One of the biggest challenges in Colorado is to climb all 54 peaks that are above 14,000 feet, otherwise known as 14ers. The hikes are ranked according to difficulty from class 1-5 with 1 being the easiest and 5 the most difficult. Class 3 requires technical scrambling, and rock climbing which can usually be done without ropes. All of the 14ers (even class 1's) are difficult to hike/climb and involve an element of risk and excessive physical exertion. Most of the 14ers have class 2 and 3 routes but a few have class 1, and a few have only class 3 or higher.
In the U.S. there are 91 peaks that are above 14,000 feet, not including peaks that do not rise at least 300 feet from a connecting saddle to another nearby 14er. Alaska has 21 of these peaks and 19 out of 20 highest peaks in the U.S. Denali (or some call it Mt Mckinley) in Alaska is the highest point in North America at 20,320. California has 15 peaks abover 14,000, and the highest peak in the Continental U.S. with Mt. Whitney at 14494. Washington has 1 peak over 14,000 with Mt Rainier at 14410, also an active volcano. Colorado has the remaining 54 14ers with Mt. Elbert at 14433, Mt. Massive 14421, and Mt. Harvard 14420 the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th highest peaks in the continental U.S.
I heard about the challenge of hiking these monster peaks from a friend and decided to try one. My first one was Mt Bierstadt, the one in the picture at the top of the page. Since then I have been hooked and can't wait until my next hike. At least endurance wise it is the most physically challenging thing I have done in my life. Hiking these mountains takes careful preparation and education; you must also be physically and mentally up for the task. The general rule of hiking 14ers is that you must gain 3000 feet of elevation per hike and if you traverse a ridge connecting another nearby 14er you didn't really hike both of them, just one. I think this is a good rule, however since I may not live here much longer my goal is to summit as many as possible and I feel that for my purposes 2000 elevation gain is enough per hike. Many of the hikes are a minimum of 4000 elevation gain and some of the 14ers I will likely do more than once so it all evens out for me anyway.
This kind of hiking is usually refered to as mountaineering, which means it is a little more involved and in some cases techincal requiring ice or rock climbing skills and use of special equipment. However 2/3 of the 14ers in Colorado can be hiked with just a little research, lot of preparation, and a lot of desire and effort. Mountaineering gives you a sense of freedom from urban lifestyle, a closeness to nature, and an appreciation of how tough it was to live in the past when pioneers and indians crossed these mountains for survival. Other than my personal goals I hope to inspire others to get out and hike the great outdoors, if not a 14er then at least something besides that short stretch of hallway between your couch and refrigerator.
Here are a few links to mountaineering and 14er sites. I wrote the 14er checklist for myself to make sure I have all the items I want on a hike, it is not all-inclusive and may include more or less than you want to bring, but it should give people a general idea of what to bring on a hike. Also a guide book and topo map helps, I use "Colorado Fourteeners" by Gerry Roach, along with his map companion book and a Colorado topo atlas. In addition if you search in google for colorado 14ers you will find many personal sites dedicated to this sport and challenge; many have detailed journals and pictures of individual hikes.
Here is a list of the Colorado 14ers in order of highest to lowest Elevation, and which mountain range they are in. The ones I have hiked are hyper linked to a page with pictures and journals.
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