One thing I love about going back to Colorado is I never know when I’ll bump up against celebrity. Celebrity in my case meaning a rock star of the outdoor world.
Two weeks ago I was in Loveland, home office of my wife’s employer, Interweave. Interweave produces books, magazines and Web sites covering the crafting world. Not the kind of workplace where you’d expect to find leaders of the mountain biking world or pioneering female rock climbers. Not unless that workplace is in Colorado.
“I want you to meet Jamie,” Marcy said as we walked down a hallway. “He made some kind of mountain biking video on You Tube … .” My thoughts turned to the umpteen riders I’ve seen at Lake Crabtree and Beaverdam who had strapped a Hero Cam to their helmet and made a video. At last count more than 31,000 “mountain biking” videos populated You Tube.
Only the video that Jamie Bogner shot was for a new pump track that his mountain bike club back in New York City (he was a week new to Loveland) had built. The mountain bike club — NYCMTB — that he and a buddy, Dawson Smith, had founded in 2005 and that had since built, and maintains, trail in all five boroughs. The club that created the famous Hustle & Flow relay race, the club that Bogner, despite no longer being a New Yorker, still presided over. Later, amid a continuing cascade of similarly superlative singletrack revelations, Jamie mentioned that he was on the board of directors of NORBA, the off-road arm of USA Cycling.
We walked downstairs. It was late afternoon and only a handful of people remained. One was Nancy Dale, office services and facilities manager.
“Nancy, you’re a hiker,” Marcy said. “Joe wants to do some hiking. Where should he go?” Loveland is about a 30-minute drive from Rocky Mountain National Park, which with 359 miles of trail exploring more than 265,000 acres, is hard to beat as a as hiking destination. Well, yes, Nancy had done some hiking in the park, it turned out. She started describing options. Then, at some point, she mentioned that she was the first woman to climb all 126 named peaks in the park, including 14,259-foot Longs Peak (which she’s climbed multiple times since her first ascent in 1979).
The outdoor adventurer in me gave way to the journalist.
GGNC: So, are you originally from here?
Nancy Dale: I grew up in Portland, Oregon. In 1971 I moved to Colorado after living in Illinois for a couple of years.
GGNC: How did you get interested in climbing?
ND: Growing up our family vacations were almost always camping trips that included short hikes with four siblings and my parents. When I was 15, my older brother, Peter, some friends from high school, and I went through the Mazama climbing school. The Mazamas are a large climbing club in the northwest. (Mt. Mazama was a volcano that erupted leaving behind Crater Lake in southern Oregon.) The course was based on “Mountaineering, The Freedom of the Hills” by the climbing committee of Mountaineers (later editions were written by individual authors) and the graduation climb was 11,240 ft Mt. Hood on May 30, 1963.
GGNC: I see you have a rock named after you.
ND: You’ve done your research to find the rock named after me. It was named after I did the first ascent on a slab where my former husband, Jim Disney, and I used to take people to rock climb. I haven’t done any rock climbing for four or five years, but I used to climb quite a bit around Loveland, Estes Park and Boulder and several of the National Park peaks are technical climbs. In 1992 I climbed the Durrance route on Devil’s Tower in Wyoming.
GGNC: Can you talk a little about your peak bagging experience — when you started, when you finished, whether it was a long-standing goal that you worked toward or whether someone just said one day, “Hey, you just became the first woman to hike all 126 named peaks in the park!”
ND: I climbed Long’s Peak on September 9, 1979, with the Loveland Mountain Club. After that I climbed various peaks around Colorado. My then-husband and a couple of friends were climbing all of RMNP’s named peaks and I went along on climbs. However, after climbing Hayden Spire our friend, Bill Napier, said that since I’d climbed one of the more difficult park peaks that I might as well climb the rest. Hayden Spire was the 33rd RMNP summit on my climbing list. I still don’t know why I thought that 93 more peaks was achievable but that was the moment I became a peak bagger. On September 5, 1999, I climbed Arrowhead, which was my 126th named summit in RMNP. I knew a couple of other women who were climbing the named park peaks and I just happened to finish the list first. I went on to complete the list of unnamed park summits that I hadn’t already climbed in August 2004.
GGNC: Any other claims to fame?
ND: I was part of a group of four people who did the first descent of a side canyon of the Escalante River. The canyon doesn’t have an official name, but the rangers call it Fold Canyon because it descends off of a formation called the Waterpocket Fold. It required swimming several pools, down-climbing, and a couple of rappels. I helped start the Valley 5000 (5K) race in Loveland and was the race coordinator for first eight years. The race celebrated its 28th year this year. I’ve also climbed Impossible Peak in Utah.
GGNC: How much do you hike now?
ND: Up until about six years ago my ex-husband and I hiked almost every weekend. After we divorced I continued to hike/climb with friends most weekends. I also did volunteer trail maintenance on several Forest Service trails in the Estes Park area with one of my hiking friends. Then in 2005 my daughter, who lives in Seattle, and I decided to sign up for the Danskin Triathlon for women. We participated in the Seattle Danskin together for three years. Because of the triathlon training I started doing more biking and swimming and less regular hiking. In October 2008 my sister who lives in Gainesville, Florida, and I met in Columbus, Ohio, and we walked the Columbus half marathon. Several personal trips and other commitments this year have cut into my hiking time, but I still get out as often as I can.
Photo: Nancy Dale bagging her last unnamed peak in Rocky Mountain National Park in 2004.