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14er Plan

FAQ and threads for those just starting to hike the Colorado 14ers.
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14er Plan

Postby jagfoot04 » Tue Sep 20, 2011 2:06 am

Greetings to all mountain lovers. Since I was in the mountains at the beginning of August I have been chomping at the teeth to when I will be coming back. I am seeking some general advice related to planning out 14er adventures.

To give a quick background, when I first started climbing I just wanted to climb a few and get the feel, and then I got hooked (I'm sure many others have had similar stories). At this point I am definitely still a novice with a lot to learn (4 summits on 5 total attempts), but I know that I can summit a whole lot more on the little experience that I do have. The other barrier I have is that I am a non Coloradoan. I am currently doing grad studies in St Louis and when I am not there I am back at home in KC. The other barrier is that after I am done with school I will most likely not live anywhere close to CO. I guess what I am trying to say is that I have made the decision that I want to get them all even if I don't live there.

My questions i have would be in regard to actually having a plan: My "plan" per se has been to commit to a two week CO vacation either every year or every other year and enjoy a good number of peaks. I would consider myself to be in decent shape for climbing although I will definitely not be breaking any land speed records any time soon :P. I am quickly replacing any old outdoor equipment with new REI stuff and will also be investing in either Gerry Roach or some other guidebooks, and probably also look for a GPS that would work well.

Along those same lines I have been thinking of grouping my climbs specifically by range starting with the more doable climbs in each range. For example: Next year I would like to explore for the first time the San Juan range and attempt 7 summits of the less difficult peaks in 10 to 13 days. Then do a Sawatch venture another year, then a Front/Mosquito/Ten Mile venture, then a Sangre venture, (no particular order on each range) then I can pick around on some of the more difficult ones with hopefully the experience of well over half of the 14ers summited.

My questions are this:
Is the two week trip per year best for an out of stater?
In this same context would going range by range be the most effective?

Also since I have read some of the other forums let me throw in some disclaimers:
I am not trying to insinuate that a 14er is merely a checkbox to be ticked. I've enjoyed every one of my climbs more than I can fathom and that is more than just pictures, TR's, and updating my checklists. It does not change the fact that the photos, TR's, and checklists will be updated.
Also I know that the adventures are not just for those at 14,000 ft. Around my plan I would like to look into some 13ers, Centennials, 12ers, and I regularly look for spots around MO (I'm sorry but they don't compare to the views west of the "midwestern states" or also the adventures...especially since all natural caves have been shut down in MO).
I know that everyone has different goals and that they are always changing. I don't know if mine will change, but I do know that 58 is a good round number to count to.

I am just looking for input on this. Am i nuts? am I overly ambitious? What could improve this plan? Again just looking for the incite, and I still cannot wait until I am back out in CO again next season :D

THX and God Bless
J Grote
Seminary Student

But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing. The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he cannot learn, feel, change, grow or live. Chained by his servitude he is a slave who has forfeited all freedom. Only a person who risks is free. The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; and the realist adjusts the sails.(William Arthur Ward)

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Re: 14er Plan

Postby dehrlich101 » Tue Sep 20, 2011 4:29 am

Moving to Colorado would improve the plan. There are plenty of out of state people that do the same thing you are planning, definitely not to ambitious. My advise would be to start off in the ten mile, mosquito, and front range, then venture out to the remaining ranges. Good luck with the school year, and the 14er endeavor.

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Re: 14er Plan

Postby emcee smith » Tue Sep 20, 2011 7:46 am

Good luck as well on your efforts. I finished up my first lap from out of state, completing the last 20 in one season with 7 in one week. I went back this summer for another week and was able to complete 8. Some random tips from my last two years:

- Definitely don't underestimate the training, especially if you are going to try to push multiple peaks in 1-2 weeks. Anything that you can do back to back will help you maintain your pace; because I can tell you that as a flatlander, after about 7 days, I felt like a zombie.
- Weather is going to screw with your plans. Both of my trips I was EXTREMELY lucky on weather; I would be climbing a peak in blue sky and see monster storms around the other ranges/peaks, or we would get rained on on the way back to camp, which leads to.....
- Start early. Someone on some forum here basically said, you can't shorten the trail, you can't significantly improve your travelling speed; the only thing left is what time you start. I was reading in Backpacker magazine this month and there was another similar quote, "If you can't get your tail out of bed by 4am, you cannot be a mountaineer". I personally think these are 100% true. Become comfortable with the 5am, 4am, 2am start (if you want to maximize your chances). I have always turned around when I have heard thunder, once on my buddy's finisher; it feels much better to be already heading down or back in your tent relaxing when the storms come in.
- Research the driving. It can take a long time to get around in the San Juans and Sangres; the trailheads are just a long ways apart. Plan accordingly.
- It can be an expensive "list" and there are some peaks that are just not super enjoyable. Once you feel comfortable with all of your needed skills, consider doing some of the harder peaks; you might find that you have no interest in completing the walk ups, or would prefer to spend your vacation time on different peaks.
- Either get comfortable with finding partners online, or hiking alone (again with all of the skills/precautions). Some of my better CO friends were met on these forums, but everyone has their own interests and not always aligned with your goals.
- You have already said that you won't limit your attention to 14ers; that is good. Finishing the list is really only starting in the grand scheme.

Enjoy, let us (me) know if you have any other questions.
"Chug a luggin up one side, glidin down the other, [I'm] a lover of the other side of the hill"

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Re: 14er Plan

Postby Theodore » Tue Sep 20, 2011 8:01 am

If you can swing it, a 2 week trip would be great. However, I know in my situation, my wife would be livid if I blew all my vacation for a "me" trip. The other thing that would be nice is maximizing the drive out/back and also reducing your risk to altitude related illnesses. I've been very lucky w/ AMS and haven't had to fight it yet, but when I gain 13,000 feet in 15 hours, I know I can't stay that high for long, or it's asking for trouble.

If numbers are the goal, I would go straight for the cluster routes off the bat. It would also give you some variety in ranges. Greys/Torrys, Decalibron, Bierstadt Evans, Shav/Tab, Missouri group, etc... I think a buddy and I are going to try to take a full week next year and knock out all the Como Rd peaks and a few others as well.

If this venture is going to take you a few years and multiple trips, I think I would rather mix up the routes a bit instead of doing all the Sawatch's at once, all the Mosquitos at once etc.

If you REALLY want to knock em off fast, look into the folks that have done them all in a few weeks. If you want efficiency, that's your benchmark. :D

Good luck!

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Re: 14er Plan

Postby MtHurd » Tue Sep 20, 2011 9:42 am

I did them all while in Texas the entire time. It took me 30 years. I could have done them sooner but there were other funner peaks to climb in Colorado and other states. Your plan sounds like a good one. If you had good weather, you could potentially climb all the San Juans in those 2 weeks. You will need a 4x4. Most importantly, just have fun. If you are beat down tired, you'll probably get burned out. The mountains will be there long after we're all gone. Take you're time and have fun and you will eventually get there.

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Re: 14er Plan

Postby jagfoot04 » Tue Sep 20, 2011 1:00 pm

THX for the advice guys. I know that this is definitely going to be a long road coming. It will probably be a task that I will put in the numbers of 10 to 15 years. I'm still young so I'm not worried about a long duration of time. The mountain's WILL still be there ;)

Theodore wrote:However, I know in my situation, my wife would be livid if I blew all my vacation for a "me" trip.

At this point I am single and with me trying to finish up classes I don't want to have that distraction right now. I can't predict the future, but chances are that along the way I will meet my future wife and I guess I am looking into doing something like this before she comes along (or maybe hopefully she'll want to do some of these with me). I am very much wanting to keep this open to inviting some of my friends along, doing the climbing connection on this site, or just finding the popular routes where I am never alone. I'm too paranoid to hike by myself.

emcee smith wrote:Weather is going to screw with your plans. Both of my trips I was EXTREMELY lucky on weather; I would be climbing a peak in blue sky and see monster storms around the other ranges/peaks, or we would get rained on on the way back to camp, which leads to.....

I have also been fairly lucky. 4 of the 5 attempts I have had weather cooperate. Some of my first climbs I started somewhat late around 7:30 or 8am, but they were also easier standard routes. When I made it up my second attempt of Princeton we started at 4 am.

emcee smith wrote:- Research the driving. It can take a long time to get around in the San Juans and Sangres; the trailheads are just a long ways apart. Plan accordingly.

Barry Raven wrote:If you had good weather, you could potentially climb all the San Juans in those 2 weeks. You will need a 4x4.

I guess now I'll switch to a question regarding specifically the San Juans. The ones that I am going to save for another time are the Wilsons and El diente as well as the Chicago basin group. Every other one is up for grabs. Time is not a huge issue for me...I guess as long as I am not still up at the top of a peak after 2pm (hopefully not ever). Does my vehicle absolutely need to be 4 wheel drive? Every TH I've seen in the San Juans has a lower 2wd trailhead. Are the County or State roads that lead to the peaks from the other major roads going to be 4wd only? I'm only asking cuz this next year I'll probably still have the same vehicle that I should not take up any 4wd roads. If it would be wise to get a 4wd high clearance vehicle then I guess the next best option would be to rent a Jeep for the week or something like that. What would be the best way to go about that?

God Bless,
J Grote
Seminary Student

But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing. The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he cannot learn, feel, change, grow or live. Chained by his servitude he is a slave who has forfeited all freedom. Only a person who risks is free. The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; and the realist adjusts the sails.(William Arthur Ward)

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Re: 14er Plan

Postby pw » Tue Sep 20, 2011 1:20 pm

jagfoot04 wrote:

My questions are this:
Is the two week trip per year best for an out of stater?
In this same context would going range by range be the most effective?


I am just looking for input on this. Am i nuts? am I overly ambitious? What could improve this plan? Again just looking for the incite, and I still cannot wait until I am back out in CO again next season :D

THX and God Bless


I know other out of staters have done all of the peaks, and especially if you can be here for two weeks, you'll have no trouble getting them all done. I'd say being an out of stater, the longer the trip, the better, since you need to get that acclimatization business out of the way at the start of each trip, plus even in a two week stay you'll build your fitness level up a bit, so things will get a little easier after a peak or two (You might plan for a short mid-trip slump, that happened to me when visiting from out of state once, but that could just be particular to me too). I think concentrating on a group of peaks would minimize driving, so that would be the best approach.

I'd add that you should probably plan on July or August trips, June just seems too snowy still.

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Re: 14er Plan

Postby pw » Tue Sep 20, 2011 1:38 pm

jagfoot04 wrote:
Does my vehicle absolutely need to be 4 wheel drive? Every TH I've seen in the San Juans has a lower 2wd trailhead. Are the County or State roads that lead to the peaks from the other major roads going to be 4wd only? I'm only asking cuz this next year I'll probably still have the same vehicle that I should not take up any 4wd roads. If it would be wise to get a 4wd high clearance vehicle then I guess the next best option would be to rent a Jeep for the week or something like that. What would be the best way to go about that?

God Bless,


I was scanning the list of fourteeners to see how many of the hikes are helped appreciably with a 4 wheel drive vehicle, I'd say - the Blanca Peak bunch, Antero, Uncompaghre. I'm unclear on the Wilson group. 4 wheel used to help a lot on the Crestone group, but that road is closed. Red Cloud, Sunshine and Handies are on a road that is rough but passable in a car to the trailhead (Silver Creek/Grizzly Gulch TH anyway) So I'd say you can get by without one pretty easily. Most of the Sawatch, Elk, Sangre's and Front Range peaks are pretty accessible by car.

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Re: 14er Plan

Postby sunny1 » Tue Sep 20, 2011 1:48 pm

Barry Raven wrote: Most importantly, just have fun. If you are beat down tired, you'll probably get burned out. The mountains will be there long after we're all gone. Take you're time and have fun and you will eventually get there.


This here ^^ is excellent advice - for anyone, out of staters and locals, the same.
It's easy to get super focused on climbing as much as you can in a given interval of time, particularly if you only make 1-2 trips per year.
Heck, I live here and get super focused on climbing - particularly if I've taken a week of vacation to climb in a specific area - and I get beat down tired and stop having fun! Then I know it's time for a break.

Re: Wilson group, I was able to approach the Rock of Ages trailhead and Kilpacker via AWD car, not at all high clearance.
You can rent a 4 x 4, too. Have seen locals and out of staters do that.
The older you get, the better you get, unless you're a banana.

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Re: 14er Plan

Postby Paul Schmidt » Tue Sep 20, 2011 1:50 pm

As part of a group of 4 from IA/IL that just finished our 54 peak journey in August, I want to encourage you to take your
time and enjoy the experience. We attempted Long's 15 years ago (some reached the summit, some not) and quickly got
hooked on the challenges and rewards presented by the mountains. One week vacations were crammed with summit attempts for the first 10 years. Then we got sensible- and definitely started feeling our ages (now 53 to 63)- and changed to two week trips. As others have mentioned, this extra time helps you adjust to the altitude. We usually picked easier peaks for the first days of each trip, which made the class 3 and 4 peaks later seem easier. We shared a common link- all of us are distance runners- and there is no question that our better than average cardio conditioning made life at altitude much more enjoyable than for other flatlanders. High clearance/4WD vehicles do come in handy for some of the roads, but there are plenty of trail heads that can be reached with less than special vehicles. You have a world of adventure on your agenda- savor it all.
Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence- Calvin Coolidge

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Re: 14er Plan

Postby Kapelmuur » Tue Sep 20, 2011 2:46 pm

emcee smith wrote:consider doing some of the harder peaks; you might find that you have no interest in completing the walk ups, or would prefer to spend your vacation time on different peaks.


There is also a corollary to this that I have begun to experience this year: climbing 14ers can be a lot more demanding as you begin to push outside of the popular local peaks.

It's one thing to hike a 14er (or four of them!) with a nice trail, of moderate distance, all the way to the top. It's quite another thing to do 10+ miles off trail, with route finding concerns, snow travel, fields of scree and talus to ascend, large boulder fields to hop across and extended sections of Class 3 & 4 climbing--all in one mountain! Luckily the reward seems to rise proportionally with the effort it takes to get there, though I have had flashes of that not always being the case, which can present itself as a...conundrum.
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Re: 14er Plan

Postby milan » Tue Sep 20, 2011 3:26 pm

jagfoot04 wrote:I guess now I'll switch to a question regarding specifically the San Juans. The ones that I am going to save for another time are the Wilsons and El diente as well as the Chicago basin group. Every other one is up for grabs. Time is not a huge issue for me...I guess as long as I am not still up at the top of a peak after 2pm (hopefully not ever). Does my vehicle absolutely need to be 4 wheel drive? Every TH I've seen in the San Juans has a lower 2wd trailhead. Are the County or State roads that lead to the peaks from the other major roads going to be 4wd only? I'm only asking cuz this next year I'll probably still have the same vehicle that I should not take up any 4wd roads. If it would be wise to get a 4wd high clearance vehicle then I guess the next best option would be to rent a Jeep for the week or something like that. What would be the best way to go about that?

God Bless,


Talking just about San Juans, IMO Grizzly Gulch (Sunshine, Redcloud and Handies) and Yankee Boy Basin (Sneffels) are more of 4WD although I realized people are skilled enough to pass through with sedans. Worse is Matterhorn Creek if you do Wetterhorn but the 4W section is not that long so you can start lower. I don't like some of those approaches at all, I feel like I might fall over a cliff but its my personal feel. I have not very good car but it is 4WD.

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