What is a Fourteener and How Do You Prepare?

So you’re thinking about taking the plunge and going on your first 14er hike. But exactly what is a fourteener? We will cover this in our article and how you can get prepared!

What is a Fourteener?

If you are thinking about your first 14er climb this year, the following information will offer you some insight as to what you need to know. First, a basic fact – what is a fourteener? A simple answer is this: it is any mountain that stands higher than 14,000 feet above sea level – this is known as a fourteener. While there are 14ers in other states, Colorado claims the most with 54 stretching across its land. A 14er may not sound like much in a name, but it is 2.6 miles high – that is quite a distance to climb upward. 

If you are ready, you might want to consider your first climb between late June to early July. It often depends on the amount of snow deposited during the winter months. The 14er climbing season generally ends by late September or early October when the weather changes. As you plan for your first hike, you need to prepare what to take, what to wear, choose the mountain you want to climb along with the route. Be sure to also check on the proposed weather forecast. You will need to estimate the time you believe it will take to hike to the top. 

what is a fourteener

Make Certain You Take Essentials for Your Climb

One essential you will want to take with you is a day pack. Inside you should include a second layer of clothing, as well as some sunscreen. Water is required to keep you hydrated along with an electrolyte beverage. Include plenty of snacks to feed your body as you will burn many calories. Of course, you may want to take your camera – once you reach the top, you will want to take a picture to claim your “bragging rights,” proving your success.

You should always hike with at least one friend. Between the two of you, it is essential to have some other basic items in case of an emergency. These include matches, a fire starter, a first aid kit, and a flashlight. It is important to keep your backpack’s weight at a reasonably comfortable weight – you will be carrying it for many hours.

Your first hike should include boots or good hiking shoes. After your seven-mile plus trek, you will understand why if you do not choose your shoes wisely. Since weather conditions change frequently, you should include a rain jacket. You should not wear cotton clothing. The reason is that this type of clothing will remain wet if you face adverse weather conditions. Instead, choose polyester. You should also invest in zip-off hiking pants. Wear wool socks along with a warm hat and gloves. 

Some Coloradans consider climbing a 14er as the right of passage. Before you choose your target, you need to understand that this climb is not easy. You need to be in reasonably good shape, able to climb for eight to 12 hours and be able to handle the altitude. All mountain climbers will agree that you need to start with a climb you can handle. Since Colorado has so many 14er’s, you should start with a beginner-friendly mountain.

There are many from which you can choose. Your selection should be from a Class 1 or 2 climb as these are well-marked trails, and they are best for the beginner. Remember that trails are divided into five categories, with Class 5 being the most difficult requiring technical climbing with a rope.

Beginning Hikers Might Want to Choose One of These to Climb

One consideration, for your first adventure, is Mount Elbert. It stands at 14,433 feet. Once you complete the climb, you will have traveled nine miles roundtrip. It is located in San Isabel National Forest, north of Elbert.

Aside from the challenge, you will also have a fantastic view of Leadville and Turquoise Lake. Another solid climb is Grays Peak. This trail is located on the Continental Divide in the Front Range. It is also a Class 1 climb at an elevation of 14,270 feet with a roundtrip of eight miles. Climbers declare this to be a solid, gentle trail. Nearby you might want to climb Torreys Peak on another day. The Class 2 climb stands at an elevation of 14,267 feet.

Like Grays Peak, it is a roundtrip of eight miles. Another Class 2 climb is Mount Bierstadt. The 14,060 feet high mountain is seven miles roundtrip. It is located in the Mount Evans Wilderness. Some hikers believe this is the easiest fourteener in Colorado. It is considered as a gentle climb although several sections are quite steep. It is great for younger hikers.

Another exciting challenge for beginning climbers is Quandary Peak. This Class 1 climb is a total roundtrip of seven miles. The peak stands at 14,265 feet. It is located near Denver, and it is just six miles southwest of Breckenridge on Colorado Highway 9. It is a popular climb during the summer. The trail is well-marked, and the ascent is relatively mild. We hope this article has answered your question of, what is a fourteener and how do I prepare?

Colorado offers many opportunities for hiking enthusiasts. Aside from the plentiful number of fourteeners and the many peaks offering different class levels, this makes the adventures more exciting and challenging. With such a variety of hiking, there is a mountain for everyone to enjoy.