. He wrapped up in late September with Pyramid Peak (14,026 feet), feeling tired, elated, a little sore and, well, simply happy to be finished.
"I just kept thinking, 'Man, I did it,'" Kresge told me a few days after he finished on Pyramid, nearly two months and 36 peaks after we first spoke. "I was just relieved, you know? It was such a long journey."
Early this June, back when he decided to make it a summer-long quest after climbing Mount Sneffels (14,157 feet), Kresge had only summited one of the state's 14ers: Quandary Peak, a relatively easy jaunt in his adopted hometown.
But it hardly mattered. When Kresge bought Gerry Roach's guide, "Colorado 14ers, third edition," and decided to shake it on 56 summits, his boss at Frisco's Weironski Plumbing and Heating gave him the thumbs up to take a few months off. So he packed up his Chevy Cavalier and set out solo, with a bit of hiking gear and a collapsible hula-hoop he made with PVC pipe.
"It was stressful to live on the road for so long, but now that it's done it was worth every second of it," Kresge said. When we spoke, he wasn't lounging on a couch or posted at a bar. No, he was enjoying his final few days of freedom with a bike ride on salt flats outside of Salt Lake City.
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"Like, this place is so cool," Kresge said of the salt flats. "There's a few inches of water over everything, so you'll speed through there and it just sprays everywhere. I'm covered in it right now."
Then he laughed and got back to the 14er story.
Ending with a bang
Kresge wasn't quite sure what to expect when he started. The first few peaks were easy ones — Sneffels, Quandary again, the Mosquito Range peaks outside of Leadville — but then he had his first taste of technical, dangerous scrambling on Pikes Peak in mid-July. All those miles and vertical feet helped prep him for the intimidating peaks to come, but it also prepped him for the mental grind of waking early, hiking solo, hula-hooping, descending, sleeping in the Chevy and repeating, over and over through the heart of summer.
"Right around number 15, I started thinking, 'Man, I've got to do 40 more of these things,'" he said. "It could be discouraging at times. It was really just me and my own motivation getting me through the thing."
So, by the time he reached the last batch of 14ers in the Sangre de Cristo and Elk Mountains ranges — two of the most demanding in the state — he was ready for the challenge.
First up were neighbors Blanca Peak (14,344 feet) and Little Bear Peak (14,035 feet) in the Sangre de Cristo's. Both were tough and technical, but they were nothing compared to the final pitch at nearby Crestone Needle (14,203 feet).
"It was pretty mellow through most of that climb, but the final pitch is Class 4 climbing, where you have 200-foot drops on either side," he said. "It's the exposure that really gets to you more than anything else. You keep thinking, 'This is a dangerous place to be.'"
But Kresge didn't take the daredevil approach. No, he wanted to make it through in one piece, and he picked up on a few mountaineering essentials along the way. He started wearing a helmet on the technical climbs, and he listened to just about anyone who offered advice along the trail. It's one beauty of climbing in Colorado: Do it enough and you'll run into the same core group of fellow trekkers, weekend after weekend.
And, of course, people knew Kresge. When he first started, people assumed the hula-hoop contraption in his bag was a beer bong. Through daily updates on his Instagram and Twitter accounts — he'd take a GoPro hula-hooping photo on every summit — he slowly built a following on social media.
"The word got around, and suddenly people would be like, 'You're the hula-hoop guy,'" he said. "I was still trying to get people to guess about what it (the hula-hoop) is again, but a lot of people I ran into already knew what I was doing. It was crazy."
Shortly before Pyramid, Kresge tackled the toughest of the summer: Maroon Peak (14,156 feet) and North Maroon Peak. He says both are relatively short round-trip — nothing compares to 15 miles of backpacking followed by 13 hours of hiking for Windam Peak (14,082 feet), Sunlight Peak (14,059 feet) and North Eolus (14,039 feet) — but they're demanding Class 3 and Class 4 climbs.
"They just take forever because they're so technical," Kresge said. "You hear so many crazy stories from those two mountains. I was just super happy to have them done."
Kresge's quest earned him a spot on Denver's 9 News. His submission to Guinness World Records for Colorado 14ers is still pending. He now has his sights set on hula-hooping on even taller peaks.
But first, sponsors.
"If I could get some backing, maybe I could try doing other trails, other peaks, like Denali," he said. "I'm looking to do something big. I just need to find how to put myself out there and get the funds. But I've got big plans."
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