By Annie Lindgren, Sunshine Ink
There are 58 mountains in the state of Colorado that are over 14,000ft in elevation. Every year people summit a few or bag them all. Have you considered summiting a 14er? Here is some helpful information as you plan for bagging your first summit.
What to Expect
In Colorado, tree line is around 11,500ft, depending on the side of the mountain you are on. Without the protection of trees, the elements can be brutal; sun-shining, storms-looming, and wind-blasting. Expect to find snow above tree line until July.
Much of 14er summiting is based around the weather and careful planning. As a general rule, you want to be off the summit by noon, when storms typically move in. The last place you want to be during a lightning storm is above tree line. Expect to leave the trailhead before the sun comes up. Most 14er trailheads have areas to camp near them if you want to avoid an extra early departure from home.
The higher up you go in elevation, the less oxygen in the air. You will get out of breath quickly and should expect to travel more slowly. Trails are often steep and challenging rocky terrain. Anticipate hiking about a half-mile, to a mile, an hour at a higher elevation, based on the trail’s difficulty level. Expect to spend the first half of the hike climbing uphill and the second half all being downhill. It is a full-body exercise, and training for it will make it less challenging and more enjoyable.
Water and Calories
Carry plenty of water, and stay hydrated. Not many of the trails have water above tree line, so do your research to know where the water sources are. Bring a way to filter or sanitize water for if you run out. Depending on the length of the trail, I recommend carrying 2-3 liters of water.
Carry snacks and try to eat a little something every hour or two, keeping in mind that you burn a lot of calories during strenuous hikes. Protein bars, trail mix, and a treat for the summit, along with hydration or sport mixes, will help keep you going.
What is in a Class?
There are different classes in 14ers – Class 1 through 5. These classes tell you how challenging the trails are in terrain, skill, and route finding. Class 1 trails are the easiest, with a visible path and no need for climbing with hands. Class 2 trails require route finding through trails marked with cairns and can require a bit of scrambling (using your hands and feet). Class 3 trails require the use of all limbs in climbing, along with difficult route finding. Class 4 and above require climbing skills and helmets.
What to Bring
- Medium-sized backpack that will carry plenty of water, food, and layers.
- Emergency gear: First aid kit that includes treatment for wounds and breaks, and medications. An Emergency beacon, especially if traveling alone. Bring provisions in case you need to stay the night, like an emergency tarp that can be used for shelter, and the ability to start a fire for warmth. Always good to carry a knife or…
Read more:: Will you bag your first 14er this summer?