A perfect fit for AdAmAn
Westside ice-storm lover is club’s newest member

       Mark Szabo is one of those unusual sorts of people who don't mind the cold so much. The athletic 48-year-old Westside resident even confessed in a recent interivew that “when the weather gets bad, I want to go out. Some of my best hikes have been in ice storms.” Standing by the start of the hiking trail near his Westside
house, Mark Szabo displays the gear he will be lugging up Pikes Peak with the AdAmAn club on New Year’s.
Westside Pioneer photo
       So it was probably inevitable that Szabo would eventually link up with the AdAmAn Club - the group that climbs the mountain every New Year's Eve, no matter how blustery it is.
       An independent computer business owner, he fits with AdAmAn in another key way, providing technological support for the complex electronics the club requires nowadays to set off its fireworks when the clock strikes midnight. "I'm working on being the third person in the club that's licensed to put on the fireworks shows," he explained.
       This year, on his 10th climb, Szabo has received the ultimate reward for someone who enjoys the annual trek so much: He's been made the newest added man. He's the 90th member in AdAmAn's history (including two women), dating back to the original "Frozen Five" 85 years ago. "It's like a dream still," said Szabo, who has hiked as a guest till now, "like one of those why-me things. I think part of it is that I truly love the club. It's a great tradition and it fits my personality. I think that shows."
       Generally consisting of 16 to 20 people each year, the group ambles up Barr Trail Dec. 30 and spends the night at Barr Camp (about halfway to the summit). Continuing up the next day, the hikers always stop at the Timberline A-frame at 11 a.m. to flash mirrors to the town (and enjoy getting flashes back). "There's something about a good day and seeing all those flashes," Szabo commented. "It's special to know all those people are watching."
       The AdAmAn'ers schedule calls for them to arrive at the top in the mid-afternoon, at which time they start setting up the fireworks. They fire five test shells at 9 p.m., and then set off the full display at midnight, which is visible on a clear night, according to estimates, for at least 100 miles.
       This year, an AdAmAn press release notes, "As the new member, Szabo will have the honor of breaking trail over the icy slopes of Barr Trail to the summit of Pikes Peak."
       Another chore for the newest member is to light a bonfire at Barr Camp. One of Szabo's favorite memories concerns the lighting adventure of a previous first-timer, Cindy Bowles. Aware that the tradition allows only two matches to be used, she reportedly poured an excessive amount of lighter fluid on the stack of wood. "One moment there wasn't a fire, and then there was," Szabo chuckled.
       It figures that his other vivid AdAmAn memories involve nasty weather, such as 70 mph gusts that threaten to blow everyone off the mountain. "There are times on a climb when you wonder why you're out there," he said with a grin.
       Being in shape is no issue for Szabo. In addition to hiking, he has climbed several Colorado 14'rs and summitted Pikes Peak another way, by running the Pikes Peak Marathon.
       His introduction to AdAmAn came through Rick Trojanovich, a club member he had met through his job at a credit union. "We started talking about it, and before you knew it, he said fill out an application," Szabo recalled. "He sponsored me the first time (in 1998)."
       A Colorado native, Szabo relocated from Arvada to the Pikes Peak region in 1982. After living a number of years in Manitou Springs, he moved to the Westside about four years ago. His current home, south of the Garden of the Gods, is next to a trail into the Garden. So if an ice storm hits, he can be out in the middle of it in a heartbeat. "I love where I am," he said.

Westside Pioneer article