Meet The Group That Hikes Up A Mountain To Set Off Fireworks

December 28, 2019

Originally published on December 26, 2019 4:58 am

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NOEL KING, HOST:

Colorado has a New Year's Eve tradition that goes back 97 years. People watch fireworks launched from the top of Pikes Peak. It's one of the state's highest mountains. But that means a crew has to hike up through hurricane-force winds and temperatures as low as 50 below zero to ignite the display.

Abigail Beckman from member station KRCC in Colorado Springs brought us this.

ABIGAIL BECKMAN, BYLINE: They're called the AdAmAn Club, named for the tradition of adding one man or woman to their ranks each year. On a brief training hike in Pikes Peak's massive shadow, club president Dan Stuart says hiking in the snow is something he looks forward to.

DAN STUART: I think you have to be a little twisted to do this kind of thing in the middle of winter. But some people really love it, and other people don't apply.

BECKMAN: Yes, people actually apply to do this. And it's tough to get in. If you haven't climbed a few dozen massive mountains in the winter, then you probably won't make the cut. Sixty-eight-year-old Ted Lindeman completed his first hike with the group at age 16. This year will be his 50th trip up the mountain, as he's only missed the hike three times.

TED LINDEMAN: One year I was living in Vermont. One year I realized I'd married the wrong girl. And another year, I was writing a thesis. But - so at least two of those are good excuses.

BECKMAN: This year's new member is Dan Stuart's son Tyler. He's climbed with the group before. This time, he'll lead the way, following a trail even when it's under the snow.

TYLER STUART: But there are times when it's hard to keep track and at least one year where we just turned and went straight uphill, which is awful. But it worked.

BECKMAN: The group that started this is known locally as the Frozen Five. They braved the peak's treacherous terrain in 1922 with far less sophisticated gear than is available now. But just like the old-timers, last year's crew celebrated with rockets and bursts of flame.

(SOUNDBITE OF FIREWORKS EXPLODING)

BECKMAN: Matt Mayberry, a local historian, says the hike hearkens to a mentality in Colorado Springs that has existed throughout the life of the city.

MATT MAYBERRY: We have such a firm and enduring link to the mountain. And even in the depths of the winter at midnight on New Year's Eve, you know, that mountain is still the chief thing that many of us in Colorado Springs think about.

BECKMAN: Especially as they watch the fireworks.

For NPR News, I'm Abigail Beckman in Colorado Springs. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.