Planning moving into non-beginner territory

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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Planning moving into non-beginner territory

Postby eric_s » Mon Feb 14, 2011 4:21 pm

I am about to start my 2nd year here in Colorado. Last summer, I hiked 4 easy routes, and I am ready to take it up a notch. To start the spring, I want to climb and snowboard. How do you approach this? I have no snow or ice climbing experience, though I’ve got some pretty good backcountry boarding experience in France and Austria. Do I need crampons, axes, snowshoes? Are people climbing in snowboard boots, or bring them? What about protection in the snow?
I am also looking to take it up a notch in the summer. My only class 5 plus experience is single pitch in West Virginia/Kentucky. I notice a ton of photos with ridiculous exposure and no protection. When do people typically use ropes?
Lastly, where is the best place to link up with more experienced people to learn a bit for the first types of climbs (i.e. snow or long class 4/5 climbs)?

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Re: Planning moving into non-beginner territory

Postby FCSquid » Mon Feb 14, 2011 4:56 pm

As far as summer climbing is concerned, I think a mistake a lot of people make is that they feel they can substitute their gym wall experience for more difficult 14ers without missing a beat. They really need to be treated like separate sports with completely different learning curves.

Exposure, like anything else, just takes mileage in incrementing amounts before you'll really have the confidence and skill to (hopefully) not splatter yourself.

There's nothing that'll prepare you for the downward-sloping, crumbling mess that's the Maroon Bells until you get out into the Elks to experience it first-hand. There's nothing like having your feet pointing in two different directions with 1,500 feet of air under each one like you'll experience on Capitol's Knife Edge. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

My only advice is to start increasing the degree of difficulty (from both a technical and exposure standpoint) slowly, so that you can gain the skill / experience without getting over your head or scaring the bejeezus out of yourself. My personal progression of difficulty after several 'easy' routes went something like:

Bierstadt / Evans over the Sawtooth
Kelso Ridge
North Maroon
Little Bear

By the time I got to the knee-buckling exposure of Capitol, I'd already 'hung it over the edge' a few other times, so it was mentally manageable. Ratchet the difficulty up in logical and controlled steps, and you'll be tackling the scary ones in no time. My $0.02.
"Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."
-Benjamin Franklin

Re: Planning moving into non-beginner territory

Postby gonzalj » Mon Feb 14, 2011 6:19 pm

Something that I'm considering since I am also beginning my 2nd year of 14ers (and someday would love to hike/climb all of them, but am kind of thinking the 6 year plan) is that I would also like to try to start scratching the surface of some of the more difficult ones as well. I plan on "easier" hikes like sherman (spring), princeton, belford, oxford, missouri, shav/tab, handies & uncompahgre. Some of the more difficult ones I'm thinking about are sneffels, castle & holy cross. What kind of things should I try to keep in mind for hikes/climbs like those? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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Re: Planning moving into non-beginner territory

Postby gdthomas » Mon Feb 14, 2011 8:08 pm

There are many things to consider when "ramping up" on 14ers and you'll probably get advice from this forum on most of them. In my opinion, the most important is the confidence that comes with excellent physical and mental conditioning. None of the standard routes on the 14ers will exceed class 4, with the exception of a couple of the traverses, so technical ability is not critical. However, If you're not in excellent physical condition, it will eventually come back to bite you especially on the harder peaks. I'll leave it to you how best to reach your physical best. I did it primarily with running, weight machines and, of couse, climbing. The best way to elevate your mental conditioning is to master each level of difficulty before moving on to the next. Good luck.

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Re: Planning moving into non-beginner territory

Postby eric_s » Tue Feb 15, 2011 8:48 am

What about snow fields. Do you just read a book on technique and give it a go? Equipment?

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Re: Planning moving into non-beginner territory

Postby zoriloco » Tue Feb 15, 2011 9:01 am

For reading you should take a look at The Freedom of the Hills, tons of great info on terrain, gear, etc.

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