Weihenmayer, a prolific speaker and author of two books, has teamed up with the Trust for Public Land to support the effort to raise $3.25 million for the area that includes the most traditionally popular trail leading to the summit of Mt. Wilson, Wilson Peak and El Diente.
On Wednesday, Aug. 22, Weihenmayer, led by his guide carrying bear bells and feeling his way up the trail, joined a group of TPL officials up the historic route.
At the top the payoff, for Weihenmayer, has nothing to do with the view, but instead the sense of the view.
“For me the payoff is the climb itself, the whole process,” he said afterward. “The terrain under my feet, feeling the terrain get steeper. Once you get to the top you can feel the wind, the openness, the sun, and I can actually hear the rock faces, feel the altitude.”
He said he did the climb to draw attention to the TPL effort to obtain land from Silver Pick Basin landowner Rusty Nichols, who has restricted hiker access through his property over the years, but is now participating in negotiations to open up access and, in addition, forego his gold mining plans for the area. Nichols owns 220 acres of mining claims in the Silver Pick Basin.
Scott Dissel, Colorado Development Director for the TPL, said the fundraising effort has raised one-third of the $3.25 million needed to complete the transaction. The campaign so far has the support of the Telluride Foundation, which provided a $150,000 grant, the Coors Brewing Company, “as well as the support of a number of generous individuals,” he said.
Dissel, who also was on the climb up the to [peak Wednesday, marveled at Weihenmayer’s abilities.
“He relies on his sense of balance and intimate connection to the land,” Dissel said. “His awareness of the terrain works in a way most of us can barely imagine.”