Updated: Sep 8
Hiking one of Colorado’s “14ers” is a quintessential adventure for Colorado residents.
Health Check -
One of the most intriguing goals for anyone who visits or resides in Colorado is to hike our peaks above 14,000 feet.
1) Hydration & Food
1) Drink plenty of water the night before, no alcohol, and plenty of electrolytes and healthy food choices!
2) When doing any strenuous physical activity, hydration is key. But it’s even more critical in this case because there’s less oxygen at higher altitudes. Your body compensates by taking in oxygen more frequently by breathing rapidly. Combine this natural response with a heightened physical effort that has you literally gulping air on the side of a mountain, and you could dehydrate very quickly.
3) If this is your first 14er chances are you aren’t used to six to eight hours of sustained strenuous activity.
⦁ Carbs – A quick-use fuel source your body needs for bursts of energy.
⦁ Protein – Longer-term fuel to recharge the muscles you’re breaking down.
⦁ Healthy Fats – Keeps you full longer, so you don’t have to continually replenish.
We love these trail-ready snack combos:
⦁ Energy Jelly Bellys – These little babies get you up a mountain with some boost. Sport Beans contain carbohydrates, the electrolytes sodium and potassium and vitamin B1, B2, B3 and C. Another Jelly Belly product, called Extreme Sport Beans, also features 50 mg of caffeine. Jelly Belly Beans are at best a marginal source of energy for any physical activity, including running. While Jelly Belly Sport Beans do contain a minimal amount of beneficial vitamins, there is no scientific evidence that supports consuming this product as a good source of energy.
⦁ PB&J – Perfect mix of healthy fat (peanut butter), sugar (jelly) and sustained energy (whole grain bread) to keep you satisfied all day long.
Ultimately, bring what you like. You don’t want to be caught at the top with no appetite because you brought a snack that no longer sounds appealing.
2. Start Early
If you are new to hiking 14ers you don't want to be out in dark for long. The rule of thumb is if you are hiking during the summer months, you need to be off the summit by noon.
3. What to wear?
The temperatures on any given fourteener can range from 0º-80º F — and that’s in one day. Starting early means cool mornings, especially if you’re on the trail before day-break. At the peak, expect cool air coupled with strong gusts of wind. Look for a little nook, typically built out of rocks at the summit, to enjoy the views and your sandwich while shielded from the elements. And you might break a sweat on the way down if it’s 75º F and sunny. Bottom line: You never quite know what to expect, so plan for it all.
4. What’s in your pack?
The last thing you want is to arrive at the trailhead and realize you forgot a crucial component for your journey. Besides food, water, and clothing (all covered above), here’s our quick list of must-haves for any fourteener. Make sure you don’t forget your 10 essentials! https://www.alwayschooseadventures.org/post/the-10-essentials
Don't hit the trail with new footwear. Hiking a 14er is not the time to break in a new set of hiking boots. Make sure your happy with your footwear prior to getting out there.
6. Do Your Research
Not all fourteeners are for everyone. Fourteeners are divided up into 5 categories / classes, based on the amount of exposure and climbing needed to reach the summit.
Source 14ers.com :
Class 1 - Easy hiking - usually on a good trail.
Class 2- More difficult hiking that may be off-trail. You may also have to put your hands down occasionally to keep your balance. May include easy snow climbs or hiking on talus/scree. Class 2 includes a wide range of hiking and a route may have exposure, loose rock, steep scree, etc.
Class 3- Scrambling or un-roped climbing. You must use your hands most of the time to hold the terrain or find your route. This may be caused by a combination of steepness and extreme terrain (large rocks or steep snow).
Class 4- Climbing. Handholds and footholds are required for upward or downward progress. Rope is sometimes used on Class 4 routes because falls can be fatal. The terrain is often steep and dangerous.
Class 5- Technical climbing. The climbing involves the use of rope and belaying. Rock climbing is Class 5. Note: In the 1950s, the Class 5 portion of this ranking system was expanded to include a decimal at the end of the ranking to further define the difficulties of rock climbing. This is called the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS). The decimal notations range from 5.1 (easiest) to 5.14 (most difficult). Recently, the rankings of 5.10 through 5.14 were expanded to include an "a", "b", "c" or "d" after the decimal (Example: 5.12a) to provide further details of the ranking. None of the routes described on 14ers.com are Class 5, so I will not go into detail of the expanded decimal system.
7. Check the forecast and weather. Colorado is known to have afternoon storms and unpredictable weather.
We recommend using NOAA.gov
Top right hand corner type in zip code or area of the mountain
See local forecast
Go to the Map area and zoom in the desired area, then click.
View pinpoint forecast
8. Trip Deals (Leave with a friend)
Mountain & Route
Vehicle Info (Make / Model / Plates)
Turn Around Time
Expected Time Back
Emergency Contact Info
9. Leave No Trace & Have FUN!
Don’t get summit fever and worry about getting to the top. Enjoy the adventure and day. The mountain will always be there. Because we want everyone to enjoy future adventures just as much as you do for many years to come, please be sure to leave no trace and stay on the trail. Please practice the 7 principles of Leave No Trace on any and all adventures! https://lnt.org/why/7-principles/