Interview with Diane and Charlie Winger

Diane and Charlie Winger at Winger Highpoint in ColoradoWhat was your first highpoint?

Our own Mt. Elbert here in Colorado was the first highpoint for each of us.

Why did you start highpointing?

Charlie: I started highpointing by accident, really. The first mountain I ever climbed was Mt. Elbert, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I originally conceived the idea of hiking to all the state highpoints in 1983, the year I first attempted Denali.

Diane: I really wanted to see more of the country. Until we started highpointing, I had only visited a few of the Western states, and had seen almost nothing of the rest of the country, other than from a window seat on a jet. It was a wonderful way to get out to places we may never have seen otherwise. Plus, hiking was involved, which we both enjoy.

How did you meet?

We met during a social hour at a computer conference.

What’s your background (birthplace, kids, education, job, etc.)?

Charlie: I was born in Chicago, but lived most of my childhood and early adult life in Kansas, where there weren’t many mountains (other than Mt. Sunflower, of course). My job took me to Colorado, and I’ve been here ever since. I have a Bachelors in Computer Information Systems, and have worked in that field since 1961. I have a daughter and 3 grandkids.

Diane: I’m a native of Denver, and have lived in Colorado my entire life. I’ve never had children, and never wanted any. I skipped having children and moved straight to being a Grandma to Charlie’s grandkids. Highly recommended! My degrees are in Math (Bachelors) and Computer Science (Masters), and I’ve been a geek pretty much all my life!

How did you find out about the club?

We picked up a copy of A to Z at the Colorado Mountain Club, and thought it sounded like a fun group.

What other interests do you have?

Nearly anything that involves getting outdoors and away from cities and towns! Charlie loves ice climbing; we both really enjoy rock climbing, hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country / telemark skiing.

What’s your favorite thing about highpointing?

Meeting people! We’ve made many new friends who enjoy the same types of things we do.

Highpoint Adventure Questions:

Why did you want to write the Highpoint Adventures book (after other books had already been written)?

We thought it would be fun to gather detailed information and write a book while we were out doing all the highpoints.

Tell us about the process of finding a publisher.

Actually, a publisher found us. Diane was working as a software consultant/developer for a small publishing company in Denver. They approached us about writing a pocket-sized book about hiking. After discussing several possible themes, we decided on a highpointing book.
After the little green book was published, we were talking to the editor at Colorado Mountain Club Press. He was interested in obtaining the publishing rights to the book, and worked out an arrangement with the original publisher to purchase the rights to Highpoint Adventures with the plan to use the material as a basis for the expanded 2nd edition.

How did you determine route mileage?

We used our car’s odometer for driving mileage; maps, trail signs, and GPS readings for hiking distances.

How long did it take to write the book?

About 2 years. We visited 44 highpoints during the period just prior to publishing the 1st edition (that brought Charlie to 50, Diane to 44 highpoints). We climbed 4 more before the 2nd edition came out (bringing Diane to her current count of 48).

How did you make the route profiles?

Our editor created the elevation profile maps. Diane created all the driving and hiking maps.

What kind of camera did you use for the book?

You name it, we used it. This was back in the all-film, all-the-time days. We usually took along 3 cameras to every highpoint so we could be sure to get a shot that would come out!

What kind do you use now

For our Essential Guide to Great Sand Dunes book, we switched to a Kodak 3.2 Megapixel digital camera. We used an Olympus C-750 Ultra-Zoom with 4.0 Megapixels for our newest book, The Trad Guide to Joshua Tree. We found the 10X zoom very useful for taking photos of the rock climbing routes.
The cost of film and processing would have been prohibitive with the Dunes and the JTree books. We took about 1,000 photos each while working on these 2 books. Digital makes it far easier to review and organize photos.

What is involved with building your web site (time, programs, etc.)

Diane: Actually, I have built 3 web sites; each one focused on a different book of ours. However, is pretty much our “core” website, since we use a theme of “adventures in the great outdoors” on that site.
Even though I’m a programmer by trade, I’m self-taught on building websites. I try to include some real content and not simply advertise our books, although I admit publicizing them is my primary goal.
Software: I use FrontPage. Time: When I’m not outside hiking and climbing, you can usually find me in front of the computer tweaking our websites. Once a geek, always a geek.

You have written books on Great Sand Dunes and Joshua Tree. What is involved with writing those books (time, etc.)?

We learned to record everything possible on each research trip. We take tons of photos – even photos of every trail sign for reference. We each carry a small tape recorder to make notes as we hike, as well as GPS units, where we record waypoints. We often travel with a laptop so we can do a rough write-up of what we’ve researched every night while the information is still fresh in our minds.
We also made it a point to visit with the locals to get details that we might not have discovered otherwise.
One thing we’ve realized is that it always takes longer to research and write a book than we guessed it would!
We’re very “hands-on” – we like to actually experience a hike, climb, etc. before we write about it.

Do you have plans to write other books?

We have other books in mind, but need a breather right now, since we’ve just sent the Joshua Tree book to the printer! We’re always open to suggestions and ideas.

Highpoint Liaison Questions:

What’s involved with this position?

Charlie: As the Liaison Chair, I keep a database of all State Highpoint Liaisons and Helpers. When there is a problem or issue in a state, I contact our representatives and have them attempt to resolve the issues.

What’s expected of the individual liaisons?

They are the main contact with the Highpoint owner, whether that’s an individual or a government entity. They are supposed to be pro-active in identifying potential issues at their highpoints. They also enlist assistance from their Highpoint Helpers in taking care of what needs to be done. For example, Indiana needs a new fence / gate. The Liaison is working with the Helper to see that this improvement is made.
In Florida, liaison Glenn Van Vliet worked closely with local entities to bring about numerous improvements at the highpoint site.

How often are the liaisons in contact with the owners or highpoint officials?

Only they really know! We suggest that they contact the owners or officials at least once a year, even if there aren’t any known problems.

How does somebody become a liaison for the state?

Anyone with enthusiasm for our sport who is willing to visit their highpoint once a year is qualified! Just contact Charlie if you are interested.

What are the rewards of being a liaison?

As with any volunteer activity, you have the satisfaction of providing a service that otherwise might not be available. It’s like the rewards of being the Chairman of the Board; right, Roger?

Volunteer Questions:

What’s involved with this position?

Being the Volunteer Coordinator is quite simple – I solicit suggestions for things that the Club needs help with, then write a column for the newsletter describing what help we need. Actually, many of the volunteer needs I “advertise” come from my observations of certain Board members who are always taking on task after task after task. I’m convinced that we have many members who would like to help the club, but may not want to commit to being on the Board of Directors.

Is it difficult finding volunteers?

It varies. Sometimes we’ve had far more people than we need respond to a request for help in one area, but don’t hear from anyone for another task. Generally, that’s because some of our requests have been for people with a specific background – liability insurance or tax accounting, for example.
I’ve been very pleased with how people have responded to our requests for assistance.

What are the rewards of being a volunteer?

Just like Charlie said about the Liaisons and Helpers – satisfaction of knowing you’ve made a difference. By serving on the Board, I feel more connected to the Club. I think all the people who do volunteer work at our conventions, or out at the Highpoints, or by being on a committee, or serving on the Board get more satisfaction out of being part of the Club because our Club just wouldn’t exist without people volunteering their time. Plus, the work is usually lots of fun! (Helping serve ice cream at the Ice Cream Social in Oklahoma was certainly a blast.)


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