Above 14,000 feet on Colorado's Crestone Peak, Josh Collman wasn't feeling quite right. He felt exhausted that morning of Aug. 13, 2017.

"I should've quit," he says. "But me having to summit and do these things ..."

He had to complete the mission: the traverse to Crestone Needle. Over the exposed, jagged ridge, Collman felt in his element.

"That's what I lived for," he says. "Because it allowed me to go home and tell people how dangerous these things were. For the ego trip."

But what happened next would humble Collman, 45.

He also would gain a new appreciation for search and rescue teams. For them he wrote his new book, "The Needle: Finding Heroes," which chronicles his harrowing save that day by Vail Mountain Rescue — a job that would be recognized nationally with Mountain Rescue Association's Life Saving Award.

"That day, I had these amazing people risk their lives for a summit junkie. They risked their lives for me," says Collman, who lives near Albuquerque, N.M.

For the first time, he felt ashamed for his fourteener addiction. It had taken him to 49 of Colorado's 54 highest summits. And the riskier, the better; they elevated him from an otherwise ordinary life.

But every addiction takes its toll.

Descending the Needle with his climbing partner, Collman slipped and quickly found himself in a free fall.

"I'm screaming ... I didn't think I was gonna make it," he says. "I was praying to God: 'Please knock me out. I don't want to feel this.'

"All of a sudden, I landed on a ledge about the size of a dinner table."

His right side felt "bruised and battered." He looked at a bone protruding near his left ankle, his foot bent at a 90-degree angle.

His partner soon reached him and called 911. A helicopter would be coming — but then a storm descended upon the mountain.

They waited on the ledge nearly eight hours. Collman drifted in and out of consciousness, coming around at one point to call his wife, to say he loved her.

Finally, a Black Hawk whirred overhead.

"I don't think I'm gonna climb again," Collman told his wife at the hospital.

Yes he would, she said. And she was right, though it would take several months for Collman to come to terms with himself.

"To realize I'm not my ego," he says. "My ego was something I made up."

Recently on Humboldt Peak, in view of Crestone Needle, the summit fever was gone, he says.

"My favorite part was coming down and noticing the flowers on the trail and the butterflies, and hearing the stream, feeling the wind, hearing the birds. Just being part of it all."


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