Thin air and the feeling of her body against gnarled rock are all Kim Ruben needs to forget about her worries.
â€œThe mountains have become my solace, meaning theyâ€™ve become the place where I donâ€™t think about work, I donâ€™t think about life. I just kind of go and experience nature. Itâ€™s just one of those things where when youâ€™re up there thereâ€™s no better feeling, itâ€™s just clear,â€ Ruben said.
â€œThatâ€™s why I keep doing it.â€
The athletic blonde grew up on the East Coast and in the South, far away from the RockyMountains she today cannot live without. She moved to Colorado in 2003 and began exploring the outdoors.
â€œIâ€™ve been very athletic my whole entire life, but never outdoorsy. Colorado kind of brought that side of me out,â€ Ruben said.
Rock climbing walls lead to bouldering, which turned into a deep love for scaling some of the stateâ€™s tallest peaks. Now, the 34-year-old former Girl Scout takes to the mountains between three and five times a week when she isnâ€™t working as a registered dietician.
â€œIt started off with hiking 14ers, then it went into climbing, and now itâ€™s even growing more,â€ Ruben said.
The University of South Alabama in Mobile graduate has hiked several 14ers â€“â€“ mountains 14,000 feet above sea level and higher. Her first 14er hike was to Grays Torreys Peaks in Arapahoe. Reaching the summit made the grueling double hike worth it for Ruben.
â€œItâ€™s pretty much a feeling â€¦ that everything is going right in your life. Thereâ€™s nothing wrong. Youâ€™re just happy, youâ€™re excited, and youâ€™re just elated. The view is amazing, and you just want to soak it all in.â€ Ruben said.
She joined Larimer County Search and Rescue in 2006 in order to satisfy her passion for helping others and gain knowledge on Colorado outdoor life. LCSR is a free service of unpaid professionals that works with the Larimer County Sherriffâ€™s Department to find and retrieve those who are lost in the wilderness.
â€œJust being part of that program increased my awareness as far as not only safety but doing things outside,â€ Ruben said.
Safety while climbing is highly important for Ruben and anyone attempting to take on a mountain. Luckily, Ruben has sustained no injuries aside from a few scrapes and bruises.
Ruben and one of her groupâ€™s once were trapped in a lightning storm for three hours atop a peak, watching bolts strike down only yards away. A window of good weather allowed them to descend.
â€œIt is scary when you get stuck up on a rock with thunder and lightning,â€ Ruben said.
There really is no secret to successfully scaling a mountain, according to LCSR Manager Don Davis. All someone needs is a decent amount of physical fitness and decent preparation.
â€œA lot of the people we go search for and find are totally unprepared,â€ Davis said.
A properly packed bag complete with food, clothing, water and basic survival equipment is essential, according to both Davis and Ruben. Davis highly suggests reading trail books and watching the weather to enjoy a successful hike.
Climbing and hiking with others is also essential. Climbing alone is not only impossible while rock climbing, but extremely dangerous, according to Davis.
â€œThere are a few unsolved cases in Colorado where people split up and the other person flat out disappeared,â€ Davis said
Rubenâ€™s favorite hike was an almost 14-hour trip up Longâ€™s Peak, in which she assisted a 63-year-old man. There were times that he felt he would be unable to make it, but Ruben walked by his side the entire way.
â€œIt was not only a challenge for me personally, but it was a challenge for me mentally to keep him motivated to realize that he could do it, and we made it up to the top,â€ Ruben said.
Fear is no excuse for Ruben. It is all about a climberâ€™s mentality. Hesitation is short lived when faced with the height of a natural skyscraper.
â€œYou always have those moments for sure,â€ Ruben said. â€œJust for me, thatâ€™s one of those things that I love about climbing, is because it challenges me mentally and physically in ways that Iâ€™ve never been challenged before.â€
Comfort and fun are critical when Ruben climbs. Mt. Everest is not on her goal list because she thinks it would be an uncomfortable ascent.
â€œI give props to those guys that do that, but Iâ€™m OK with where Iâ€™m at here in Colorado and the rest of the peaks,â€ Ruben said.
Crime Reporter Rachel Childs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.