Goldenite Corner: Hiker keeps bronzed boots to commemorate 14ers feat

Corinne Westeman
Posted 9/13/23

Exactly 43 years ago, Golden’s Jim Closs was standing at the top of Maroon Peak — his final 14er — and the trip to the summit had been a long time coming.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Don't have an ID?

Print subscribers

If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.


Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.

If you made a voluntary contribution in 2022-2023 of $50 or more, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one at no additional charge. VIP Digital Access includes access to all websites and online content.

Our print publications are advertiser supported. For those wishing to access our content online, we have implemented a small charge so we may continue to provide our valued readers and community with unique, high quality local content. Thank you for supporting your local newspaper.

Goldenite Corner: Hiker keeps bronzed boots to commemorate 14ers feat


Exactly 43 years ago, Golden’s Jim Closs was standing at the top of Maroon Peak — his final 14er — and the trip to the summit had been a long time coming.

Closs, who grew up in Pittsburgh and moved to Colorado in 1977, spent three years hiking the 54 highest peaks in Colorado. Some of them required multiple attempts, and the climb up Maroon Peak itself was no joke.

Closs and a friend climbed up a couloir, and at one point, Closs lost his footing and almost went over. He lost his pack, but he and his friend recovered, then made it to the summit and back down safely.

Closs became the 223rd person to hike the 14ers, according to the Colorado Mountain Club, he said.

“It was my dream to climb these mountains,” he said, “and I did.”

In the years that followed, he commemorated his accomplishment by having the boots he wore bronzed. He’s contemplated donating the boots to a local museum for public display, saying he wants to inspire others to “push their limits” and overcome new challenges too.

“The boots represented freedom, independence,” he said. “… I (had them bronzed) to remind me of the mountains.”

Closs has traveled all over Colorado and the world, including six of the seven continents, to hike iconic peaks like Mount Kilimanjaro and the Annapurna Circuit. He’s planning a trip to his final continent, Antarctica, in January.

Aurora’s John Flory, Closs’ friend who’s going with him to Antarctica, recalled meeting him while hiking in New Mexico 20 years ago. The two have been hiking partners ever since, and Flory said Closs has a wonderful memory and enjoys making jokes.

Although Flory said his friend will “climb any mountain,” he acknowledged Colorado’s peaks will always be special and feel like home.

“It’s heaven as far as I’m concerned,” Flory said of Colorado. “ … I think Jim feels the same way.”

‘See where your limits are’

Closs grew up in Pittsburgh and went to school on Grandview Avenue, where he joked that he spent 90% of his time looking out at the view. That spurred on his love of “being up high," he said.

On June 15, 1972, Closs and his friends were visiting Colorado for the first time, and they drove up Mount Evans.

“That was a great view,” he said, describing how that was the moment he became hooked on Colorado.

However, he couldn’t move just yet, as he went into the Navy and became a navigator. But, once he left in 1977, he moved to Colorado in early September.

He bought his now-bronzed boots from a store on Denver’s Colfax Avenue, and in 1978 he officially started his endeavor to hike all the 14ers. In his 14ers book, he kept a record of all his attempts and summits.

By the time he retired his boots in 1981, he’d hiked all the 14ers in them, plus other peaks like California’s Mount Whitney and Washington's Mount Rainier. The right boot's toe was busted open, and both shoestrings were broken and reknotted several time, he said.

Closs held onto his boots, though, and had them bronzed in the mid-1980s when he was living in New York. He saw an ad for a shop that bronzed baby boots, and asked if it’d bronze his hiking boots too. He turned them into bookends, keeping them as a reminder of Colorado while he “moved all over."

Flory thought the bronzed boots were a unique and wonderful reminder of his friend’s impressive feat. Flory's only hiked about 30 of the 14ers, saying some are very dangerous and require rock-climbing expertise.

Closs continued to hike any chance he could, and eventually started splitting his time between Colorado, New Mexico, and his travels. He’s revisited some 14ers over the years, and has gone through several pairs of boots throughout his hiking career. He’s taking his current ones to Antarctica, so he’ll have hiked in them on all seven continents.

"I'm thinking about getting them bronzed too," he said with a smile.

For his fellow hikers, Closs emphasized safety. He said people should be well-prepared with all the necessary supplies and equipment, and he recommended attending basic mountain safety classes like he did.

But, whether it’s hiking or some other endeavor, he encouraged his fellow Goldenites to expand their horizons and push their limits.

“You learn about yourself that way,” he said. “You think, ‘Wow, I can do that,’ and you see where your limits are.”

golden, colorado, goldenite, corner, hike, hiker, bronze, bronzed, boots, 14er, 14ers, feat


Our Papers

Ad blocker detected

We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.