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New, and very novice hiker

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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New, and very novice hiker

Postby Craig Cook » Fri May 13, 2011 12:04 am

My wife and I live in Missouri. We've vacationed the past two years in Colorado Springs, and are making plans to move there next year.

While on vacation, we hiked the 26-mile roundtrip of Barr Trail to Pikes Peak and back. It was an otherworldly experience for me, and I have thought many times over the past year about how if we do in fact move there, I'd love to start crossing off a lot of other 14ers on the list. During that time, I've also found this site, which is a virtual treasure trove of hiking knowledge.

I'll be hiking Pikes again this summer, but hope to do some new stuff starting next year. It appears these 14ers would be my best options for a beginner?

Mt. Elbert
Mt. Lincoln
Grays Peak
Torreys Peak
Quandary Peak
Mt. Bross
Mt. Democrat
Pikes Peak --- DONE
Mt. Bierstadt
Handies Peak
Culebra Peak --- $100 to hike this? Yikes!
Mt. Sherman
San Luis Peak
Huron Peak

Class 1 looks like it should be no problem for me, and Class 2 looks doable as well. After that, though, I'm really curious as to the best way to proceed. Take classes, if those are even available? Read books? It seems the best way to learn is to do it, but that obviously could be very dangerous. I would never try anything level 3-5 on my own (maybe 20 years from now if I've become really good at it, but for now...) but what about groups. It looks like folks on here hike together sometimes, but would it be frowned upon to ask to join a group somewhere down the line? I'm in good shape physically, so it's not like I'd need to be babysitted, but for things like picking out the best routes, and iffy spots on the mountain(s) to look out for, it seems like an incredible service to learn from someof the climbers on here.

Any and all advice is appreciated. We all start out at this as newbies, and that's where I'm at right now - humbled by some of the trip reports I've read on here, and simply hoping to one day reach that point. Thanks to everyone in advance, and maybe I'll have the pleasure of meeting some of you one of these days. :)
Never play leapfrog with a unicorn.

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Re: New, and very novice hiker

Postby JB99 » Fri May 13, 2011 12:26 am

I have a feeling you've come to the right place... Your list looks good, there are others that would work too but you've listed plenty of good choices. I wouldn't worry about the class three stuff yet, it'll come pretty naturally with some other hikes under your belt. You don't need any classes although you could definitely join the CMC or something like that. Anyway, I'm sure others will chime in and you'll find plenty of groups willing to have you join for a trip.

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Re: New, and very novice hiker

Postby Wish I lived in CO » Fri May 13, 2011 5:26 am

I think for many people it's a progression. Although there are many that hike Long's (class 3) as their first 14er. Some people are indeed naturals at it. For the rest of us, hike what your comfortable with at the time - be safe. Sounds like class 1 and 2 is your comfort level right now, that's fine. Get used to hiking 14ers on these for a while to get used to your gear, what to wear, how early to start / the weather patterns, what to pack, your endurance level, acclimating, etc., etc. That way you'll have that down on easier peaks and won't have to deal with that on more difficult peaks.

I tried Challenger as my second 14er, I was unprepared for how steep it was and turned back. Turned back the next year on it again as well as Whetterhorn. Last year summitted Long's and Challenger / KC and felt good on both. This year (if for personal reasons I can afford the time to visit CO for a week) I'm considering the next step which would be something like the Crestones (at least the peak anyway), or Chicago Basin 14ers, or maybe retry Whetterhorn. I'm not one to push it and will turn back on these routes if uncomfortable and wait until a latter time that I am.

Thus for now, simply enjoy the many class 1 and 2 14ers. Later on when your ready for more difficulty simply turn back if faced with a situation you don't like. Especially since the downclimbing is more difficult. Although at times you can explore other "lines" first before bailing out, maybe you missed the easiest way up there. But for now, enjoy the many class 1 and 2 14ers.
I look up to the mountains - does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! Psalm 121:1-2

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Re: New, and very novice hiker

Postby tmathews » Fri May 13, 2011 5:45 am

Your beginner's list is good. As was stated, it should be a natural progression for you. Unless you have rock climbing experience from sport gyms or maybe bouldering, it doesn't sound like you'd be very comfortable on Class 3 right now. I've done it this way, too, and have gained a tremendous wealth of knowledge from that first hike up Antero in blue jeans and a button-up cotton shirt. I would also suggest looking into the free classes at REI. They're not in-depth, but you'll get basic knowledge about quite a few things. I know that the REI here in Colorado Springs offers a "How to Hike a 14er" class periodically that might benefit you. Just remember not to rush things; the mountains will always be there, but you will not.

Oh, hey -- and I thought I recognized your name. You've been posting on Barr Camp's Facebook page recently, haven't you?

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Re: New, and very novice hiker

Postby arianna2 » Fri May 13, 2011 6:43 am

I think that is great and the main first step - being able and willing to read, research, and learn. Know when to be careful, know your limits. You are going to do just fine. My husband and I started our 14er quest in our 30's and 40's with Sneffels. Most of what we have done has been class II. Although last year we back packed in and hiked Snowmass which is class III (the most beautiful place ever in my opinion - so far). We have learned most things from the trip reports on this site. That has been invaluable to us. We've learned when to go and routes and equipment recommended that way. I agree that joining CMC would be good especially since you are planning to move to the Eastern Slope. It is mainly set up for stuff down that way. There are classes and get togethers and groups, etc. I think it would be beneficial to go to a class or read about dangers on the mountains, mainly with weather. Things can turn in such a short period of time. You can read my TR on our experience with Quandry (took us 4 trys and being in a white out and getting static electricity - all not too fun). Anyway, good luck and have fun.

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Re: New, and very novice hiker

Postby awake » Fri May 13, 2011 7:10 am

Craig Cook wrote: I would never try anything level 3-5 on my own (maybe 20 years from now if I've become really good at it, but for now...) but what about groups. It looks like folks on here hike together sometimes, but would it be frowned upon to ask to join a group somewhere down the line?


No, it wouldn't be frowned upon, as long as you let people know ahead of time that it's your first Class 3. Regardless of how much hiking/climbing experience somebody has, everybody started out as a beginner. If you successfully did a number of the climbs on your list, I think a lot of people would be comfortable accompanying you on a Class 3.

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Re: New, and very novice hiker

Postby FCSquid » Fri May 13, 2011 7:28 am

Craig Cook wrote: I would never try anything level 3-5 on my own (maybe 20 years from now if I've become really good at it, but for now...) but what about groups. It looks like folks on here hike together sometimes, but would it be frowned upon to ask to join a group somewhere down the line?


That's a good perspective to have. I've done a bunch of Class 3 and 4 routes, and still won't do anything Class 3 or above by myself. There's just too many things that can go wrong, even for experienced hikers. Class 1 and 2, I'm comfortable going solo, but I draw the line there.

Working your way up from Class 1 by slowly increasing the degree of difficulty is a good plan - that's kind of what I did. I think it's less a factor of the technical moves required on the harder routes, but more that exposure starts to really come into play. In my opinion the best way to handle exposure is by slowly introducing it - you'll be amazed how your tolerance for it increases as your skill, experience, and confidence all grow. A lot of people get hurt (or killed) on mountains like Longs because they rush too quickly to climb them and aren't fully prepared their unforgiving nature.

Once you feel you're ready to absorb more exposure on the Class 3 (and above) routes, I'd recommend the Bierstadt / Sawtooth / Evans traverse as a good Class 3 intro. Longs is a blast as well, and represents a physical as well as a technical challenge (since the approach is so long). Torrey's Kelso Ridge route is also a good one to consider when you feel your ready to increase the exposure and would like an introduction to knife edges.

Have fun, be safe.
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Re: New, and very novice hiker

Postby gonzalj » Fri May 13, 2011 7:30 am

As has been mentioned, I've pretty much learned everything I know about 14ers from this site and Roach's book. This site is definitely an awesome learning tool based on all the route descriptions, trip reports and discussions we see on all these threads. In terms of your list, it is a good list and I have employed the same basic strategy of starting off with the "easier" (I say this with a grain of salt as they are still tough not based on exposure or anything like that, but acclimatizing to the altitude - at least for me) class 1 and 2 hikes and gradually work my way up in difficulty. Just a fyi, huron would be my favorite on your list with amazing views (for the time being at least as I plan on hiking sherman, handies, lincoln & bross among others this year), but then again the others are pretty good too.

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Re: New, and very novice hiker

Postby ontopoftheworld » Fri May 13, 2011 8:17 am

I would definitely hike a few more "easy" 14ers before advancing to class 3. However, don't let class 3+ scare you too much. For whatever reason, I developed a bit of a mental block in regards to class 3 and exposure which prevented me from taking that next step up in difficulty. Eventually, I talked myself into climbing Longs, and it was an amazing experience. I've climbed lots of beautiful mountains, but it was the first mountain I've ever climbed that was worth writing a trip report for. I almost guarantee that you are ready from a mountain like Longs today, but there's no rush. Every 14er is amazing so take your time and enjoy them all. It's only with experience that you will know for sure how your body handles being at 14,000'

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Re: New, and very novice hiker

Postby JayMiller » Fri May 13, 2011 10:03 am

You do get more and more used to exposure. I know I did. While not climbing a perfect example of getting used to exposure was when I learned to ski.

I learned in my 40's so I remember exactly what it was like. I learned at Ski Apache in New Mexico. At the end of the second day I tood Lincoln lift to the top to snow plow down Sierra Blanca Trail. When I got to the top of Roy's Run which is a black, I remember thinking, how do they make snow stick to a cliff like that. I decided then that if I ever skied Roy's Run I would consider myself a skier. Well, for the next 4 or 5 years, I skied on the east side of the mountain without ever seeing Roy's Run again. Finally after I had progressed to skiing the blacks on the east side, I decided that I would give Roy's Run a try. I figured I had progressed enough that, if nothing else, I could work my way down the slope. So I caught Lincoln Chair and headed up. I'll be honest, I was really nervous, after all, Roy's Run was the steepest slope I had ever seen. Well, I got to the top, started down Sierra Blanca Trail to the top of Roy's. When I got to the top of the run, I swear, my first thought was: They have bulldozed this slope flat. I mean Roy's run is no more than 20 degrees, But when I saw it as a beginner, it looked like a cliff.

So just climb and your prespective of exposure will change.
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Re: New, and very novice hiker

Postby Craig Cook » Fri May 13, 2011 1:24 pm

Thanks for the wonderful responses everyone! Where to begin responding...

I definitely want to do this as a progression. I would want to hike everything on the list I posted above before I even thought of trying a class 3 climb. As most of you have suggested, I plan on easing into it and simply enjoying the class 1 and 2 summits first, for a couple reasons.
1. To get acclimated to the altitude, which is certainly a different animal than where I live now.
2. To make sure I can routinely bring all the gear I need to progress to tougher climbs
3. To feel like I really belong in this group of more experienced climbers.

I'm not afraid of heights, but I'm also not comfortable (at this point) with some things I've seen, such as this photo taken by Carl in his trip report for Longs Peak;

Image

I guess my concern is if the guys in this photo are hooked to anything at this point (they are in other portions of the TR), but if not, it would take a lot of acclimation for me to do that.

TMATHEWS - yep, that's me posting over on Barr Camp's Facebook page. Getting excited for my hike next month. Being from Missouri, where everything is flat as far as the eye can see, I almost get giddy with excitement at the thought of heading up the mountain!

GONZALJ - Now I need to go look at some TR's from Huron. Thanks!

Thanks again folks! I look forward to discussing this more with you all as things progress. :D
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Re: New, and very novice hiker

Postby awake » Fri May 13, 2011 1:40 pm

Craig Cook wrote:I definitely want to do this as a progression. I would want to hike everything on the list I posted above before I even thought of trying a class 3 climb. As most of you have suggested, I plan on easing into it and simply enjoying the class 1 and 2 summits first, for a couple reasons.
1. To get acclimated to the altitude, which is certainly a different animal than where I live now.
2. To make sure I can routinely bring all the gear I need to progress to tougher climbs
3. To feel like I really belong in this group of more experienced climbers.

I'm not afraid of heights, but I'm also not comfortable (at this point) with some things I've seen, such as this photo taken by Carl in his trip report for Longs Peak;

Image

I guess my concern is if the guys in this photo are hooked to anything at this point (they are in other portions of the TR), but if not, it would take a lot of acclimation for me to do that.


Just want to make sure you know, this picture isn't actually from the standard Class 3 Keyhole route. 8) In the trip report, it's listed as a Class 5.5/5.6.

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