In October of 2015, Jonny Morsicato and I sat on the summit of Mt. Evans, a Colorado 14er. We timed it right - the road had just closed for the season, and we had the normally crowded summit all to ourselves. Jonny was wearing jorts and a ski shell. I sported military boots and a school backpack. This was our first adventure together; I didn’t yet know we would have thousands. We drank hot tea that Jonny had lugged to the top, and talked about a dream that seemed impossibly far away: climbing all of the 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado. 

Well, we stood on top of all 58 of them, and made a lot of memories along the way. From a “weekend” trip to ski a Mexican volcano (that ended disastrously), to snowy bivvies in the Tetons, half my body sticking out in storm from the tiny cave we were sheltered in, wishing I were anywhere else and nowhere but there at the same time. We had car breakdowns, wildlife run-ins, breakups and life changes along the way. We made so many human connections, some brief and fleeting, some permanent. 

As I ticked off the 14ers, I watched myself transform from the boy I was when I moved to Colorado, to the man I knew I had to be, confident and strong, held upright by my connection to the mountains and the unending beauty of them. After the 14ers, we wondered what was next. How could we top what felt like the journey of a lifetime? 

I left Colorado on a high note, left a job that was comfortable and allowed me to pursue my passions. I left without looking back, knowing I would turn right back around and speed to the place that had instantly felt like home. I was never sure why I left, but it made sense as soon as I climbed Mt. Langley and looked north, staring at the endless Sierra unfolding in front of me. I called Jonny and Charlie that night. Said, we’re buying bikes and learning how to ride them. There’s mountains to climb out here. I was home again. 

I never thought I’d be able to do this for a living, and there’s still no guarantees. But that’s life, anyway. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude when I think about it too long, my brief, unpromised time here being filled with so much beauty, so much wonder, so many special people. I get to adventure with my best friends and tell meaningful stories, stories about the human experience, stories about what it means to be strong and vulnerable at the same time. 

To many more mountains. 

Connor Koch

Mountain athlete and storyteller Connor Koch lives and trains in Mammoth Lakes, CA. After climbing all 58 14,000-ft. peaks in Colorado, he honed his focus on fast and light alpine objectives, from technical Grade V routes in a day, to high-altitude peak bagging. Proud ascents include the Thunderbolt to Sill Traverse, and an onsight solo of Bear Creek Spire.

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