The allure of Colorado’s 58 14,000-foot peaks, and how to tackle them as a beginner

With proper planning, 14ers are achievable for a range of hiking abilities

A group of mountain goats enjoys the midday sun on the East Ridge approach to Quandary Peak outside of Breckenridge. The 6.7-mile roundtrip hike from Blue River to the summit along the mellow East Ridge is accessible for beginners.
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With snow-capped summits, awe-inspiring faces and inherent danger, Colorado’s 14ers — peaks that reach 14,000 feet or more above sea level — have enraptured hikers and climbers for years. Every year, Colorado’s 14ers are hiked by more than 500,000 people, with locals and international visitors taking on the challenge. Ranging from well-marked hiking trails to exposed climbs, 14ers offer a difficulty range that allows hikers of all abilities to attempt the high peaks.

Although most hikers agree that a 14er is just any mountain over the 14,000-foot mark, some controversy remains over the official number in Colorado. Some enthusiasts maintain that only 52 of the often-listed 58 qualify as official 14ers. In addition to being over 14,000 feet in elevation, they maintain that a summit must be 200-500 feet taller than the mountain’s next highest feature. That way, false summits do not qualify as 14ers even if they are above the 14,000-foot limit. 

Some climbers also contend that privately owned 14ers, such as Culebra Peak near San Luis, should not be included in the official list. The majority of the 14ers fall under the regulation of the U.S. Forest Service, though some fall on private property, and Longs Peak is in the boundaries of Rocky Mountain National Park. 

The 14er classification is unique to Colorado. No other state in the U.S. places such emphasis on its mountains that climb above 14,000 feet. Internationally, there are other famous groupings of peaks. The Seven Summits include the highest mountain on each continent, and mountaineers from around the world strive to summit all seven, even competing to climb them in a certain time period. 

Read the full story via The Summit Daily News.

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