On New Year’s Eves of his childhood, Lance Stark remembers the mirrors flashing in the afternoon, Pikes Peak climbers signaling to him and all of Colorado Springs far below. The AdAmAn Club’s mountaintop firework shows from decades ago are still bright and fresh in his mind.
But now for the storied tradition, Stark has a front row seat.
“Shoot, he brings that up all the time,” says his 21-year-old son, Luke, the Springs’ sixth-generation Stark. “I think it was one of the driving reasons for wanting to be in the club so bad … To feel like that, ‘I wanna do that, I wanna be them so bad,’ and then to be on the other side of it doing it. It just means a ton I think.”
Stark is the alliance’s 101st member, selected to lead on Barr Trail for the 97th ascent Sunday.
As it has since 1922, since the days of Stark’s great grandparents, the crew will camp the night at the peak’s halfway station before summiting Monday. They’ll wait until the stroke of midnight to put on the display this city has come to know and love.
Stark represents a small cadre within AdAmAn’s exclusive ranks. Few among them can say their ancestors were here in the pioneer era, as Stark’s great great grandfather was, opening what is believed to be the town’s first hardware store.
“It’s an honor,” Stark says. “It’s a service to the community, and it’s part of the community’s history, and I’ve got that history. I don’t know if you can call it pride, but it’s just a neat thing.”
At the trailhead Sunday, none will be more surprised to be there than the humble Stark himself.
Last month at the club’s annual banquet, surrounded by families of fellow AdAmAn climbing guests, he listened when the usual speech came to announce the group’s new member. Some guests go more than a decade before being added to the hallowed roster, if ever. And as Stark had only tagged along four times, he had no expectations.
Then his ears perked up. “… He’s applied probably more than any other guest … He’s climbed 50 fourteeners …”
“That’s weird,” Stark recalls thinking. “That sounds a lot like my stuff.”
Indeed it was. As far as Stark is concerned, he was allowed to rub shoulders with club members because they felt sorry for him; he applied so many times to be a guest that he lost count.
But as far as Bob Sommers is concerned, he’s a “perfect fit.”
“I call him a servant leader,” says Sommers, the 1988 AdAmAn selection, whose family roots also go deep, his parents and Stark’s being friends before them. “He cares about other people deeply. He’s a team player extraordinaire.”
That’s been evident to Sommers on several backcountry adventures with Stark, “an outdoorsman’s outdoorsman,” the friend says.
In God’s creation, as Stark’s family has known it, hunting and fishing has been a custom. His youth was spent camping and skiing the former slopes of The Broadmoor. The other local spot was Pikes Peak’s old area, which his great uncle helped build.
Born in 1960 and raised on the West Side, Stark remembers paved roads here when they were dirt. He graduated from Coronado High School and went on to the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he began scaling the state’s biggest mountains, before fourteeners were heavily trafficked.
Out of college, Stark considered a job in Houston — briefly. “First job out of college, and I was basically turning it down before they offered,” he says. “You choose a lifestyle. That was more important to me than a career.”
Stark’s lifestyle was home in Colorado, where he continues a career in systems engineering. His passion, though, is in the wild, embarking off trail to high lakes and higher summits. The love has been shared with his three children, including Luke, a competitive rock climber and second-year AdAmAn guest.
That’s special for Stark, climbing with his family’s next generation. And it’s special for Sommers, who brings along son Mac. At Barr Camp last year, the two sons wrote a goofy rap song, with lines honoring the past.
“Ninety years later, the tradition remains,” they sang, “and the love for the mountain never wanes.”
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