How to prepare for a 14er |

How to prepare for a 14er

Human hands hiking reaching the top
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Do you have any advice before i tackle my first 14er?

It’s good to see you’re ambitious, and ready to take on the world, but please be careful when you do so; simple actions on your part can make or break your hike, and have a long-lasting impact on the alpine environment. While an old goat, like myself, can scurry up and down the mountains without a second thought, life isn’t so simple for you two-legged friends. I consulted with Len Shipman, the coordinator of the Peak Steward Program for the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, to make sure to give you sound advice.

One of the biggest points to stress is that elevation makes a big difference in what your body can do. You might be an Olympic-level athlete down in Texas, but once you reach 10,000 to 14,000 feet, the world and your body are going to seem a lot different. If you are new to the area, give yourself a chance to acclimate before taking on a monster like a 14er. There’s no shame in hanging out in town for a couple days to make sure your body is up for the challenge. It’s a lot better to be idle in the library than passed out on the trail.

While in town, if you find yourself at a local watering hole, discussing your plans with the bar flies, don’t let them get you in over your head. You might hear someone say, “Hike Quandary, it’s the easiest 14er,” or “You can do Grays and Torreys in one day, it’s no sweat.” Don’t listen. There is no such thing as an easy 14er and if you go in underestimating the mountain, chances are you are gonna come back to town with your tail between your legs. Respect the mountain and respect yourself enough to know what you are really capable of.

Once you’ve picked your peak, it’s time to get serious and prepare for the hike. Summit’s peaks are some of the most accessible to the Front Range, and on weekends and holidays you could easily run into almost 1,000 hikers. I’m sure that’s not exactly the experience you’re looking for, so if at all possible, try to hit the trails on a week day. If you do run into other hikers be respectful and know proper trail etiquette, like whoever is working the hardest gets to keep going. This means a hiker going uphill, a hiker without an easy pull-off or the hiker with the bigger burden gets to keep trucking.

Check the local forecasts and know that in Summit you can often set your watch by the thunderstorms. Always try to be off the peak by noon, and even if the weather reports say it will be in the 80s, know that the peaks are a whole different animal. Expect your triumphant climb to be met with cold and wind. Layer up, wear sunscreen and sunglasses and be prepared to be moving in and out of very different climates.

You should also take at least 2 liters of water and some extra food. I might find grass to be a tasty treat, but it’s not going to replinish you once you’ve burned through all your calories.

If you decide your four-legged friend needs to have the accomplishment of tackling a 14er, keep Fido leashed. As Shipman explained in an email (yes, Quandary is a high-tech goat), “Dogs threaten wildlife by their very presence on a Fourteener. A dog running free is a menace to wildlife and other dogs. Dogs get injured. I’ve seen a number of dog owners carry an injured dog off of a Fourteener.” It’s one thing to carry your poor little terrier down a few thousand feet, but if your baby is 100 pounds of mountain dog, you both might struggle to make it down.

Dogs aren’t the only ones who can do damage to the environment either. Stay on the trails when you are hiking because there are plants on those peaks much older than you, and nobody wants to be the guy that trampled the hundred-year-old vegetation.

For more information on these proud peaks and how you can interact with them visit

Have a question for Quandary? Send an email to

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