I‘m not a big fan of the term "Peak Bagging" but it‘s become very popular. I can imagine the
number of people out there that have a checklist with some peaks already
marked off. The general goal is to hike or climb to the
summit of every 14er. Depending on the specific list, there are
between 53 and 55 "official" Colorado 14ers. Most lists do not count certain
named 14ers as legitimate peaks because they do not rise 300 feet above
the connecting saddle with the closest other 14er. See the 14er list for more information on specific peaks that do not meet this
criteria. If you have a list and intend to climb some or all of
these peaks, you are likely on a bagging mission.
Set a general timeframe to climb the 14ers but try not to push it. After all, it‘s about climbing the peaks - hopefully not just that big fat check mark made with the sacred Sharpie. Climbing all of the Colorado 14ers is a goal that few accomplish. Some people do it in a couple of years and some do it in a lifetime. Proceed at your own pace. If you climb all of these peaks, frame your checklist.
3,000 Feet or Bust!?!?
The 3,000-foot guideline means more to some than others: Some climbers don‘t feel they have "completed" a peak unless they summit the peak while gaining at least 3,000 feet of elevation on each 14er (or 14er group if a group of peaks are clustered together). Some feel that you must gain 3,000 feet on every 14er, which usually involves revisiting peak groups to repeat 14er summits to gain at least 3,000 feet for each peak. Others feel that if you hike from an established trailhead to the summit, you have climbed the peak. It all comes down to your individual goals.
Climbing 14ers can quickly become an obsession. The guidebooks make it easy to become hooked on a great, multi-year adventure. Once you start, you may never stop. I started out as a casual climber that enjoyed reaching the summit, taking pictures, and dreaming about the next one. I quickly became so obsessed with climbing that I spent every single day reading guidebooks, studying maps, and carefully planning the next batch of peaks. I‘m sure others have gone through a similar change and wonder if they are overly obsessed with these peaks. Probably. I have made sure to gain more than 3,000‘ of elevation on at least one trip up each 14er. Now, I only feel "productive" when I gain more than 20,000 feet of elevation each month and climb 50+ peaks a year. Wacky! It usually takes a scary moment on a difficult pitch or a near-miss on the highway en route to the trailhead to make me remember why I climb in Colorado. It‘s wild, beautiful, exciting, fun, and usually quiet. Some trips are simply indescribable. The list is not what‘s most important.
Thousands of Climbers
Over the past few years the amount of people climbing Colorado‘s 14ers has grown tremendously. The mountains have been around for a long time but that doesn‘t mean they are invincible. Some peaks get so much traffic that even well-maintained routes may be doomed to a weak condition in the years ahead. Organizations like the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative (CFI) spend all of their time trying to create sustainable routes, repair damage caused by the climbing community, and preserve the natural state of the 14ers. These efforts can only go so far due to finite resources and the fact that community numbers are quickly growing. It‘s important that we all think of the impact that we make on these great peaks. Practice Leave-No-Trace and tread lightly. Don‘t cut those switchbacks and pick up trash if you see it. Ten years from now there may be five times as many climbers. Will we be able to sustain solid routes on all of the popular peaks? Only if we all do our part to limit the impact. If we don’t, the Forest Service or some other group will put limitations on our access. If that happens, we have only ourselves to blame.