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Climbing 14ers in Winter: Getting Started

Finding Partners

Due to the low number of people hiking the 14ers in winter, there are fewer options for partners. And because of the increased risks involved with winter peaks, finding new partners for these trips can be difficult.

A good hiking partnership needs trust. Trust is gained over numerous miles and shared experiences. Figuring these things out on winter routes is not a great idea as the risks and dangers are increased and the margin for error much thinner. Summer jaunts up easier 14er routes and then increasing the difficulties is the best way to find good partners. Trust in your partner's climbing skills, physical endurance, and cognitive problem solving is gained on these trips. That is why finding experienced partners is sometimes difficult for new winter hikers, as the more experienced climber wants to travel with a known, reliable partners.

But don't fret, as there are ways to find partners for winter hikes. Post your hike information on the forum's Climbing Connection, attend 14er Happy Hours, the 14er Fall Gathering, and 14er Spring Gathering to meet hikers that enjoy Colorado's high peaks. If you see people reporting on their hikes, go ahead and contact them about going with you on a hike. Many of the experienced people will take time to help beginners, if asked.

Do not hike solo in winter if you are a beginner. The risks are great and the consequences are greater.

A Mentor

Finding someone with an obsessive love for the mountains to be a mentor on winter climbs can be tough. The nuances of snow, weather, clothing and equipment can be a bit overwhelming in the winter, so it is helpful to find someone to learn from. How do you find a mentor? If you haven't already noticed, there are quite a few people on 14ers.com who have mentored others and are willing to help. You'll also find some of these people in mountaineering Facebook groups, like the 14ers.com group. Mentors are rarely strangers.

Winter Welcomer

Every year, in late fall, a couple of people from 14ers.com coordinate a hike to introduce new hikers to winter summits. The annual event was started by Steve Gladbach (sgladbach) and Jim DiNapoli (dancesatmoonrise), who both had a desire to help others learn how to safely hike in winter conditions and have fun. You will find many of their winter adventures chronicled in the Trip Reports. Even though Steve and Jim are no longer with us, Britt Jones (globreal), Brad McQueen (bmcqueen) and others continue the tradition of the Winter Welcomer.

This is a very casual group with the sole purpose to help novice winter hikers gain experience and ask questions of the more experienced hikers. Discussions about clothes, gear, routes and trips can be heard on the trail, on the summit and at the trailhead tailgate party later in the day. Watch for posts on the 14ers.com forum for dates and information, usually late September or early October. Additionally, search previous Winter Welcomer threads to see what questions were asked prior to previous trips.


On Sunday, November 1, 2009, Steve Gladbach took six of us up Quandary Peak. Steve has been instrumental in "giving back" to the sport of mountaineering, often introducing beginners and less experienced explorers to the joys of the alpine in all seasons. Steve's personal accomplishments stand beyond reproach, yet he has freely given of his formidable knowledge and skill so that others might share in these high altitude treasures.

Each of us owes a great debt to Steve. I wanted to honor him, and our maiden voyage of 2009, by welcoming, in turn, other climbers new to snow-season travel, thereby bringing full circle the notion of giving back to the sport and this wonderful community of 14ers members. It is amazing to me that we had over fifty 14ers.com members on Quandary Peak this past Saturday, many new to snow-season travel on Colorado's high peaks. We also had half of the original 2009 group in attendance this year. Congratulations to all who made this year's ascent a safe and successful trip. Jim DiNapoli
Quandary Peak Trip Report - October, 2010