The greatest thing some people will ever do is love. While this statement doesn’t apply to our cold and unforgiving protagonist, Pikes Peak, this mountain did allow for two people to find each other. Here, in the desolate landscape towering over the city of Colorado Springs, the soil is unfertile, and the the rocks are littered with spiders. Still, here in this inhospitable landscape, love prospered and grew.
Jeff Watters, 54, worked as a staff member at the Summit House on top of Pikes Peak from 1990–1993. The Summit House was originally owned and operated by the Carl family, who had different employment requirements from the new ones currently in place. The family provided room and board and required employees to stay at the Summit House for six days per week. Watters started his work in the gift shop, but he quickly transitioned to a position in the kitchen.
Watters reminisces fondly about the old structure of the Summit House. When he worked at the house, there was a long snaking countertop so that all the tourists who came off the Cog Railway could buy hot chocolate and donuts.
It was here that Watters met Jillian Chadwick, an English woman who worked in the gift shop during the summer of 1991. Chadwick had traveled the world, rode a train across Russia, saw the Berlin Wall torn down — and she shared these stories with Watters atop Pikes Peak along the Eastern Ridge. In the evenings, the two would walk or sit out over the lookout, talking, listening, and watching the city lights glitter below for hours. Watters couldn’t believe the astounding woman she was, her intelligence, her cunning, her thirst for adventure.
On their days off, the two would explore Manitou Springs together. Once the summer concluded, Chadwick’s work visa expired, and she returned back to Manchester. Watters returned to his off-season work, flipping burgers and working in an automotive shop. He would go through this routine, from sleeping to burger flipping to the automotive shop and back again. He went through this cycle for some time, and he discovered, after the three brief months they spent together, he couldn’t stop thinking about her.
A month later, on top of Pikes Peak, Watters called Chadwick and asked her to marry him. Chadwick said, “Could you call back tomorrow?” Watters trekked back down the mountain, seemingly rejected. The next day he called, she said a resounding yes as soon as she picked up the phone.
Chadwick moved back to the United States where she and Watters began new positions and started their new life together. Watters left the Summit House after the management changed from the Carl family to the Aramark Corporation. The Summit House that the couple came to know became unrecognizable. Th
ere were no more long, snaking counter tops. There was no longer a staff requirement to stay atop Pikes Peak.
Chadwick passed in 2016 from Stage 4 cancer. Though Watters misses her terribly, he continues to remain optimistic and loving toward all the people he encounters. As an avid worker for the Colorado College Grounds and Landscaping crew, he enjoys joking around with his fellow crew members, getting to know students, and making the school beautiful. But most of all, he loves telling stories — about his family, his work in the Summit House, and his time in the armed forces. His stories reflect a person who truly cares about all that he does and the people in his life.