Rocky Mountain High: Rooster’s Guide to 14ers
This summer is all about getting high in Colorado. Wait, no, not like that.
A 14er is a mountain that is 14,000 feet or higher above sea level, and it’s one of the biggest dick-measuring contests for Coloradoans, similar to getting enough ski days, or being able to afford to live here.
Colorado has 58 mountains exceeding 14,000 feet in its glorious mountain ranges, but if you really want to catch ‘em all, we’ll give you credit if you can get 57, as Culebra peak involves giving $100 to the Texas millionaire who owns the land that the mountain is on.
Whether you’re looking for a fun date idea or to be harshly reminded of the fragility of your own mortality while using your hands to traverse airy spaces through thousands of feet in the air, Colorado has a mountain for everyone.
Here’s a comprehensive guide to getting high in Colorado in the traditional sense.
There are a few rules to abide by when it comes to climbing 14ers in Colorado.
THOU SHALT LEAVE NO TRACE
This is fairly straightforward. If we summitted a 14er, and someone left a pile of cigarette butts or a bottle of KY jelly at the top, then our fellow hikers did a poor job at leaving no trace. It’s important for us to preserve the wildlands that we enjoy so that when our kids seek out the same adventures, they aren’t wading through a whole bunch of Marlboros and lube on their way to the summit.
THOU SHALT BE PREPARED
Bring enough layers, food and water, and a first aid kit when you hike. Know the general idea of your route, and be able to estimate how your pace is working compared to incoming weather.
THOU SHALT ACCLIMATE TO ELEVATION
Have you ever had severe elevation sickness? It’s like the worst hangover you’ve ever had, but often you’re outside in the middle of nowhere when it hits. It’s important to gain elevation slowly and allow yourself to acclimate to the elevation over time while also consuming plenty of fluids, and no, hard seltzers do not count.
To the Summit!
Now you’re ready to do this thing. You set your alarm for 2 a.m., you put some kind of food on your stomach, and you drove your Subaru Outback to the trailhead to park it next to the other 40 Subaru Outbacks at the trailhead.
With any luck, you just gave a whole paycheck to those bastards at REI, and now you’re ready to break in completely brand new hiking boots on a 9 mile hike with thousands of feet of elevation gain.
(While it’s probably better than flip flops, brand new shoes are a hiker’s nightmare. Break in your shoes and know how your gear works before you’re four miles into your hike.)
This next part is pretty straight forward, but also incredibly important: After exiting your car with your gear, approaching the trailhead, and getting oriented, proceed to start walking to the top of the mountain.
The Summit is Only Halfway There
Once you summit, it’s time to get down to the real business: drinking a beer and getting a ton of photos.
After all, what’s the point of climbing a gorgeous mountain in the wildlands of Colorado if you don’t stare at a portrait of yourself the entire drive home only to post it onto Instagram in an effort to convince people you went to high school with that you lead a more fulfilling life than them and to earn those little heart-reactions in order to gain a fucked-up sense of millennial validity?
Congratulations on your first 14er. You only have 57 (or 56, depending on your standards) to go.
Remember folks, it’s like the age-old adage says: “The mountains are calling and I must rip off an ancient John Muir quote and tattoo it on my forearm so the whole world can know how outdoorsy and unique I am.”