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Easiest Sawatch 14er route.

Colorado 14er peak questions and conditions should be posted here. 14er Trip Reports

Re: Easiest Sawatch 14er route.

Postby forbins_mtn » Tue Aug 28, 2012 6:57 pm

well, you can combat the weather issues with an earlier start(which you know). A month or so ago I was rained out the Needle, and the next weekend called for rain at 9am for Sneffels. I was not going to get rained out two weeks in a row so I started hiking at 4am. Little things like that can give you a much better change for success.

As for knee pain - a lot of my friends battle with it every 14er we do. And we're in our late 20's, not completely out of shape, but they don't run like I do. I don't run fast. But I run often. I feel absolutely no knee pain whatsoever on 14ers anymore. I really attribute that to having stronger tendons and ligaments in my knees. I also make it a point to do a lot of low weight/high rep deadlifts and squats whenever I'm in the gym. Highly recommend those.


As for peaks, I really think the East Ridge of Elbert has been the easiest 14er I've ever done. Not saying I've climbed a ton of them. But it was definitely an easy hike

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Re: Easiest Sawatch 14er route.

Postby nyker » Tue Aug 28, 2012 7:29 pm

shaberer0511,

Some thoughts:

I would disagree in saying that "Cardio is irrelevant" - While leg strength is very important and squats are great for that, a good aerobic base is essential for this stuff.
While you won't see much gain in the next month by changing your exercise routine overnight, you should focus on building a good foundation there and you will see a gain next season.

As mentioned, starting early always a good thing and good way to hedge your bets on the weather, also focus on foreasts and plan accordingly to be more efficient - i.e. it's probably not the best idea to start a climb when the forecast calls for 60% chance of rain / Tstorms.

You mention all your trips started from Denver area - perhaps you could try staying in a higher town the night or two before your next climb at ~8,000 ft to see if that makes a difference in how you feel and how fast you move on your climb?

Knee pain - do you use trekking poles - this would help a lot on the descent for softening the impact on your knees if you use them correctly. There are also some exercises you can do to build your quads to help in this regard if you have any muscle imbalances of off center patella rubbing and causing the pain.

Hope this helps!

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Re: Easiest Sawatch 14er route.

Postby caverdude » Tue Aug 28, 2012 7:39 pm

I agree that Huron is the easiest Sawatch 14er. Give that one another shot and use trekking poles. They definitely decrease knee pain.

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Re: Easiest Sawatch 14er route.

Postby audiotom » Tue Aug 28, 2012 10:30 pm

I'm 50, have had both knees scoped for miniscus tears and overcome knee problems using treeking poles.

Remember to rest on the straps, not a death vice on the handles

I live in New Orleans and only get up once or twice a year.
I found Elbert in June straight forward. Huron was challenging initially with the steep switch backs but after that it is home free.

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Re: Easiest Sawatch 14er route.

Postby zdero1 » Wed Aug 29, 2012 12:28 am

jdorje wrote: Cardio is irrelevant.


I respectfully and strongly disagree with this statement. It's simple physiology. The stronger your cardiovascular system is, the more efficient it will deliver oxygen to your muscles, which on 14er hikes/climbs, is incredibly important as these are endurance climbs. As I mentioned earlier I started running this spring and shaved off 2 hours from my Grays/Torreys climb (8.5 hours RT 2011, 6.5 hours RT 2012) within a year. With decreased climbing times and earlier starts, weather will become less of an issue for you IMO.

I strongly believe that any weight training/running will strengthen the integrity of your knee joints, and that the utilization of trekking poles (as mentioned by audiotom) will reduce the amount of weight loaded through your joints during each step, reducing wear and tear and ultimately pain. Ever take pain reliever on climbs? That would help too if you haven't done so already.

Leaving from around Denver area to the Sawatch range usually takes about 2-3 hours, and I have never made the drive over on the same day as the climb as it impedes my ability to get a good nights rest. I absolutely love car camping or camping at the TH. I've got my pack assembled and I just throw on my clothes and I've got boots on trail in 20 minutes or less. Enabling me to get an early start and beat the weather. Saving $70 on a hotel per trip is an added bonus.

In summary, I believe that the best way to overcome the obstacles of weather, knee pain, and getting late starts is to get an early start (camping near trailhead or nearest town), train hard (cardio, knee flexion/extension exercises with resistance), and use trekking poles. I think these simple changes will add up to huge rewards for you. They certainly have for me.

Additionally, I appreciate your wilingness to assist a distressed hiker at the expense of your summit bid. A true class act and more rewarding than any summit. =D> =D> =D>

PM me if you want to climb Antero this fall. It's on my short list!

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Re: Easiest Sawatch 14er route.

Postby jdorje » Wed Aug 29, 2012 12:55 am

Cardiovascular fitness is one of, if not the, most important factors in athletic performance, overall health, longevity.

But when it comes to the ability to hike 4000' vertically in 6 hours, cardio is not relevant, because it is not a limiting factor. This is such a sedate pace that it will not in any way challenge your heart. Build a base of leg strength and you will see a return easily within a 3-6 week period. With that leg strength you will hike 50% faster and not tire, and in two hikes your cardiovascular fitness will jump through the roof. It is way too easy to confuse "breathing so heavily I can hardly take another step" for "lack of cardio": when you struggle to take another step up a hill it's due to lack of strength, and you are breathing heavily because your heart is trying in vain to compensate.

Which brings me to my corollary: the best way to improve cardiovascular fitness isn't to train, but to do (as quickly as possible, of course).
-Jason Dorje Short

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Re: Easiest Sawatch 14er route.

Postby zdero1 » Wed Aug 29, 2012 2:00 am

jdorje wrote:Cardiovascular fitness is one of, if not the, most important factors in athletic performance, overall health, longevity.

But when it comes to the ability to hike 4000' vertically in 6 hours, cardio is not relevant, because it is not a limiting factor. This is such a sedate pace that it will not in any way challenge your heart. Build a base of leg strength and you will see a return easily within a 3-6 week period. With that leg strength you will hike 50% faster and not tire, and in two hikes your cardiovascular fitness will jump through the roof. It is way too easy to confuse "breathing so heavily I can hardly take another step" for "lack of cardio": when you struggle to take another step up a hill it's due to lack of strength, and you are breathing heavily because your heart is trying in vain to compensate.

Which brings me to my corollary: the best way to improve cardiovascular fitness isn't to train, but to do (as quickly as possible, of course).


What evidence are you basing these statements on? They are completely contradictory IMO. On one hand you say Cardio is one of, if not the most important factor in athletic performance and on the other, state that cardio is not relevant when engaging in a steep climb up thousands of feet at high altitude. To me, the quantitative measurements such as climb times, vital signs, etc are indicators of one's level of athletic performance. Next time you climb, measure your heart rate at rest at the TH and then measure it during any subsequent time in the hike while you are hiking at a "sedate pace." If your heart rate is essentially the same, congrats and I'm jealous of your remarkable level of fitness. If your heart beat is faster, your cardio system is certainly being challenged as your heart has to work harder to oxygenate your muscles, no matter what amount of strength/muscle mass you have in your lower extremities. The more muscle mass you have, the more 02 needs must meet in order to continue at about the same pace. You further contradict your statement that cardio is irrelevant by stating leg strengthening exercises are a means to acheiving increased cardiovascular performance. Everyone that climbs these peaks presents with a unique level of physical fitness and differing past medical history, along with different leisure/sport/exercise activities that contribute to the unique capabilities of each climber. To say that someone will get 50% faster after doing a certain amount of leg strengthening activities is a gross generalization and disregards the fact that we all respond to physical challenges differently with respect to physiological processes.

I completely agree with you that the best way to train for 14ers is to complete 14er climbs. I also believe that it's what you do in between that matters even more. In 2011 I summited 16 peaks with no real improvement in athletic performance over the course of the year because I never worked out and ate like an entitled pig between climbs. This year, I have summited 15 peaks and have noticed my miles traversed per minute increasing at a significant rate because I am putting in the effort to train on a regular basis with an emphasis on cardio training. From a qualitative standpoint, I see far fewer bodybuilders on summits than I do really trim/fit people on the summit.

I'm really happy that you've found a system that works for you. I may have to give attention to the strengthening aspect of my training.
I don't mean to come across as harsh or argumentative, but I just feel that to tell someone "cardio is irrelevant (when climbing a 14er)" is misinformation.

Although I have taken graduate level anatomy and physiology, it's been a few years and I'm certainly no expert. I digress and will let others take it from here if they feel compelled to do so.

Mike

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Re: Easiest Sawatch 14er route.

Postby oldschool » Wed Aug 29, 2012 5:32 am

Please keep in mind the difference between aerobic and anaerobic heart rates, and how they affect energy, fuel used by the body, and lactic acid build-up.

To be "aerobic" your heart rate must remain in the aerobic range, which can be calculated as follows:

220 - your age x 70%.

Some formulas will use 75%. In this heart rate zone, +/- say 5 to 7 beats per minute (bpm) the body uses efficient fuel systems to burn calories. This goes a looong way in maintaining strength and endurance. Heart rates above or below the above formula levels are anaerobic, burning much less efficient fuel systems in the body, and most counterproductive, the production of lactic acid, which turns to ammonia in the muscle tissue, and wreaks havoc on the muscles ability to perform.

Stay aerobic. If need be, slow your pace so you remain aerobic. This, with improved leg strength, will help......IMO.

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Re: Easiest Sawatch 14er route.

Postby flatlander » Wed Aug 29, 2012 6:57 am

rockchalker wrote:Standard route on Huron is about the easiest of the Sawatch routes. I also thought Shavano was relatively straight forward and easy. While Princeton was fairly short, all of the rocks made it not so much fun.


Agree, Huron is going to be the easiest. Princeton from the radio towers is about the same in distance and elevation gain, but the boulders are no fun at all.
Always remember, the mountains don't care.

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Re: Easiest Sawatch 14er route.

Postby Scott P » Wed Aug 29, 2012 7:08 am

Elbert 1st Time: Weather

Elbert 2nd Time: Weather and Knee Pain

La Plata: Another climber had a heart attack, so we waited and tried to call in Flight For Life. Another climber with a personnel locator beacon got a signal and called in Flight For Life. We stayed with the other climber and his friends until Flight For Life took off. After that, it was way too late and the weather was coming in.

Huron: Knee Pain. I had a very busy week before I climbed, and was on my feet for a solid week before climbing.

Antero: Got a late start, and hadn't climbed in a month or so. The weather was moving in too fast, and we were moving too slow. I think I could have driven up farther and we could have made it. Next time I will drive up farther and leave Denver earlier.

* All of these trips were day trips from just North of Denver.


As some have mentioned, Antero from up high would be the easiest, followed by Huron. It sounds like you have already tried these though.

When you say day trip from Denver, do you mean including drive time? It sounds like part of the problem might be late starts. Maybe try to stay in Leadville for a day or two before climbing (if you haven't tried this already) and then get a very early start.
I'm slow and fat. Unfortunately, those are my good qualities.

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Re: Easiest Sawatch 14er route.

Postby TallGrass » Wed Aug 29, 2012 8:21 am

jdorje wrote: when it comes to the ability to hike 4000' vertically in 6 hours, cardio is not relevant, because it is not a limiting factor. This is such a sedate pace that it will not in any way challenge your heart. Build a base of leg strength ... the best way to improve cardiovascular fitness isn't to train, but to do (as quickly as possible, of course).
(My emphasis added)

Am I missing something here or do you claim to build cardio via VO2 maxing ("as quickly as possible") for 6 hours? :shock:

Or cross train like Ueli Steck for the "easiest Sawatch 14er"?! http://www.upskillclimbing.com/2011/06/ueli-steck-climbing-training-plan.html


"Aerobic exercise (also known as cardio) ... Aerobic exercise and fitness can be contrasted with anaerobic exercise, of which strength training and short-distance running are the most salient examples. The two types of exercise differ by the duration and intensity of muscular contractions involved, as well as by how energy is generated within the muscle."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerobic_exercise#Aerobic_versus_anaerobic_exercise

"Generally, light-to-moderate intensity activities that are sufficiently supported by aerobic metabolism can be performed for extended periods of time."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerobic_exercise

"Any activity lasting longer than about two minutes has a large aerobic metabolic component."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anaerobic_exercise

"The anaerobic energy delivery system uses predominantly Type II or fast-twitch muscle fibers, relies mainly on ATP or glucose for fuel, consumes relatively little oxygen, protein and fat, produces large amounts of lactic acid and can not be sustained for as long a period as aerobic exercise."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscle#Exercise

"The slow twitch fibers generate energy for ATP re-synthesis by means of a long term system of aerobic energy transfer. They tend to have a low activity level of ATPase, a slower speed of contraction with a less well developed glycolytic capacity. They contain large and numerous mitochondria and with the high levels of myoglobin that gives them a red pigmentation. They have been demonstrated to have high concentration of mitochondrial enzymes, thus they are fatigue resistant."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slow_twitch_muscle

"The body prefers to generate most of its energy using aerobic methods, meaning with oxygen. Some circumstances, however, --such as evading the historical saber tooth tiger or lifting heavy weights--require energy production faster than our bodies can adequately deliver oxygen. In those cases, the working muscles generate energy anaerobically. ... lactic acid buildup ... gets us to stop overworking the body, thus forcing a recovery period in which the body clears the lactate and other metabolites."
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=why-does-lactic-acid-buil

High Intensity + Short Duration = Anaerobic, fast-twitch muscle
Low Intensity + High Duration = Aerobic, slow-twitch muscle
Correlation is not causation.

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Not sure if I'll do more 14ers. The trip reports are too tiring. :wink:

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Re: Easiest Sawatch 14er route.

Postby jdorje » Wed Aug 29, 2012 9:13 am

Sorry for massively diverting this thread.

I stand by my statements, but I don't feel this thread is the place for a debate (feel free to start a new thread on just this topic and we can go at it to our hearts' content). I will point out that during anaerobic exercise (sprinting, lifting weights) your heart rate soars: heart rate alone is not sufficient as a comparison.

In the end, the more exercise you do, the more prepared you will be for hiking up mountains.
-Jason Dorje Short

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