Hiking up to the tops of Colorado’s highest peaks — our 53 mountains that rise above 14,000 feet in elevation — is a right of passage for outdoorsy types and an integral item for many people’s Colorado-living checklist.
And while a relatively easy (emphasis on “relatively”) mountain like Bierstadt can be summited by tourists and families, none of these hikes is a joke. So, as we’re headed into 14er-climbing season — conditions up there are good June through August — let’s figure out how to plan a couple trips.
We talked to Jeff Golden, experienced hiker and Colorado Mountain Club marketing manager, about preparing to climb a 14er — especially if its your first. Here’s what you need to know, including suggestions for a few starter climbs.
What to pack:
For any kind of wilderness adventure, these are the 10 essentials:
- Map. You can go to websites like caltopo.com and print out a topographical map for free, or go to a store and get a $10-12 map. “A map is essential and also super fun,” Golden said, because in addition to keeping you from getting lost, you can use it to identify the peaks around you. 14ers.com is also a great resource. If you refuse to carry a map, you should at least take screenshots of their maps and route descriptions.
- Compass. Crucial for navigation. Your phone or GPS can do the trick, but you’re safer with a simple magnetic compass.
- Sunglasses and sunscreen. “We’re already, in Denver, a mile closer to the sun. You get up to 14,000 and you’re another 2 miles closer,” Golden points out. It doesn’t seem like much on the cosmic scale, but it makes a big difference. You should apply more sunscreen every two hours. And be especially good about wearing about sunglasses in the snow. Snow blindness, he says, “feels like someone’s scratching your eyeballs with sandpaper for three days.”