JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — Fearless Colorado mountaineer and U.S. Army veteran Evan Gill is climbing Colorado’s highest and toughest peaks. He is one of the few Black climbers you will see scaling mountains in Colorado or around the world.
At Colorado’s beautiful Cathedral Spires Park, Gill talked about taking the next generation to new heights. Emerging from an iced-over field, Gill seemed overwhelmed by the beauty of a winter wonderland he has already seen many times.
“You just never know what life is going to bring you if you come out here like this,” he said.
It has been a long and rugged path for Gill, who grew up in Baltimore, where he developed a love for the outdoors. He says nothing compares to the beauty and challenges presented by Colorado’s stunning peaks.
Gill describes a sense of inner peace and “wholeness” he feels when hiking in remote areas.
“My world is very tiny at that point. I’m only thinking about the next move, simplistic thought, and it’s kind of an escape for me,” Gill said. He said the mountain environment brings clarity and a deeper sense of understanding.
“When you get vantage points like this, you start seeing things in different perspectives,” he said.
Gill hopes others will recognize the value of envisioning goals and taking on challenges in life pointing out, “These views that we’ve got, 360 degrees, I mean, it came with work.”
The Cathedral Spires trail is rated as a Black Diamond, meaning difficult to climb, including two quarter-mile sections with inclines of more than a thousand feet.
Gill and FOX31 Photojournalist Jerry Lawlor, who’s also a mountaineer, packed up and ascended the trail at 5 a.m., viewing an incredible sunrise at high altitude.
“Twenty-five-hundred feet of elevation gain — it’s not the easiest thing to do in the world, but we’re out here doing it,” Gill said.
‘You can’t run away from your thoughts’
The proud Army veteran credits his time in the military for building the skills and emotional strength that would eventually carry him to the top all 58 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks. He climbs and hikes each week.
“I feel like a lot of people are scared to be alone and by themselves with this silence, because you can’t run away from your thoughts,” he said.
It’s easy to understand why Gill’s “day job” is working as an environmental clean-up specialist, protecting Colorado’s natural beauty. A husband and father of two, Gill wants his own kids to focus on what’s important in life.
“I don’t want to just buy my kids gifts, I want to create memories. Sometimes those memories last longer than materialistic things,” he said.
Gill reaches out to children who have limited access to parks and trails, working with the non-profit Vibe Tribe organization to inspire and support their dreams. He raises donations for a camp for kids to have access to hiking and climbing gear and training. You can find more information about Gill’s efforts on the Vibe Tribe website.
A history of segregated parks
National parks in the U.S. were segregated for the first half of the 20th century. A 2018 study found between 2010 and 2014, only 1.2% of the country’s Black population visited national forests.
Gill hopes to shift that dynamic by exposing young people to outdoor activities.
“If it wasn’t taught to us from our parents, if our parents didn’t do it, then inevitably we didn’t do it,” he said.
Gill said exposure is important, because a world of pride and personal growth awaits everyone in the high country.
“It’s almost a vantage point of what your potential is, what you can accomplish out here,” he said.