Tackling Colorado’s 53 (or is it 58?) fourteeners
Ready to climb a fourteener?
There is usually heated discussion about exactly how many peaks above 14,000 feet Colorado has. But evaluating the peaks with a topographic standard rather than emotion yields 53 that have at least 300 feet of topographic prominence, which is how high the peak rises above its surroundings.
This excludes local peaks North Maroon Peak and Conundrum Peak in the Elk Mountains. North Maroon is often considered an “official” fourteener thanks in part to its iconic stature and the fact that the traverse over to Maroon Peak is Class 5 difficulty, which is technical rock climbing. Conundrum is a sub-summit of Castle Peak with 200 feet of topographic prominence.
There are three more peaks over 14,000 feet tall that are described on the website 14ers.com but are not ranked as fourteeners. One is Mount Cameron, a sub-summit of Mount Lincoln in the Mosquito Range. Peak baggers can summit Lincoln, Bross, Democrat and Cameron in a day.
The last two are in the San Juan Mountains. El Diente is a sub-summit 3/4 miles from Mount Wilson with 239 feet topographic prominence. The traverse between the two peaks is Class 4 — which means handholds and footholds are required for upward or downward progress. The difficulty of the traverse qualifies Diente as a fourteener in its own right to some, according to Wikipedia.
The other is North Eolus, a sub-summit just 44 feet lower than Mount Eolus with 179 feet of topographic prominence.
Anyone interested in tackling their first (or final) fourteener can get a wealth of information from 14ers.com.
The site has topo maps with routes marked; routes described with distance, elevation gain, difficulty and risk ratings, and photos; trailhead information; and user-generated reports on trail conditions.
Sean Van Horn recently completed Nolan’s 14, 14 fourteeners over 92.8 miles with 43,225 feet of climbing in 45 hours, 57 minutes. He has some advice for those planning to hike their first fourteener.
“Start early to avoid thunderstorms, but look at the weather, don’t just say, ‘I’ll start early and I’ll be fine no matter what.’ Storms can come in at 9 a.m. … Look at the Doppler [radar] as well to get as specific as you can, and be prepared to bail if storms come in,” he said.
The manager of Independence Run and Hike, Van Horn also stressed the importance of proper footwear.
“Invest in some good shoes that have some good traction and support so that you’ll have a better, more comfortable, safer time out there,” he said.
And be sure to pack extra clothes for changing conditions and storms.
“Bring some clothes. It can be 80 degrees down at the trailhead and with wind chill it can be 30 degrees up on top,” he said.
Proper nutrition and hydration is very important.
“Take care of yourself; make sure you’re eating food and drinking and using some electrolytes with your water. Don’t just drink gallons of water without any salt, that can mess with your body as well,” he said.
And start with one of the easier routes.
“Start with some that are a little more straightforward, easy routes like heading up Elbert or Shavano, that are close to where we are. There are some easier ones on the Front Range like Gray’s and Torreys,” he said.