We all dream of climbing big mountains. What an amazing feat to be able to plan your journey to the top. To be able to see a clear vision of your destiny.
Then to take the first step and then another. You know that you will face obstacles along the way. But you also know that you have trained hard and prepared your mind for the task at hand.
SGPT Athlete Charley Allen lives that dream. He dreams about it every day and does the hard work in training. Then he gets out there and kicks ass and climbs the tallest mountains in North America. Can we get a big Hooyah?!!
I introduce to you Charley “Mountainman” Allen! Hooyah!
SGPT: Tell us about yourself?
CA: I am 55 years old, married, father of one. I live in Houston, Texas, 30 feet above sea level. I am a CPA by trade, serving corporate clients. I joined SGPT about 10 years ago drawn primarily to the mindset lessons Coach Brad teaches.
Since 1998, I have successfully summited 15 peaks in Colorado with elevations exceeding 14,000 feet. Over the years, I have made it to the top of Pikes (twice over 23 years), Sherman, Torreys, Elbert, Bierstadt, Evans (renamed Blue Sky recently), Huron, Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, Bross, Belford, Handies, Quandary, and Grays Peak. None of these were technical, in the sense that ropes or belaying are required.
SGPT: Did you have an athletic background growing up?
CA: I ran cross country and track and continued to run into adulthood. Knee issues forced me to take a hiatus for about 10 years until running shoe technology improved, and I am running again but not long distance.
SGPT: How did you get inspired to climb mountains?
CA: Growing up, I worked at a Boy Scout camp in Texas along the Blanco River that had a hill called Appetite Hill. I ran up that hill twice a day and found that I enjoyed the process of getting up the hill and the view from the top. For some reason, my thing is walking up an incline, hill, the stairs – anything. The best part about a long climb up a mountain is the view from the top.
Growing up, we also went to Colorado Springs a couple of times. One time, we drove up Pikes Peak and another time, we took the cog train. I decided the next time I wanted to walk up the mountain, and when I did, I was hooked.
SGPT: What is the hardest climb you have done? Tell us about that.
CA: Three come to mind.
The first time I did Pikes Peak in 1998, my uncle and I hiked up Barr Trail with packs. We camped at Barr Camp half way up, set up our tents, and were caught in a torrential downpour all night long. The next day, we had to carry out wet gear the remaining 6 miles to the top. I later learned that although the Barr Trail approach to Pikes Peak is a nice, well maintained trail, being 13 miles long with a 7,000 foot elevation gain makes it one of the hardest 14ers in Colorado.
The second hardest climb I have done is Ben Nevis in Scotland. Four months after knee surgery in 2018, I went to Scotland on business knowing it would likely be my last opportunity to visit for a while. Ben Nevis is only 4,500 feet high and only a 4,000 foot elevation increase with a decent trail, but coming down was the most physically challenging descent I have completed.
A successful summit of Mount Belford also comes to mind. The initial hike is a relentless slog up steep switchbacks from the trailhead to tree line.
SGPT: Have you ever been caught in bad weather?
CA: I always plan around bad weather. If the forecast is bad, I don’t even make an attempt. In the summer monsoon season, I start several hours before sunrise and if it does not look like I would summit by 11:00 AM or noon, I turn around. Lightning is nothing to trifle with.
That being said, we made a very hasty descent off of Belford a few years ago when some clouds rolled in a little early in the day. We were fortunate and did not
SGPT: Where was the most recent peak you climbed?
CA: My most recent successful 14er summit was Grays Peak in 2022. My most recent attempt was Mount Shavano on October 31. A snowstorm had transpired a couple of days before, making the trail challenging. We made it to 12,500 feet with energy to spare, but had we made the summit, we would have been coming down in the dark and with fatigue, it would not have been safe.
When in Colorado, I always make time for the Manitou Springs Incline, which is an old cog railway converted into a stairway that covers 0.9 miles, rises about 2,000 feet in elevation gain from 6,600 feet above sea level, and has 2,768 steps. I completed that in the snow on October 29.
SGPT: Any tips for up and coming athletes that want to get a start with climbing peaks?
CA: Never compromise safety. I estimate I have summited about 50% of the times I have attempted a 14er. Don’t do stupid… stuff… and remember the mountain is not going anywhere. This is a recreational activity for me. Unless it is a perfect day weather wise or for me physically, there is always another day.
For training, get used to hiking, walking, or running at an incline. I have trained with hill sprints, treadmill walks or runs at an incline, stairs, wind sprints, and trail running. You also want to get used to hiking under load. I fill up a water bladder and put it in my pack of choice and walk.
The SGPT metcon workouts and strength workouts have carryover, but ultimately you need to be able to be on your feet moving at an aerobic pace for 6-8 hours. Finally, make sure you are taking care of your knees.
Living in Houston, I don’t have hills but I do have stairs and access to a stair climber at a gym. I also have found that heat and humidity, of which we have plenty, loosely replicate altitude.
Altitude needs to be accounted for. Personally, I hike the Manitou Springs Incline as quickly as I can when I arrive in Colorado and then rest a day or two. I make sure I am well hydrated and carry more water than I need when I hike and have electrolyte powders such as LMNT or Pedialyte.
Trekking poles are your friend.
Finally, as a matter of reemphasis, safety first. Go with a group. Make sure you know what you are doing. Be weather wise, do some research on the route, have a paper map and a compass and know orienteering/land navigation, carry the 10 essentials and weather appropriate gear, and don’t be afraid to turn around. It took me 3 attempts over several years to get Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, and Bross.
SGPT: What kind of boots did you use for the summit? Do you train in a different boot at home?
CA: I found that Salomon Speedcross 6 trailrunners work well for me. I have a pair of Speedcross boots, and I recently used a pair of On Cloudrock 2 Waterproof Mid Hiking Boots on Shavano in October in the snow and found those to be phenomenal.
I train in running shoes at home (On or Hoka) or if I trail run, I run in the Speedcross.
Invest in good footwear and find a local retailer and running specialty store to help you get fitted right. What works for me might not work for you. Trail runners or mid hiking boots work for me, but your mileage may vary.
SGPT: Did you use double socks/compression socks or body glide on your feet to prevent blisters?
CA: I use Smartwool merino wool compression socks. I haven’t had a blister in years. A few years ago, I discovered that a pedicure (seriously) makes a huge difference.
SGPT: What kind of ruck did you use for training and the climb?
CA: Depending on how much gear I bring, I use an Osprey Talon 33 or an Osprey Talon 26 for a 14er. For the Manitou Springs Incline, I use a 12 liter trail running rig from Orange Mud. All of my packs accommodate a hydration bladder.
SGPT: What book are you reading now? Audiobook? Podcast?
CA: I spend a lot of time reading very dry and technical tax guidance for work. I am reading the Gray Man series by Mark Greaney for leisure. I rotate podcasts, and I am semi-regular with Jocko, Andrew Huberman, and Dr. Peter Attia.
SGPT: Thanks for the interview, Charles. We really appreciate it.
CA: The pleasure is mine, Brad. Thank you for the privilege of sharing my story.
Are you interested in training for an endurance event like SEALFIT 20X, Ironman, GORUCK or a Spartan Race?
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