Starting Out

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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Starting Out

Postby TravisT » Mon Jan 23, 2012 10:01 am

Hi all,

I'm somewhat new to the climbing 14ers thing but after climbing some smaller stuff last year I think I've been bitten by the bug. Starting this year I'd like to starting working my way through the 14ers in CO and then move on to other states in the future. I have a long background in long course triathlon and trail running so I have a strong fitness base but this is a completely new arena for me and I want to make sure I'm starting slow, learning the basics and not getting in over my head at any point. I've laid out a basic plan to learn more about the sport and start out with some reasonable climbs but would really appreciate any feedback or criticism from those that have been doing this for awhile. I'm planning out taking the weekend Intro to Mountaineering course through Colorado Mountain School in April before attempting anything. Can't take the week long course due to work schedule but plan to later on in the fall hopefully. I've planned on my first climbs to be the last weekend in May. Starting out really easy. Pikes Peak and Grays/Torreys. I'm open to feedback on whether these wouldn't be a good idea though. I have a list of others I plan on attempting over the summer. Not much more than Class 2 stuff with a bit of Class 3 maybe. I'd like to continue climbing over the winter as well so outside of the weeklong course from CMS I plan on taking or some avalanche training are there any other suggestions on what I can be doing to learn more? I tend to get heavily involved in my sports and activities so I see this becoming a major player in my life but I want to make sure I'm setting myself up for success. Thanks all for any input and I'd love to get a chance to climb with any of you and learn in the field.
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Re: Starting Out

Postby peter303 » Mon Jan 23, 2012 10:45 am

A good fraction of the 14ers are just vigorous walk-up trails. There may be rock scrambling on top.
If you can run for an hour, you probably fit enough for the easier ones.

I'd wait until June to climb the first one. You dont want have worry about winter complications on the first ones.
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Re: Starting Out

Postby Tornadoman » Mon Jan 23, 2012 2:54 pm

Sounds like you have a good strategy of starting with some easier hikes and going from there. I would recommend that you start early on the summer hikes to increase your chances of getting down before afternoon thunderstorms. Also, don't be afraid to turn back if the weather isn't good or you aren't feeling great, there is always another day. Welcome to the addiction that is :D
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Re: Starting Out

Postby DeTour » Mon Jan 23, 2012 7:43 pm

My .25c is don't be too shy about taking on some of the harder routes fairly early. Not first - by all means start on a class 1 or 2 trail - but a fit, athletic guy will probably find some of the class 3 scrambling to your liking, especially after a little CMS training. (Unless you prove to have a deep natural aversion to exposure, but you may already have an idea of how you react to that from your "smaller stuff.") A relatively easy class 3 like Kit Carson may turn out to be just right for you after a couple starters. Your physical fitness would be an advantage on a long hike like KC/Challenger.

Having done Sherman last summer, I would recommend it as a good starter: short, to help you see how your body handles the altitude; and slightly more sporting than Greys/Torreys standard route.

If you find you're OK with a little exposure after a few peaks, think about Longs. It's a marathon length, which plays to your strength, and a classic mountain.
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Re: Starting Out

Postby TravisT » Tue Jan 24, 2012 8:21 am

Thanks all for the responses. I'm definitely not skittish about exposure, won't go far in this sport if I am. Definitely don't want to get in over my head either. I want to be able to push my limits while having the knowledge to do so safely. Once I build up a bit of experience I'll probably get bored with the Class 2 stuff so any suggestions on something that might be a bit more challenging but not get me in over my head would be great. Longs is definitely one I've looked at so will probably add that to the schedule after I knock out a few. If I start with some of the easy ones in late May (Pikes, Greys, Torreys) should I plan on getting any avalanche training prior or will the routes be doable for a newbie at that point?
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Re: Starting Out

Postby jpancoast » Sat Feb 04, 2012 5:39 pm

I'm in pretty much the exact same situation as Travis (even thinking along the same lines about where to start and to take CMS's intro mountaineering class) so this thread has been helpful to me as well, so thanks.

I'm a little skittish about exposure but I'm working on that :)

Last summer a friend of mine came out here from VA and he and some other guys with him made it up Quandary. No prep, wearing jeans and sneakers, started WAY too late in the day, and I don't think he's worked out a day in his life. I figure if he can make it, it's a good place for me to start.
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Re: Starting Out

Postby gonzalj » Sat Feb 04, 2012 5:52 pm

Well, starting off with a couple of easier ones and then working your way up is a good strategy. While, the most difficult ones I've done to this point are sneffels & castle and this year I plan on doing much more class 3, I'll say that going for some more difficult ones is definitely not a bad thing especially after you have a couple of class 1 & 2's under your belt and those 2 I think are good ones to consider (they'll test you, but there also kind of fun and they really get you motivated to get into the harder ones like longs, crestones, kit carson/challenger, etc.). As has been mentioned, definitely start very early during monsoon season to increase your chances of summitting and just have fun and enjoy the beauty out there (those summit views really make the hard work you put into the hike well worth it). Another good one to consider that in my opinion is a good challenge and definitely s step up from 14ers like grays, torreys, quandary, elbert, sherman, etc. is la plata. If you take the SW ridge route from the 4wd trailhead outside winfield, that mountain will definitely test you and there will be some scrambling involved (even though it is class 2). Anyway, have fun.
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Re: Starting Out

Postby scrambling » Thu Feb 23, 2012 7:31 am

Thank you TravisT and Jpancoast for letting me know I am not alone!

I am on the same 14er train with you guys.

I am planning to bring my travel trailer to CO in April, get some CMS mountaineering training and then get started climbing 14ers.

I’m retired and my plan is to stay in CO and climb 14ers through the summer and into fall.

Just like you two I am focused on being safe and being smart, definitely starting with easier climbs and working my way up.

I called CMS a few weeks ago and got the impression they are pretty flexible regarding the structure of the course and will tailor it to meet client needs/demand. Thus, it may be possible that the three of us could get together with them and structure a 1-2-3-4 day session that is tailored specifically to our needs, including scheduling at a mutually convenient time? For instance, the last week and/or weekend in April would be ideal for me.

Because I have the trailer I can move my “base camp” around the state to minimize my travel time to the trail heads. Two “base camp” areas that seem obvious to me just from looking at a map are Leadville and Durango. Does anyone out there have any thoughts/recommendations on the wisdom of this approach and what might be a logical progression of peaks for someone like me who is starting in late April and continuing into the fall and has the flexibility to move around.
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Re: Starting Out

Postby mtnjam » Thu Feb 23, 2012 9:28 am

In the summer of '09 we went out from TN and climbed the 54. We intended to do the 58 but it didn't work out. It was still quite an adventure. Once you are acclimated to the altitude and the environment, the climbing was not as hard for us as the traveling. It seemed like every day we were traveling somewhere far away.
In general we started on the easier peaks so that we could still be getting a few climbs while acclimating. We were out in June and July. The snow really slowed us down. It took more effort than a trail or on rocks. Late July through August is probably a better time to climb; but we did not have that option. Anyway, if you interested, checkout our site, cloudhiking. I am not trying to hijack the thread, but I think we are pretty normal and did it. I think we documented how much tp we used. Ha, just kidding. To all good luck on your adventures. Be safe. WE are going to be out in June and July again, though we have yet to finalize our plans.

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Re: Starting Out

Postby holttd » Thu Feb 23, 2012 11:54 am

It sounds like you are in good enough shape so that's one less thing for you to worry about. You have mentioned good peaks to start with (Pikes, Grays, Torreys, Bierstadt, Shermnan) but don't be afraid of the moderate difficulty peaks as well (All of the Sawatch, Blanca, Lindsey, Castle, Redcloud, Sunshine, etc). Also, keep in mind that there are plenty of great hikes/climbs on non-14ers. The lack of crowds make these peaks better experiences.

The best advice is for summer climbing is start early in the morning and familiarize yourself with the weather. Don't be too proud to give up on a mountain near the summit if a storm is moving in.
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Re: Starting Out

Postby TomPierce » Thu Feb 23, 2012 12:11 pm

Travis/jpan/scrambling: Welcome to hiking/climbing! Hopefully it'll be a healthy lifelong addiction.

My thoughts: your plan sounds prudent, but I agree with a post above that May could be a bit early (depending on the spring snowfall) for a person not used to steeper snow travel. The peaks you list are great starts. But there's plenty you could be doing now to dig into the sport, namely reading up on some topics. There are some things you have to read up on and cannot really practice effectively in the field, like what to do in a lightning storm, etc. Conversely, some things are really better learned "live" than in a book (eg self arrest with an ice axe), but even still some prior reading will IMO make your field sessions better.

One idea: Start reading up on the things that will kill you, then work your way down. In no particular order they might include falls (off a cliff or an unchecked slide on snow), lightning, exposure, basic survival, etc. For example, IMO what you need to do in a lightning storm is not really intuitive and very much worth knowing. After the "save your butt" reading you can always dig into gear, and this site has great information on getting the basic gear, eg picking your first ice axe, etc.

Have fun, be safe,
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Re: Starting Out

Postby TravisT » Fri Feb 24, 2012 9:44 am


Do you have any recommendations of good reading material to get started on? I'd be interested in any books, magainzes or websites that could provide good info. Thanks!

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