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Where did the 3000' rule come from?

Colorado 14er peak questions and conditions should be posted here. 14er Trip Reports
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Where did the 3000' rule come from?

Postby oldschool » Mon Jun 22, 2009 6:50 pm

So...while I was hiking Gray's/Torrey's today I got to thinking....dangerous I know! I was curious as to the reason/beginning of the 3000' rule of 14er's.com. Why not a 2000' foot rule or a 1000' rule? Why is it even needed for a climber to say whether he/she is following the rule or not? It is not a competition....yet I seemed to reach an internal understanding that it must be...or there would not be a "rule". What if a climber did all 54 and didn't follow the rule...is he/she less of a climber than someone that did follow the rule? Shall we admire those that follow the rule more than those that don't? Just want get some opinions about why/where it came from. I appreciate your responses. Like I said......time on my hands while climbing gets me in trouble!
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Re: Where did the 3000' rule come from?

Postby Chris P. » Mon Jun 22, 2009 7:11 pm

The rule didn't originate on 14ers.com, it's kinda been around for a long time and was made popular through Roach's 14er guidebook. Roach explains the fact that it's 3000 feet (as opposed to some other number) because 3000 feet is the approximate distance from treeline to most 14er summits. When looking at other peaks besides 14ers, you'll notice that almost nobody other than 14er climbers use the 3000 foot rule. This has been discussed here a lot so if you want more information, use the search function. Basically, it's not a rule, it's just something that some people do. I wouldn't stress too much about it.

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Re: Where did the 3000' rule come from?

Postby jaymz » Mon Jun 22, 2009 7:12 pm

I may be wrong, but I think it comes from the fact that if you gain 3,000', that almost certainly means you started below treeline. That keeps the people who drive up Evans and hike the last few hundred feet from being able to say they climbed Evans.
Personally, I don't really give a rat's butt about the rule. A) I just use common sense to judge between the tourist driving up Evans and the Beirstadt hiker starting from Guanella Pass. B) If following the rule means I have to hike along the freeking Guanella Pass road so I can say I climbed Beirstadt, screw it -- I ain't doin' that. C) There's no official list you fail to be on if you don't do it, and anyone who'll make a stink about it over a dinner conversation isn't worthy to impress anyway.
But to each his own. I definitely understand those who abide by it for their own reasons, it's just not my cup o' tea.

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Re: Where did the 3000' rule come from?

Postby Kiefer » Mon Jun 22, 2009 7:37 pm

oldschool wrote:So...while I was hiking Gray's/Torrey's today I got to thinking....dangerous I know! I was curious as to the reason/beginning of the 3000' rule of 14er's.com. Why not a 2000' foot rule or a 1000' rule? Why is it even needed for a climber to say whether he/she is following the rule or not? It is not a competition....yet I seemed to reach an internal understanding that it must be...or there would not be a "rule". What if a climber did all 54 and didn't follow the rule...is he/she less of a climber than someone that did follow the rule? Shall we admire those that follow the rule more than those that don't? Just want get some opinions about why/where it came from. I appreciate your responses. Like I said......time on my hands while climbing gets me in trouble!


Good question!
Back in 1968, before most topographical surveys had yet to be completed, a man named William Graves surmised that in order for a peak to be recognized as distinct from another in close proximity, the two peaks should have at least 300' of difference pertaining to the connecting saddle. 14ers weren't the basis for this but pretty much anything that had prominance, any mountain. At the time, it was merely a suggestion. Now however, well, it seems to have become the unwritten rule, a de facto tenant of mountaineering.
This figures in to the three-four different 'official' lists of 14ers in that, when the USGS had finished their topo surveys in the mid-70's, it was found that peaks like El Diente, North Eolus & North Maroon didn't satisfy this 'prerequisite'. But I suppose due to tradition, these peaks are left on the list and others like Challenger Point get 'shell-gamed'.
Basically the same way as how some routes get named that have no 'official' USGS name attributed to them, like the Outward Bound Couloir or "Lightning Pyramid". Certain names or tenants just 'stick' soley because it seems fitting or logically, it makes sense. :)
Last edited by Kiefer on Mon Jun 22, 2009 7:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Where did the 3000' rule come from?

Postby oldschool » Mon Jun 22, 2009 7:39 pm

Ohhh.....I ain't stressin'! But I do appreciate the info on the Roach connection. I didn't know that. As for me..I climb because I climb...and I like it!
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Re: Where did the 3000' rule come from?

Postby Kiefer » Mon Jun 22, 2009 7:39 pm

Opps! Apparently, I can't distinguish between 300 and 3,000! :oops:
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Re: Where did the 3000' rule come from?

Postby oldschool » Mon Jun 22, 2009 7:41 pm

Keifer...awesome info.....thanks. btw...what is the pic you have there for your profile pic?
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Re: Where did the 3000' rule come from?

Postby lodgecamp » Mon Jun 22, 2009 9:38 pm

Definitely a hikers rule. Not a climbers rule. It is about giving distinction to hiking a pile of rocks...AKA: Anal-Retentive...Does anyone really believe that if you do the Little Bear to Blanca Traverse one shouldn't count- and who really cares...or you should have to do a hike like Belford twice simply to give legitimacy to Oxford? What if you have to hike 4500 for Belford but the total for both is 6000...does that count? I like the point about walking up the road on Bierstadt to make it qualify...WTF? Summiting will always be enough to qualify a numbers goal like completing the 14ers...and a numbers goal can be fun and keep you interested in things- don't get me wrong...I want to finish the 14ers- but only after ignoring them for twenty years in pursuit of other climbs and thinking I should do it just because...much to be said about pursuing interesting, aesthetic and challenging mountains and routes...and forgetting designations completely
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Re: Where did the 3000' rule come from?

Postby Prairie Native » Mon Jun 22, 2009 10:47 pm

14ers dont count unless you climb them from sea-level.


...........im also too lazy to put that in pink. deal with it.
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Re: Where did the 3000' rule come from?

Postby TravelingMatt » Tue Jun 23, 2009 7:48 am

Funny thing is, no other list I know of has an elevation gain "requirement", even if their list of actual peaks is much more formalized. And the average 14er is HARDER than say, the average peak in the Adirondacks, although no one in the ADK's argues over what counts as a 46er and what doesn't. There's usually a more general rule that you have to start from a 2wd non-toll road and ascend on foot (no bikes).

The Highpointers don't care, you can get dropped from a helicopter on Denali if you want, but you have to stand on the true official actual verified honest highest tippy-top summit peak benchmark marker point :lol:
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Th' increasing prospects tire our wand'ring eyes,
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Re: Where did the 3000' rule come from?

Postby Steve Climber » Tue Jun 23, 2009 8:17 am

oldschool wrote:What if a climber did all 54 and didn't follow the rule...is he/she less of a climber than someone that did follow the rule? Shall we admire those that follow the rule more than those that don't?


While I don't follow the rule personally, you do have to admit that someone using it does gain more elevation over the course of all 54 peaks. A hell of a lot more. Not to say that both folks don't deserve admiration, but you see what I mean.

I'm like you; I climb because it's what I love to do. I don't go back to climb any repeat (saddled) 14ers to satisfy the 3K' rule, I go back to climb them because while I was there the first time, another route caught my eye.
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Re: Where did the 3000' rule come from?

Postby Chicago Transplant » Tue Jun 23, 2009 8:29 am

The 3000' foot rule was invented by lazy people who wanted to be able to drive up the Princeton Road to the radio towers and still count a climb of Princeton, rather than have to start at the bottom of the peak and gain 5000' :P

Seriously though, the "rule" is kind of silly. I think its purpose was more to keep people from counting peaks as a climb that had roads they drove most of the way to the summit. Whether they be the "tourist" roads up Pikes and Evans, or the jeep roads on Bross and Antero, it seemed that the effort to climb from the ends of these roads was not worthy of counting it as a climb. People can figure out if they "climbed" a peak or not. They don't need rules. Anyone who is seriously chasing the 14ers would not count driving up Pikes as an ascent, and anyone who would count a drive up Pikes as an ascent, will probably never climb anything else (well maybe Evans) :wink:

I will probably go back to get 3000' on the few that I didn't, its a good excuse to repeat the peak via another route, or do it in winter when the road is closed lower down.
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