How to get started climbing the Colorado "14'ers"

For those that don't know, the Colorado "14'ers" are the 58 mountains in Colorado, USA that have an elevation of 14,000 feet or more. All 58 are climbable, but range in difficulty from a few miles hiking and a few thousand elevation gain to all day affairs and technical climbing. As of 2020 I have summited 8 of the 14'ers, I'm 47 years old and live in flatland Texas, so they are obtainable for a significant % of the population. If you can run a 10k and aren't too susceptible to altitude sickness, you can handle many of the 14'ers.

I recommend newbies with no big mountain experience, to hire a guide at first like I did. Two companies I have used are Colorado Wilderness Rides and Guides and Paragon Guides. Once you get some experience, then you can start trying some of the easier climbs on your own, like I did this year.

The absolute best resource for climbing the Colorado "14'ers" is https://www.14ers.com/. The website has all the climbs listed by difficulty, GPS routes, hiking notes, and a forum to ask your questions and learn. There are a couple Facebook pages as well 14ers.com Facebook and Colorado 14ers Facebook. A great site and app to research available hikes in a certain area with GPS trails is AllTrails. You can start out doing some flatter hikes and work up doing 10k, 12k, and 13k climbs before going for the 14'ers. Many of the lower elevation hikes are more fun as they can be just as pretty and not as crowded. It just takes experience to learn best practices for clothing, shoes, hydration, calories, and what to pack. You can do it!

Here are some of my 14'er pics.

Mount Sherman 14,036'

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Mount Democrat 14,148', Mount Cameron 14,238', Mount Lincoln 14,286', & Mount Bross 14,172' (The Decalibron Loop)

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About author
Rob Lay
Rob Lay is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief at ManLife.com, Founder of FerrariChat.com, and Owner at Lay Properties, LLC. Rob has a B.S. from Babson College and M.B.A. from University of Dallas along with executive training from SMU. Rob has enjoyed various activities from competitive swimming in college, running several marathons, competed at triathlon nationals, competed at national club car racing, 1,000+ hour private instrument pilot, competed as a co-angler national FLW bass tour, and big game hunting around North America. Rob wants to share his experiences and learn from other middle-aged men in the ManLife Community. You can also find Rob on Instagram and LinkedIn.

Comments

the last picture my girlfriend completing her first through fourth 14'ers in a single day!
 
Great article and resources Rob. Congrats' to both of you for your climbing accomplishments. What are some of your best practices for clothing, shoes, hydration, calories, and what to pack?
 
Great article and resources Rob. Congrats' to both of you for your climbing accomplishments. What are some of your best practices for clothing, shoes, hydration, calories, and what to pack?
  • clothing - layering the key prepared for the hottest and coldest, also nothing that absorbs moisture like cotton. I like to dress light, but cover the skin long sleeves and long pants for the sun. I'll have one pullover when colder up top, then most important is a portable rain top and bottom if weather moves in or for survival clothes. extra socks.
  • shoes - I don't like 3/4 or full tops for most hiking, low tops made for hiking with very aggressive traction, almost rubber cleats! Taking 25,000 steps during the hike more important light shoes and more flexibility than ankle protection. Usually experienced hikers have rolled their ankle so many times it is pretty bullet proof. :D
  • hydration/calories - so important especially the high altitude climbs. I drink more water than most. I'll carry more than 12 ounces/hour, so for some long day hikes I've carried 140 ounces or more. More important to carry the weight than get dehydrated. Very important to start hydrating up days before don't be behind before you even start. Also have some powders or gels to go with the water for electrolytes and I feel it helps me absorb the water better. When you get dehydrated and hot, your body starts directing more blood flow towards critical systems like the heart and cooling down than the digestion systems, so easy to eat foods and drinks critical when you body starts fighting you back.
  • hiking sticks provide more traction and take a little weight off your legs, I usually hike with just 1 stick.
  • backpack besides what is mentioned above I'll have first aid kit, backup GPS (besides my phone and watch), headlight (phone is backup light), and reserve battery pack for phone/GPS.
 

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