Climbers hoping to clear hurdle for six of state’s highest peaks
DENVER – Maury Reiber never thought much about the hordes of people who climbed Mount Lincoln, including a dedicated few hoping to climb all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks, until an attorney warned him about setting off dynamite in the silver mine he owned at the summit.”He said, ‘You guys have a (heck) of a liability here,’ and he was right,” Reiber said Monday after lawmakers gave preliminary approval to a bill that would ease liability worries and clear the way for more climbers.Access to Mount Lincoln, 14,286 feet, and five other “Fourteeners” covered partly by private land or mining permits has become an obstacle for peak-baggers – climbers who set out to reach all 54 summits.More than 1,000 people have accomplished that feat since the early 1900s, and 10 to 40 more join the list every year, according to Colorado Mountain Club records.But some people who own land or mines on the trails have begun limiting access to climbers with insurance – as Reiber did – or denying it altogether for fear of lawsuits if someone is hurt. In some cases, that makes it difficult or impossible to reach the summit.Reiber said he had to turn down a group of Air Force Academy cadets who wanted to climb Mount Lincoln before shipping out for military service.The bill approved by the state House Agriculture Committee on Monday would relieve landowners of liability as long as there is a marked trail around abandoned mines and warnings about the dangers. The bill now goes to the full House for debate.The law would allow, but not require, landowners to grant access without fear of being sued.Ben Wright, who owns property on Mount Democrat, 14,148 feet, said he was upset when another property owner on the mountain began charging for access, but he was worried about liability of someone got injured if he allowed them to hike across his property.Wright said the bill would help, but he’s worried about a requirement that climbers stick to the trail. He hopes lawmakers can reach a compromise.”We don’t expect them to stay on the trail all the time. Every so often, nature calls and they might trespass. Who is going to go out and put a … fence around a mountain?” he asked.
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