I first met Elana Rabin four years ago. While I don’t remember the details of our meeting, I do remember her warmth, kindness, and genuine smile; if you’ve had the pleasure of meeting Elana, you know exactly what I mean. When I heard that she and two other women from Boulder were about to embark on a summer-long fourteener adventure, I simply had to learn more about the project.
13-14-15 has the goal of getting people outside and not just those who already “go outside and play”. These women want to inspire Coloradans (who are not already intense climbers, backpackers, triathletes, etc.) to recognize their ability to hike—yes, even a Fourteener—and explore Colorado’s beautiful wilderness areas. Through this mission, they intend to bring more awareness to a broader audience about our state’s natural beauty and also highlight the steps we can take to help cherish and protect our beloved Colorado.
I sat down with these ladies two weeks before their maiden voyage to gain a better understanding of their mission and how 13-14-15 came to be. Here is what Sierra Voss, Kate Curtis, and Elana Rabin had to say about their ambitious project.
Where did the idea to hike 13 fourteeners in 2015 come from?
Sierra: Last summer I had heard about a woman doing 14 fourteeners in 2014 and I was so bummed because it was the end of the season and I thought, “Ah! That is so catchy and cool!” I was talking to my boss about it and he said, ‘Well, you can do 13 fourteeners in 2015’ and I thought, we totally could! So I asked around Boulder to see if any ladies were interested in hiking any of the fourteeners with me and really no one was super adamant about it until I brought it to Kate and Elana. They were both right on board and ready to crush 13 of them.
And then it slowly started to evolve. We were sitting down and planning out some of our weekends and Elana said, “Oh, I know some people at Justin’s, maybe they would sponsor us?” So we wrote up a proposal that really emphasized this kind of guerilla marketing kind of thing, and it started snowballing from there. At that point we got Bhakti on as a sponsor, who was just launching a new donation campaign, and they asked if we would want to be featured on the launch of their site. We thought that we would love it if people could donate to organizations who are getting people revved up about going outside and exploring more. So that’s when we selected our three organizations [Leave No Trace, Women’s Wilderness Institute, and Colorado Fourteeners Initiative]. Bhakti has been amazing and has promised to match everything that we make.
What do you feel is the purpose of this project?
Elana: Our goal first and foremost is to get people outside to appreciate their natural surroundings. From a community standpoint, we are only doing our projects in CO and there is only one sponsor that is outside of CO, so we really want to highlight what is beautiful and great about our state and how we need to protect it.
Sierra: Getting people inspired to explore their own backyard and getting them to see the amazing local companies that can help provide gear for those adventures. And on top of that, healing your body and mind outside so you can give back to your community and your friends and family in a more creative and a more grounded way, is what I think nature provides.
Kate: I also think, just living in Boulder, everybody does some extreme sport. I moved here thinking, oh wow, I don’t know if I could start to do any of this because everybody is just so far ahead with rock climbing, mountaineering, etc. I think for other people that feel like me, it’s like, no, if you have two feet and if you are lucky enough to be able to use them, you can go explore and hike to these beautiful places where we live.
Do you feel like there were any hurdles to overcome before committing to the project?
Elana: At this point our start date has been pushed a few times. You can never anticipate what the summer is going to be like, what the winter is going to be like… all the rain that we got and therefore all the snow that the mountains got. It’s a really meaningful project to us—something that we really feel people can get behind—and we are going to make time for it. At this point it has become as important as anything else because we know we will be spending this time outside and supporting all these really cool companies—it’s something that we have just gotten so excited about.
Have you all done fourteeners before?
Kate: I have not.
Elana: I have done four.
Sierra: I have done one.
Is this exclusive to the three of you or have you welcomed others to join the hikes?
Sierra: The first weekend (which is July 4th weekend) we are doing a launch celebration with friends. Those who have been supporting our project or who are interested can come camping with us and be there for the first set of two fourteeners. If they would like to hike with us they are more than welcome to.
Throughout the summer though, we are keeping it to the three of us. Simply because we are managing a lot of gear, focusing on the work that needs to get done, and also that the three of us made a pact to do it with each other and it definitely gets really complicated when you are trying to coordinate a lot of people.
How did you choose which peaks to summit?
Elana: What we initially looked for (keeping in mind peaks that really seems accessible to anybody and everybody) were class one and two peaks. Some of them are nearby, but we wanted to try and get a broad spectrum while also keeping in mind which class they were in.
Sierra: And logistically as well. The seasons are changing drastically, and we are seeing snowpacks staying later and we are pretty convinced that it is going to start snowing early. It might not be that we have a later summer, it just might be a shorter summer up in the mountains. A lot of it was thinking about what ranges we can get up on that are going to have no snow and how are we going to do this in two months. A lot of that is about location, can we bag three peaks in one weekend? And if so, which ones? There isn’t a single weekend that we are only hiking one.
Do you have a vision of 13-14-15? Is it exclusive for this summer or do you see it growing in some way?
Sierra: I do think a little more to the core of the longevity of the project is really capturing the heart of it. In our day and age with social media tools and mechanisms, and the incredible local organizations that are popping up in the adventure industry, outdoor exploration could always become a project like this. You can always be inspiring people to get outside; you can always be working in your community to give back to the organizations that are letting you explore more; you can always be working with local organizations and partnerships connecting people, and I really think that’s what 13-14-15 speaks to. Because of that, there is definitely longevity in the project. And now, at least for us girls, every time we think about doing an adventure, we’re going to be thinking about how we can give back and how can we use our networks to connect people and get more people outside.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Elana: We are hoping to set up a fundraising event or a celebratory event at the end of the project. Our plan is to bring in all of our sponsors (or as many as would like to participate), have a local band play at a brewery, and have a celebration. And if some of the companies want to throw in some gear, we can have a raffle and all of the funds raised would further go towards these organizations.
We are giving back to Leave no Trace and which is something we want to be focusing on and writing about while we’re out on the trails. It’s great to educate and bring awareness to things that anyone who likes to be outside should know. Women’s Wilderness Institute which is such a cool organization. Especially as women, we want to get young girls engaged and excited about going outside and getting dirty. And then Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, an obvious choice, but they are the ones allowing us to get onto these trails.
Learn how to follow their journey at 13-14-15.com.