It all began in 1968, when two friends, Mike Paddock and Steve Kibler—who frequently climbed in Glenwood Canyon, Colo.—decided to place an American flag at the top of a 300 ft granite peak, one of their favorite climbing routes. Later that same year both Paddock and Kibler would ship out for Vietnam as teenagers, uncertain of their return.
Perhaps a combination of bravery and luck, both men returned home safely. As a tribute, they continued trekking the flag up the canyon, year after year. And the spot, while visible from the road, is very difficult to reach.
Today, almost 50 years past the initial ascent, Steve and Mike remain best friends, and not a year goes by that they don’t carry on the tradition of placing the Glenwood Canyon flag.
Originally, I was asked to get involved because I have a key to the nearest access point of the railroad-side of the Colorado River, due to my line of work. Using the access point cuts out 8 miles by using the Shoshone dam to cross the Colorado River and access the railroad. I’ve now had the honor to join Mike & Steve in ascending a new flag for the past six years.
High above the Colorado River, Interstate 70, and the railroad is where we reach our goal – it’s an incredible view of Glenwood Canyon!
Once we replace the worn and tattered flag, we begin our decent through an alternate route, different from the way we came up. For being close to 70 years old Mike & Steve are extremely confident climbers, using just a rope and no rappelling gear! We then head back into the bushwhacking towards the scree field.
To me, the flag is first and foremost a representation of their friendship. Every year—no matter what is happening in their lives—they take the time to get together and make the trip without hesitation. Since I started assisting them, I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of that friendship. We talk about history, life, family and of course our climbing endeavors. Soon it will be the 50th anniversary of the Glenwood Canyon flag, and I hope to continue their tradition for 50 more.
Author: MHW ambassador, Josh Mattson.