IDAHO SPRINGS, Colo. (KDVR) — It was a picture-perfect morning at the Mount Bierstadt trailhead. Beth Leleck was excited to begin the steep climb to the 14,060-foot summit.
“Here we go. Getting ready for 14er number 58!” Leleck exclaimed. “Starting where it all began. Mount Bierstadt.”
Colorado is home to 58 mountains taller than 14,000 feet in height, known to locals as 14ers. Leleck started her quest to climb all 58 with Mount Bierstadt, which is an hour away from Denver.
“I think hiking that first 14er was really what flipped the switch for me,” Leleck said. “At the time, I don’t think I really understood what a 14er was or how many there were in Colorado.”
On this day, after reaching Mount Bierstadt’s summit, Leleck planned to traverse the Sawtooth Ridge, then hike to the top of Mount Evans.
At 14,271 feet, Mount Evans was the only remaining 14er left in her quest. The journey to the summit started in 2008, when Beth Leleck was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She was determined to maintain her mobility while living with the disease.
“Honestly, I’m more active now than I was before. A friend once told me MS is the best worst thing to ever happen to me, and I would say that’s absolutely true,” Leleck said.
Colorado 14ers conquered in 14 summers
The outdoors became her outlet. One year after the diagnosis, the Parker resident summited Mount Bierstadt.
“Once I stood on top of that mountain, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is incredible,'” Leleck said proudly. “I can’t believe I made it up here, I can’t believe I did this, and let’s do it again.”
She did it again, and again and again. Leleck scaled each one of Colorado’s famed 14ers. The Parker resident capped off the adventure with a jump for joy when she reached the top of Mount Evans.
“My 58th 14er,” she said excitedly. “I cannot believe that I hiked them all.”
In 14 summers, Leleck conquered all of Colorado’s 14ers and she raised more than $100,000 to fund MS research. The question now is: What’s next?
“I’m setting my sights on hiking to pretty mountain lakes and waterfalls. Taking the hikes more on the scenery and not necessarily on the up,” Leleck said. “But I’m sure that there still will be many hikes in my future and continuing to raise money.”
Leleck hopes her story inspires others to lead active lives one day or, in her case, one step a time. She plans to take part in “Hike MS” on Saturday, July 30, in Keystone. There is still time to register for the event or donate. For more information, visit the website.