By Kristen Lotze
Colorado offers myriad warm-weather adventures, but one pastime seems to have become a rite of passage: climbing a 14er. For those who may not be familiar with the lingo, a 14er is a mountain whose peak is more than 14,000 feet above sea level. Hiking to half the height of Mount Everest sounds simple, right? Maybe for some, but for others a little guidance can be useful.
That’s where Ryan Campbell comes in. The affiliate faculty member in MSU Denver’s Recreation Professions Department shares four tips for making it to the top:
1. Do your research.
There is an abundance of online resources about all of the 14ers and various trail options. Know what you are getting into before you go.
2. Pack well.
Campbell suggests bringing the following items: extra layers (a moisture-wicking base layer, middle layer, waterproof outer layer, hat and gloves); good shoes and socks; high-calorie food; and a minimum of 2 liters of water per person – it should be easily accessible so you don’t have to stop and take off your pack to hydrate; a headlamp; and a first-aid kit.
3. Watch the weather forecast.
Know what time any inclement weather is forecast to come in. Don’t be afraid to turn around if weather starts building – storms can move quickly in the mountains. You should also plan on reaching the summit no later than noon (depending on the forecast) to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. Lastly, be prepared for all weather conditions; once you’re on the mountain, you may be subjected to snow, rain, lightning, high winds, fog and/or intense sunshine.
4. Learn and practice “Leave No Trace” principles.
“Leave No Trace” principles were created to provide guidance to enjoy our natural world in a sustainable way that avoids human-created impacts. They are: Plan and prepare; travel and camp on durable surfaces; dispose of waste properly (pack it in, pack it out); leave what you find; minimize campfire impacts; respect wildlife; and be considerate of other visitors.
Now that some of the basics have been covered, it’s time to decide on which peak you want to summit. Campbell suggests Mount Elbert, at 14,439 feet it’s the highest mountain in Colorado; Mount Bierstadt, which is close to Denver and great for beginners; or Grey and Torreys, which offers two peaks for the price of one and are also a short drive from Denver.
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