Monolith climb to appear on PBS documentary

A group of climbers plants an American flag Sunday morning on top of 450-foot Independence Mo



Coloradans will be able to see what it’s like to make the annual climb up Independence Monument without breaking a sweat this November when the documentary “Colorado National Monument: Celebrating 100 Years of John Otto’s Dream” airs statewide on PBS.

Along with about 20 other climbers, Rocky Mountain PBS Production Coordinator Greg Mikolai reached the summit of the 450-foot monolith in Colorado National Monument on Sunday, a tradition started 99 years ago by John Otto, the first custodian of the Monument. Mikolai recorded the climb and descent with a compact, high-definition video camera affixed to the top of his helmet.

The footage will be shown with interviews, history and other images of the monument and Otto’s legacy in the upcoming documentary, which has been in the works since August.

“I wanted to give people of feeling of the climb that was as realistic as possible,” Mikolai said.

Like many making the trip this year, Mikolai made his first Independence Day on Independence Monument. The climb was also a first for 65-year-old Kirk Brosius of Fruita, who came off the trail with scratches on his legs from fitting through tight wedges on the way up.

“It was a very humbling experience,” he said of the climb.

It was a daunting challenge for first-time Independence Monument climber Ben Marsh, 28, of Grand Junction. But he said the help of Mesa County Search and Rescue team members, who aided climbers Sunday, made the experience “a good confidence builder.”

“There’s no one else I’d rather be up there with,” he said.

The climb is a fundraiser for the search and rescue team. Fruita resident David Gifford, 53, said having the team there instilled in him tremendous respect for what members do. Their encouragement helped him enjoy the experience, he said.

“It’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done that you’ll enjoy the most,” is what he plans to tell his friends about the climb.

The 360-degree view from atop Independence Monument amazed first-time climber Dick Janson. 64, of Grand Junction. But Janson said he’s not sure if he’ll return for the climb next year.

“It’s a thrill and now it’s time to look for the next one,” he said.


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