Can women safely camp alone on a 14er?

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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Re: Can women safely camp alone on a 14er?

Postby KizH » Sat Aug 18, 2012 4:55 am

In "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed, I liked reading about the resourcefulness and the trail magic, about how tired a
person gets, and about the quirky people, but a few scenes in the book were actually a little wild for me.

MtnOwl, why're you so surprised women on have let this post go on for so long?

I think the local police would teach at least a basic handgun safety course or have a lecture or two for free,
or you could ask an officer. "Mountaineering; Freedom of the Hills" is a book worth another mention.

I'd not heard of the Colorado Trail, but I'm researching that next.

All the best, Stereotype. Let us know how it goes.
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Re: Can women safely camp alone on a 14er?

Postby Mountain Jon » Fri Aug 24, 2012 1:31 pm

I'm a dude but I've done a lot of solo hiking/backpacking and the only time I have ever armed myself was in Alaska, with bear spray. And only after I came about 50 feet away from a passing grizzly. Once I actually experienced the size and strength of these beautiful animals, I felt obligated to respect their wildness and prepare for all types of situations.
On the other hand, I was camping in the front range one night in late may this year, when at like 2 in the morning I hear a car pull up, stop for second then keep going. (That was first time I ever even thought about humans being a problem) Then about 5 minutes later, they start shooting guns.. For the first time, I had fear of humans in the forest.. :lol: But after about 5 mins of them shooting, I realize there probably smashed and having a good time.. Turns out that was true \:D/
Anyways nowadays about the only thing I trust is my gut. I will admit, sometimes I've turned back because of a threat I thought was there only to find out it probably would have been fine. #-o But there's an old saying in the mountains, there's old and there's bold but you won't ever find an old bold dude
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Re: Can women safely camp alone on a 14er?

Postby --bb-- » Fri Aug 24, 2012 10:50 pm

I camp and hike alone all the time (and am female). Your intuition to bring a modified outdoor adventurist "street smart" is exactly where you should start. Looking back, I prob hiked ~10 fourteeners before venturing out on my own. Now I sometimes just sleep in my bivy sack and stare at the stars. There isn't a prescription; just sharing my experience. You will have more courage with each hike.

The times I've felt uneasy camping at a trailhead were due to animals or strange sounds. I think the most important things are: be aware of your surroundings, study your maps and trailheads, remember that people on 14ers are usually hiking enthusiasts just like you, and keep in mind that when you hike alone you are more approachable than people hiking in groups.

Some of the most memorable trips are those I've hiked with dear friends and those hikes where I've met a new friend. There are great people out there to meet and become lifelong friends with or simply share a hike for a few hours.

Welcome to our wonderful state and our amazing playground!!!
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Re: Can women safely camp alone on a 14er?

Postby JenGa » Fri Aug 24, 2012 11:00 pm

I agree. I've experienced many of my best days in the mountains when I've been hiking alone. I love the freedom to change course, sit around and eat snacks for an hour, take as may pictures of flowers and marmots as I want, listen to the sounds of the mountains, sing songs as I hike, etc.... None of that stuff get's done (especially the singing) when I'm hiking with someone else. I have found that there are very few problems that can't be worked out during a long weekend in the mountains alone. After doing a lot of 14'ers alone, I have grown to love the woods by myself. Bears really don't want anything to do with us - they're just looking for food, and food is not us.

Just get out there!
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Re: Can women safely camp alone on a 14er?

Postby rocky » Sat Aug 25, 2012 12:36 pm

Returned on Monday from a solo back-pack into the South San Juan Wilderness. I've been hiking, car-camping and back-packing alone for the past 40 years (Colorado, Utah and California) and have never had an issue as a single female. When car-camping or overnighting at a trailhead, I usually take along a couple of extra chairs and hang a large man's shirt from one of them. Put out an extra coffee mug or anything that makes it look as if you have a companion around. I've never been hassled or made to feel uncomfortable. I have never carried a gun, mace or bear spray.

That said, I do need to mention that this last trip was the first time I've been really injured while miles from a trailhead. On Sunday night, while "stomping" sticks to make the right size firewood, I took on a stick that was too large. Jumping on it with both feet (and wet shoes) resulted in a rebound and slip - sending me flying backwards. Of course I put out my right hand to break the fall. Hearing 2 bones snap, I immediately went into self-rescue mode. Splinted the broken wrist with a camping trowel and duct tape. Broke down camp and packed everything I could that night, not sure how bad I'd be by morning. As my sleeping bag hadn't been removed from its compression sack, I left it there - knowing it would be next to impossible to get it repacked and compressed so that it would fit into my pack. Spent a cold night sleeping on a z-pad with a ground cloth as a cover. In the morning, I finished packing, and hiked the 7+ miles down to the trailhead. Used a Buff to fashion a great sling (from the sternum strap of the backpack). Hiked very carefully with one trekking pole and simple waded across the water crossings instead of rock-hopping and trying to keep my feet dry.

Everything I did from the moment of the accident took more time and a lot more consideration - but keeping a clear head and not panicking was the key. My new acronym is WWAD -- "What Would Aron Do?" While I didn't have to leave my right hand behind, it was worthless - so I needed to figure out how to make do with my uncoordinated left hand.

As sad as I am that my trip was cut short, and that the wrist now requires surgery (scheduled for Monday next) -- I am proud of having gotten myself, my dog and all of our gear out safely.

So, yes - it's safe for a woman to camp alone. Just be careful, be prepared and keep your wits about you.

Happy trails.

(ps - I don't usually build a fire -- did so this time in order to dry out the dog who had gone for a swim in Green Lake -- with the monsoons we've had lately, I was pleased just to have got a fire going...used my homemade firestarter made of dryer lint and vaseline.)
south fork, colorado
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Re: Can women safely camp alone on a 14er?

Postby Mountain Ninja » Sat Aug 25, 2012 3:29 pm

Self defense classes sure bring peace of mind. A Kubaton is also an excellent weapon that's lightweight and attaches to your keychain, providing protection during hikes and in the parking lot. If I were a female wanting to hike and camp alone, I wouldn't make it obvious that I was a female (pink packs hanging outside the tent, etc.) And if you ever get in a pickle with a male predator, grab his parts HARD and pull & twist in all directions. Don't be afraid to take him out of the gene pool. ;)
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Re: Can women safely camp alone on a 14er?

Postby tehchad » Wed Aug 29, 2012 2:33 pm

I'm joining the convo a bit late here.... also half-grunching

I think the general approach is this - spend time with a good mentor or group and learn how to do things correctly, ie avalanches, weather, altitude sickness, etc.

I honestly don't think that people are your biggest threat in the mountains. You might run into the occasional overgrown rat (marmots) that will try to steal from you, but that is about it. You could carry a gun (I have from time to time), but they are heavy and only work if you're good with them. Bear spray isn't a bad idea, but again you need to know how to use it (practice a time or two). I see your dog in your photo; awesome!

There are classes here and there, but I've found these to be of minimal help. A good mentor/group will give you what you need - experience.

Start slow and remember to bring your IPA! IMHO, you're approaching things right by asking lots of q's!

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