In your opinion, what is the hardest 14er?

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Jbrow327
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In your opinion, what is the hardest 14er?

Post by Jbrow327 » Tue Mar 23, 2021 5:11 pm

What peak and by what route?
Also, what were the most overrated and underrated peaks for you?
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Re: In your opinion, what is the hardest 14er?

Post by benlen » Tue Mar 23, 2021 5:37 pm

Little Bear via standard route ranks, in my opinion, as the hardest 14er overall. If I recall correctly, I believe before the summer of 2017 (when there were several deaths in a matter of weeks on Capitol) this site used to reflect that too––then, I think in conjunction with CFI's plans, switched to having Capitol listed as the most difficult. That's my memory though, and it could be patchy––Bill knows best.

Regardless of that deadly season on Cap, I still believe Little Bear is the most difficult via standard route. The hourglass is truly the most frightening thing I ever did on a standard 14er route, with the most dangerous rock fall potential and hardest "scrambling/climbing." I'll never climb that peak again unless I'm on snow with skis on my back.

By comparison, Capitol's danger and difficulty felt massively overinflated. Cap just felt like a big, long, tedious day with a bit of mental work to get over the exposure on the knife edge––but none of it felt as technical or challenging as Little Bear. Again, personal opinion, Capitol's great danger stems more I feel from overcrowding, which means more n00bs on the mountain, and more accidents and rockfall.
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Re: In your opinion, what is the hardest 14er?

Post by GeezerClimber » Tue Mar 23, 2021 6:27 pm

There used to be a difficulty ranking on this site based on rankings made by climbers here. Capitol was always number 1 and Little Bear 2. This is by the standard routes. I agree with the rating but won't argue with those who give #1 to Little Bear. In any event, these two are in a class of their own IMO. No others are close. In my experience, N. Maroon was easier than expected. Crestone Pk., Mt. Wilson (from the north) and Snowmass were harder.

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Re: In your opinion, what is the hardest 14er?

Post by Scott P » Tue Mar 23, 2021 6:42 pm

In some ways Capitol might be harder than Little Bear, but I found Capitol to be much more fun that Little Bear. I'd also consider Little Bear to be much more dangerous. Capitol has had several deaths, but the difference is that most of the recent deaths on Capitol resulted from people getting off route. On Little Bear you can still stay on route and be exposed to a lot of risk (namely rockfall).

Personally I think Little Bear is harder than Capitol because of the nasty approach, the awful scree slog up the ridge, and the nasty scree above the Hourglass. Capitol has a pleasant and scenic approach along a trail and creek while Little Bear has a nasty approach up the dusty and a hot sweaty jeep trail. When you aren't having fun, it makes things harder (in my opinion at least).

I would definitely do Capitol again. I wouldn't do Little Bear again.

For me though, the hardest 14er was Bierstadt. I climbed it in winter and camped near the pass the night before. That night I got really sick (food poisoning). I was supposed to climb the Sawtooth with some friends, but I told them to go without me. I still climbed Bierstadt (it probably wasn't a good idea, but hey I was young back then) and it was a miserable hard ascent.

As a disclaimer I haven't finished all of the 14ers, so the above are just my experience from the ones I have done.
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Re: In your opinion, what is the hardest 14er?

Post by justiner » Tue Mar 23, 2021 6:45 pm

For me, North Maroon was the only 14er I've done that I took a big, uncontrolled fall on dangerous ground.

Longs Peak is the 14er I most put myself in the most dangerous positions but that usually isn't on the standard route/summer conditions.
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Re: In your opinion, what is the hardest 14er?

Post by planet54 » Tue Mar 23, 2021 7:27 pm

The hardest for me was the West Ridge of El Diente. I did it in 1988 and didn't have much information to go on. If you look at the Crux photo in the SP report below you will see the knife edge that is the sharpest I have ever been on. Sliced my pants there but thankfully not my goodies! I joined the route from the Kilpacker side which was a major scree slog. The author rates it as Class 4/5.0 so that would be harder than most any standard route on a 14er. Found my way down the South Slopes. https://www.summitpost.org/west-ridge-v ... ake/159948

The West Ridge Direct of Little Bear was fun too. It goes at Class 5.4 and you can find trip reports for that on this site.
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Re: In your opinion, what is the hardest 14er?

Post by Jorts » Tue Mar 23, 2021 7:31 pm

I haven't climbed them all but descending the standard route of Crestone Needle after summiting non-standard was really tough from a route finding perspective. Several gullies end in cliffs. One gully is the standard, correct route. Our party chose the wrong one initially and grudgingly reversed. Other people haven't been so fortunate and have either been cliffed out, injured or died.
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Re: In your opinion, what is the hardest 14er?

Post by CaptCO » Tue Mar 23, 2021 7:57 pm

Jorts wrote:
Tue Mar 23, 2021 7:31 pm
I haven't climbed them all but descending the standard route of Crestone Needle after summiting non-standard was really tough from a route finding perspective. Several gullies end in cliffs. One gully is the standard, correct route. Our party chose the wrong one initially and grudgingly reversed. Other people haven't been so fortunate and have either been cliffed out, injured or died.
I agree, I still remember getting back to base camp on the Cottonwood side, thirsty/hungry as hell and running on my remaining 100~ calories. The pack down following morning was a breeze after spending all day on traverse.
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Re: In your opinion, what is the hardest 14er?

Post by CaptainSuburbia » Tue Mar 23, 2021 8:37 pm

I think Capitol is the hardest. Little Bear has a shorter approach (possibly much shorter if you have 4wd). The difficult climbing section on Little Bear is brief compared to Capitol. Plus, Little Bear has several other route options that are easier and or safer than the standard.

If you're counting traverses, the hardest route I've done was probably the LB-Blanca traverse. It was probably the most fun too.
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Re: In your opinion, what is the hardest 14er?

Post by Wish I lived in CO » Tue Mar 23, 2021 9:36 pm

1. No one has mentioned Pyramid yet. I thought the scrambling starting on the green wall was the toughest. Roughly 700 feet of tough scrambling starting at the green wall is a long way for an average peak bagger like me. A few sketchy and LOOSE parts up near the summit I didn't care for at all. But was having a good day mentally and did it on a great weather day. But yes the approach is shorter for sure.

2. Little Bear did some time ago, have a nice trip report about it, did the SW ridge. Some of that was sketchy. Long approach, and endless talus hopping. Can't speak to the hourglass. The SW ridge route though was exhuasting and long, would not do again. So I would say tougher than Pyramid physically, but the scrambling was easier.

3. I finally summited Capitol (with a guide) this last October as my second try. Was worth the $ for the guide, put me at ease and was absolutely on route 100% of the time. Really enjoyed Capitol. K2 some say is the hardest part, but if you pick the right line up and over it's not so bad, and very solid! I don't mind it. I didn't care for the knife edge (exposure), but just did it, was short. There is a section half way up from there where it is ledgy and was a bit tricky, but really everything else I didn't think was so bad. Climbing the last outcropping where you go up somewhat steep to finally gain the summit ridge I enjoyed the most. Beautiful area. Some fun scrambling in there. And not near as loose as Pyramid.

4. North Maroon - loose, very loose. Nuff said.
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Re: In your opinion, what is the hardest 14er?

Post by RETEP 1 » Tue Mar 23, 2021 9:44 pm

This one always gets me. I found Little Bear to be a breeze. I didn’t descend the hourglass though so that may have some influence on my opinion. I moved on to the traverse and found it to be slightly harder than anything going up LB. I don’t have a good reason but Mt. Wilson got in my head more than the rest.
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Re: In your opinion, what is the hardest 14er?

Post by HikerGuy » Tue Mar 23, 2021 10:19 pm

Capitol.
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