Not quite five feet tall, Lynn Prebble is a sucker for vertical challenge. Last fall, the Silver Cliff resident became the 24th person to summit all 637 of Colorado’s peaks over 13,000 feet. Beyond that, the retired physical therapist rescues distressed climbers in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains with the Custer County Search and Rescue technical rock team. As summer hiking season begins, Prebble talks cliffhangers, blizzards, and the Big One.
Name: Lynn Prebble
EXPERIENCE: Summited all of Colorado’s thirteeners and fourteeners; has spent nine years as a search and rescue volunteer
PREVIOUS HOBBY: Elk hunting
MOTTO: “Follow your bliss.”
What are you trying to prove?
That there is more adventure in climbing the remote ranges than
in hiking the fourteeners that
everyone climbs. I’ve been surprised by bighorn sheep and found crystal rock formations behind boulders.
I would never have gone to some of those places if it hadn’t been for
Which is the hardest thirteener in Colorado?
Lizard Head [in the San Juan Mountains], no question. You have to rope up for the rock on top. There’s a bulge I couldn’t get over the first time. If I were four inches taller, no problem.
You’ve rescued climbers and recovered bodies from the mountains. Who survives?
One time on Crestone Needle, two men fell down a cliff and were caught by a ledge. They had a cliff above and a cliff below, and night was falling. They decided to stay put. The next day, we came in and got them down with a rope. When I asked one what he was thinking about all night, he said, “You’ll think I’m crazy, but I kept thinking how beautiful it was.” That’s the secret right there—keeping a level head and being aware of the beauty that surrounds you.
You’ve attempted Everest—how did you train?
You have to be able to go up and down Pikes Peak in a day carrying half your body weight. In my case, that was only 50 pounds.
What motivates you when the mountain is winning?
I look at myself objectively and tell myself, “Sit, rest for only five minutes, then keep going.” My worst experience was 38 hours of scrambling and crawling through blizzards around Culebra Peak in Colorado. We should have turned back earlier. I have to force myself to turn back for bad weather, sometimes. We did that on Everest, which still bothers me. When I’m there, it’s the next handhold and foothold that capture my complete attention.
Exclusive: This month, the Women’s Wilderness Institute is launching backpacking trips to help connect female veterans—and their spouses or partners—with the outdoors. Read about it at 5280.com/womenswilderness.