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14ers: Jason Ivanic skis them all

In this photo provided by Jason Ivanic, Jason Ivanic bivouacs at Moon Lake, Colo., in 2004, the day before skiing both Snowmass and Capitol in a single day. (AP Photo/Jason Ivanic via The Denver Post) ** MAGS OUT, NO SALES **
AP | THE DENVER POST

SNOWMASS – Unworthy? Neglected? Overlooked? Ignored?Jason Ivanic doesn’t care. He is hardly bothered by his leper status among elite skiers of Colorado’s fourteeners.From February to July 2004, the Colorado Mines graduate skied 65 of the state’s highest peaks, a momentous and unrivaled feat. He skied the privately owned fourteener Culebra Peak a few days shy of the one-year anniversary of his project. It was a personal quest to ski from the top of all of Colorado’s fourteeners in a single year. In his mind, he succeeded.But, according to strict climbing and ski mountaineering ethics, Ivanic’s adventure is nothing for the record books. The 300 feet of snowless rock he down-climbed from the summit of Pyramid Peak negates his entire effort, as does his admission that a handful of summits were snowless and that he walked several steps down before skiing.”I didn’t care about exact summits. I skied all them off the summit or near the summit, it was usually within 20 to 30 feet when there wasn’t snow directly on top. I skied everything from the first and highest place I could find snow. I’m really fine being left off the trophy shelf,” says Ivanic, 27.”I just like skiing. I like being out there. I don’t know if I was careless or lucky or both. Everything just clicked. I’m not the best skier, and I’m not the best mountaineer. I’ll just wake up at 4 a.m. and climb all day and then I’ll do it again the next morning.”

If you pursue the glory and recognition, it is a strict game in the world of climbing and ski mountaineering. Many climbers have pioneered bold new routes up monster peaks, only to turn back a few short steps from the summit. Those are called unsuccessful attempts. A climber who reaches a summit and dies on the descent is credited with a successful summit.It’s all about reaching the top in the realm of alpine climbing. But in ski mountaineering, which lacks the historical precedent of climbing and has no governing body, it’s more about the line and where the descent began.For Aspen’s mountain-man Chris Davenport, he is following the strictest of guidelines in his push to claim ski descents from all 54 Colorado fourteeners.”Every peak from the exact summit. Nothing else counts,” says Davenport, who is more than halfway through his race to ski all of Colorado’s fourteeners in a single snow season. “It’s an ethical thing and … I’m making sure no one can ever question my ethics or accomplishment.”Ditto for Sean Crossen, the Crested Butte ski mountaineer who this week could end his five-year crusade to ski all of Colorado fourteeners from the exact summit. In the past two years Crossen has returned to 10 peaks to ski from the tiptop after he found too little snow on previous trips. On some of those earlier ascents, the snow stopped less than 100 feet from the summit.”If you are going to go out and ski on the fourteeners, that’s a much different trip than skiing off the summit,” Crossen says. “Jason skied on all of them in one winter, which is a pretty big accomplishment. But some of the peaks, I don’t know. I don’t mean to put down what he did, but I wonder if what he said he skied is true.”In the alpine world, a simple assertion of success is typically enough to warrant credit, says Phil Powers, executive director of the American Alpine Club, the Golden-based institute in charge of recording mountaineering feats.

“Most ski descents that are on extraordinarily steep mountains may involve the use of a rappel. Those are still considered ski descents. By that reasoning, it seems to me that if you are on a mountain thatAdvertisement Click Here!is rocky at the very top, it will still be a ski descent if you rappel or walked down to the first snow and skied there,” Powers says. “But there’s really no organization that provides the kind of comment and oversight for backcountry skiing the way we do for climbing and mountaineering.”But by that logic, Powers says, a skier could venture onto the fourteeners in the summer and hike up and down and ski short snowfields to claim “ski descents.”There is a lot of gray area when it comes to ski mountaineering, says Lou Dawson, the first and only man to ski all of Colorado’s fourteeners from the exact summit. Davenport and Crossen said Dawson’s ethics, routes and ski lines are the standard that must be met in order to claim a rightful ski descent on a Colorado fourteener.”The common wisdom is that if there is a route that someone else did that goes from the summit on an average snow year, if you are going to go public and claim a descent from the peak, you better darn well do it from the same summit,” Dawson says. “It’s an ethic reached by consensus. I think Jason’s definition of skiing a peak is different than other people’s definitions.”

Ivanic agrees. Dawson’s standards are stricter than his, he says. Davenport’s lines are certainly more burly and aesthetic. His descents typically aligned with the closest snow to the trailhead. Davenport, Crossen and Dawson served as his inspiration.Ivanic, a short plug of power with a soldier’s determination, was finishing a graduate degree in engineering at Colorado Mines when he began skiing fourteeners. From February to mid-April 2004, he skied only on Sundays. From April to the end of June, he skied five to seven days a week. He had to be at a job in Tulsa, Okla., on July 1, so he pushed hard. He maxed out a credit card. Tapped the remnants of a student loan. Leased a truck for a few months and hammered up mountains full-time. By July 1, he had skied 65 peaks, including everything that resembled a peak on every fourteener – such as the three peaks on Mount Massive.His memories – packed with endless trials and tribulation – are his reward, he says. A solo, one-ski huck at 14,000 feet on Pyramid. A 20-hour slog skiing Snowmass Mountain and Capitol Peak in a single push. Three attempts on Mount Princeton. “The most luscious line ever” on Mount Sneffels.He made a video of his adventures, capturing the ascents and views from most every peak. More introspective than documentary, his “A Season of 14ers” DVD reflects a lot of lonely suffering and triumph and respectful awe of the state’s most massive mounts. It’s not a ski movie or “proof” as much as something for his pals, family and maybe his kids someday.He doesn’t claim to be the second person to ski Colorado’s fourteeners. He doesn’t claim to be anything but a guy who pursued a goal.”I should have gone to ‘Glamour’ with the story,” he says. “Really, I did it for the chicks. Yeah, that didn’t work out so well.”


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