Carrie Rengers

Businessmen Burk and Wells conquer all of Colorado’s ‘fourteeners’ (+video)

VIDEO: Wichita businessmen conquer Colorado Fourteeners

Key Construction president Dave Wells (left) and Old Town developer Dave Burk discuss climbing all 55 Colorado mountains that are 14,000 feet and higher. Carrie Rengers/The Wichita Eagle
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Key Construction president Dave Wells (left) and Old Town developer Dave Burk discuss climbing all 55 Colorado mountains that are 14,000 feet and higher. Carrie Rengers/The Wichita Eagle

This is a popular time for new resolutions, but no one could blame Dave Wells and Dave Burk if they chose just to kick back instead.

That’s because they accomplished a huge goal in 2015. Starting in 1999 and finishing last year, the two climbed all the “fourteeners” in Colorado, meaning all of the mountains higher than 14,000 feet. Some of them they did multiple times.

“People all the time over the years we’ve been doing this, they say, ‘You guys are nuts,’ ” Wells says. “ ‘Why in the world would you want to do that?’ ”

Key Construction president Dave Wells (left) and Old Town developer Dave Burk discuss climbing all 55 Colorado mountains that are 14,000 feet and higher. Carrie Rengers/The Wichita Eagle

Burk, who is an Old Town developer, and Wells, who is president of Key Construction, say they both like the outdoors and a challenge.

The first mountain they climbed together was the popular Longs Peak in 1999.

They’d planned to hike to the mountain’s boulder field, camp, then climb to the peak the next day.

Burk says, “We got to the boulder field and saw the peak and said …”

“Let’s go!” Wells says.

That inspired them to do all the fourteeners even though the mountains can be grueling – or worse.

Snowmass took Wells 16 1/2 hours, though he says he didn’t mind.

“I love that stuff because it’s so intense, so hard. … You just don’t think you can do it,” he says.

It took them 18 hours to ring both of the Maroon Bells, which meant climbing two peaks.

“You just push yourself,” Burk says.

And each other.

“On one of them, I was about to turn around,” Wells says. “I was just dying, and Dave said, ‘You gotta go.’ ”

Sometimes they’re there to hold each other back when necessary.

“We both decided from Day 1 we don’t want to die doing this,” Wells says.

Once, they were hiking Mount Yale with Wells’ son Steven.

“He’s our pack horse,” Burk jokes.

“We heard this ‘whooom,’ ” Wells says, “and the whole thing dropped.”

It was the start of an avalanche.

They had 800 feet of elevation to the top, and Wells wanted to do it.

“They’re both like, ‘You’re nuts You can’t do it.’ ”

Sometimes it’s the drives out to Colorado – driving out and back and climbing a mountain all within 24 hours – that are the endurance tests.

“We’ve done some crazy quick trips, like torture tests,” Wells says.

There’s always a reward of Mexican food and beer after each climb.

Burk and Wells may discuss work on their drives but never on the mountains.

“A lot of times, we’re just gasping for air,” Burk says.

Wells says challenging experiences on the mountains make work frustrations easier to take.

“You know something happened at work, well, it ain’t the mountain,” he says. “Other things aren’t that big a deal.”

Most climbs start at 3 or 4 a.m., often with big moons.

“There’s some really spectacular sunrises,” Burk says.

Wells especially likes winter climbs. Burk says you can almost hear the snow fall.

“It’s just that quiet.”

Wells says it’s an entirely different world.

“You’re definitely not in Kansas.”

Because there are no mountains at home for the two to train on, they practice running the stadium stairs at Wichita State University.

“It’s kept us staying in shape,” Wells says of their goal.

No. 55, on Aug. 8, was Mount of the Holy Cross. There were congratulations along the way as others hiking the mountain heard of their achievement.

Their stories of harrowing climbs, beautiful discoveries and new friends such as mountain goats are endless.

“You could probably get another two hours’ worth if you had brought a six-pack,” Burk says.

While they say they’ll do many of these climbs together again, Burk and Wells now need a new goal.

“It’s not Everest, that’s for sure,” Burk says.

He says the elevation is too dangerous with what it can do to organs and brain cells.

“I don’t have a lot of those to give up.”

Biking is something that interests them, and Burk says Outside magazine had a story about the hardest one-day hikes in the country.

Wells says they’re considering it.

“It would be a lot of fun – depending on what your definition of fun is.”

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers

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